Are you looking to purchase a tablet, but find yourself wishing for a more portable alternative? Today, we take a look at the latest tablet offering from Motorola: the DROID XYBOARD 8.2 (henceforth simply Xyboard). With a screen measuring in at 8.2 inches diagonally, the XYBOARD 8.2 is in an interesting spot. It is neither as expansive as the ubiquitous 10.1 inchers, nor is it as cramped as the 7 inch Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire.
While there may not be much to differentiate the 8.2 from the deluge of other Android tablets currently on the market, its inherent size difference leads to some interesting possibilities. Is this enough to justify the rather hefty on-contract entry prices of $429.99 (16 GiB) and $529.99 (32 GiB)? Let’s find out!
- Texas Instruments OMAP 4430
- 1.2 GHz Dual-Core ARM Cortex A9 CPU
- PowerVR SGX540 GPU
- 1 GiB RAM
- 8.2″ “IPS-Enhanced” (not e- or E-IPS) Display
- 1280 x 800 Resolution
- 16 or 32 GiB Internal Storage
- Android 3.2 Honeycomb
- 5-MP Rear-Facing Camera
- 720p Video Recording
- LED flash
- 1.3-MP Front-Facing Camera
- Dimensions: 216 x 139.8 x 8.99 mm
- Weight: 390 grams
- Battery 3960 mAh
- 6 Hours of Video Playback
- 6 Hours of WiFi Browsing
- Verizon 4G LTE Connectivity
Let’s start this off by saying that the Droid Xyboard is a very well built tablet. It has some of the highest build quality that this reviewer has ever seen on any mobile device to date. The materials of choice are simply “right,” and everything just feels perfect in the hands. Initially, I was a bit scared that the strangely shaped corners would prove uncomfortable over time. Luckily, I was proven wrong. In fact, the unique shape actually made one-handed operation easier in both orientations.
Aesthetically, the Xyboard 8.2 is a mixed bag. While some may be put off by the strange corners, I actually grew to like them, as they added character and an element of branding not seen in the typical iPad-esque Android tablet. Aside from the questionable corners, the rest of the tablet’s design is fantastic. With anodized aluminum and gorilla glass here, and rubber sprinkled over there; the Xyboard plays the part of a premium device nicely.
However, all is not perfect with the tablet’s design. For some strange reason, Motorola chose to place the volume and power buttons in an extremely awkward location. Even after a week of heavy use, I continually found myself accidentally turning the device off when trying to adjust the volume. The buttons are even more confusing in landscape mode. Oriented in a manner such that the buttons are along the top-left of the device, the volume-up button is actually to the left of the volume-down key! If you decide to flip the tablet 180-degrees to properly orient the volume keys, you are stuck with buttons that are in prime grip territory—the bottom-left of the device.
As shown above, the Xyboard 8.2′s girth rests between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the original Motorola Xoom—far closer to the Tab 10.1. That said, the wonderful ruberized grip, small size, and light weight make it easy to hold with just one hand while consuming media.
Motorola has made a valiant attempt at replicating the iPad’s hardware ecosystem thanks to a number of high quality first-party accessories. While some aren’t quite perfect, they generally add to the feeling of completion when using the device.
The most noteworthy accessory that Motorola offers for its new line of tablets is the keyboard shown above. Not only does it pack a large and fully retractable trackpad, but it actually has a decent key feel (for a scissor-style membrane keyboard).
The desktop dock and VGA output connector are also quite handy. However, given the media friendly nature of a tablet, one must wonder why Motorola chose to dock the device in portrait orientation. The Smart Cover clone serves its purpose, but fails to deliver much on the innovation front. In fact, it offers less functionality than Apple’s original because it can neither turn on the device automatically, nor can it support the tablet stably.
A tablet is only as good as its screen. Luckily, the “IPS-enhanced” panel on the Xyboard 8.2 is pretty darn good. It’s not perfect, but it’s quite bright, vivid, and well calibrated. Please note that the “IPS-enhanced” screen is not to be confused with professional-level E-IPS or budget e-IPS panels.
