Motorola's original Xoom tablet sadly wasn't the amazing piece of kit that would bring Android tablets to the mainstream, as some hoped it might. Moto isn't giving up though. It's slapped beefed-up specs inside a much slimmer and sexier body.
The updated Xoom isn't running the latest version of Android though, so is it worthy of your attention?
The Xoom 2 is available now for £380.
Design and build quality
At a very reasonable 599g, the Xoom 2 is somewhat lighter than the original Xoom tablet, which weighed in at a bone-wrenching 730g. The Xoom 2 is about the same weight as the iPad 2 (601g), and is considerably easier to handle than its predecessor. You can hold it upright for fairly long periods of time without feeling the tell-tale aches in your arms.
It's slim too, at 8.8mm thick. That's exactly the same thickness as the iPad 2 and a great reduction from the 13mm of the original Xoom. It's a slate that will slide into a satchel or backpack without much pushing and shoving.
The corners of the Xoom 2 have been given an angular slant, which Motorola reckons makes this tablet easier to hold. The company also cut the corners off its new Razr smart phone, meaning the Xoom 2 looks pretty much like a bigger version of the phone. We didn't find it any more comfortable than other tablets when it sat in our hands. But it's nice to see Moto doing something to make its products stand out from the rest of the tablet bunch.
We're glad to see that Moto hasn't tried to cut corners in its production; the Xoom 2 feels very well put together. There's no flex in the shell and the soft plastic edging could probably put up with a few knocks and drops.
The only physical buttons on the outside of the Xoom 2 are a volume rocker and the power switch. They're both slightly rubberised and set quite low into the body, which sometimes proves tricky to find quickly, although it does mean that you're less likely to accidentally hit them when playing a game.
On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom you'll find micro-USB and mini HDMI ports.
Although perhaps not as stunning as the screen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, the 10.1-inch screen is a pleasing improvement over the original Xoom. Colours are vivid, which makes photos and videos look great. It has a very wide viewing angle, which is particularly handy if you've got people crowding round to watch the antics of the ever-adorable Maru.
The screen's made from Gorilla Glass, which is more scratch resistant than regular glass screens, although it seems absolutely ravenous for fingerprints so make sure you keep a cloth handy if you want it to always look at its best.
On the inside of the Xoom 2 is a 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM. The interface felt quite slick to us, but we'd be lying if we said we were blown away by its responsiveness.
There's 16GB of storage, which is the minimum we'd even consider on a tablet. Annoyingly, there's no higher-capacity alternative on the way. More aggravating still, Motorola has removed the option to expand that storage using a microSD card -- something we liked about the original Xoom.
That means you'll be stuck with just 16GB of storage, which you'll quickly fill up unless you relentlessly stick to streaming services like Spotify.
This tablet is Wi-Fi only and without 3G connectivity. There's no word of a 3G version of the Xoom 2 at present, but we're keeping our fingers crossed. Oddly, there's a plastic flap hiding blocked-up slots that evidently were intended for SIM or microSD cards. It seems that Motorola decided to pull support for this at the last minute -- having already built the tablets.
No Ice Cream Sandwich
The Xoom 2 will be running Honeycomb, which -- as you'll know if you're keeping up to date on all the Android shenanigans -- isn't the most recent version of Android.
That title belongs to Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich, which is designed to bring together the smart phone and tablet versions of Android into one glorious whole. Instead, you'll be getting Android 3.2 Honeycomb -- the version of Android designed to run on tablets before ICS came along.
Motorola has promised that the Xoom 2 will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich in the future, but there's no concrete date for when -- or if -- that will actually happen. Android updates aren't exactly quick to roll out, as Luke Westaway will happily tell you.
As such, if you're a huge Android fan who wants the latest and greatest edition of Google's Apple-bothering OS, you should hold off from buying this tablet until we know when it'll be getting the update treatment.
Although the average guy in the street probably has no idea what the latest version of Android is -- let alone