Packing the de facto standard Honeycomb resolution (1280 x 800) into a relatively small 8.2″ screen leads to seriously crisp text that outclasses its 10.1″ rivals for sheer text readability. Even more stark is the difference between this display’s text clarity and that of the lower resolution (1024 x 768) but larger (9.7″) display found on Apple’s iPad and iPad 2. Further aiding text legibility is an excellent contrast ratio and fantastic factory-calibrated white balance. Video quality is similarly excellent, thanks largely to its well calibrated colors and clarity.
While the display certainly has its highlights as mentioned above, it’s not quite perfect. My review unit suffered from significant backlight bleed along the longitudinal edges. Given that movies typically leave a small horizontal black bar, this proves somewhat problematic for the movie watching experience.
Performance is a bit of a mixed bag with the Xyboard. Most of the time, the device is snappy enough. However, there are instances of severe slowdowns that appear when the tablet’s capabilities are pushed a bit too far. For example, web browsing performance is generally nice. However, on certain image-heavy pages, zooming and panning performance can slow to a crawl.
- SmartBench 2010 – 1909 productivity / 2946 games
- SmartBench 2011 – 3588 productivity / 3019 games
- SmartBench 2012 – 2465 productivity / 1677 games
- Quadrant – 2711
- Linpack – 45 Mflops Single-Thread / 69 Mflops Multi-Thread
- Nenamark1 – 29.0 fps
- Nenamark2 – 19.2 fps
- Sunspider – 1890.3 ms
Honeycomb—we’ve seen it before, and with the Xyboard 8.2, we see it again. Thankfully, Motorola has not flexed its MotoBlur muscle with the Xyboard 8.2. Rather, they have given us a nearly vanilla Android 3.x Honeycomb installation. There are a few bundled additions such as software to use the built-in IR blaster and impressive headphone virtualization software, but these additions generally are quite favorable. However, Honeycomb is a love-it or hate-it affair. While it offered a fantastically revolutionary interface a year ago, it has since been far outclassed by its successor.
Furthermore, given the powerful hardware and competent benchmark results, we can’t help but presume that the tablet’s overall speed is being held back by the outdated Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system. While Motorola touts the tablet as being upgradeable to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on the product website, they offer no projected timeline for its release.
The rear-facing camera produced adequate 5 MP pictures. Colors were well saturated and the automatic white balance and exposure were seemingly spot on. The front-facing camera was far worse, delivering excessively blurred images. The video quality from the rear camera, on the other hand, was superb. The 720p footage was clean, crisp, and surprisingly smooth. This is certainly the best video quality I’ve seen from any tablet, and possibly any mobile device.
Battery life was acceptable for a device of this size, but it wasn’t quite in the same league as its larger tablet brethren. Putting things into perspective with common use-cases, Motorola claims the Xyboard 8.2 is capable of 6 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing. However, this certainly doesn’t hold true when using 4G LTE. Using the cellular radio, I only managed to record 2 hours and 33 minutes of Netflix playback at maximum screen brightness. Switching to WiFi, the same amount of usage left me at approximately 50% battery. Again, this is good, but certainly not great—an unfavorable byproduct of its smaller form factor.
The Xyboard 8.2 is certainly an interesting device. I previously assumed there was no space for smaller tablets such as this, thinking that media is best enjoyed on a larger screen. However, using the 8.2 over the course of a week proved to be a fun experience because I was able to take the device to places I could never bring my Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Xoom. Yes, a larger screen is more enjoyable to watch movies on. However, sometimes toting around a large device isn’t practical.
Performance was a bit of a mixed bag, but not bad enough to be a deal breaker. However, for its expensive on-contract price of $529.99 (32 GiB) and $429.99 (16 GiB), the pauses and judder may prove to be too burdensome. An upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will most likely fix the major issues with the tablet, but one should never buy a device based on what a future update may bring.
Ultimately, the Xyboard 8.9 packs some fantastic hardware, which is unfortunately held back by its outdated OS. Those needing a very portable Honeycomb tablet should look no further. However, those who don’t mind a larger device should give the previously reviewed Asus Transformer Prime a closer look first.
- Generally fantastic screen
- Amazing build quality
- Nice form factor
- Too expensive
- Occasionally sluggish
- Horrible button placement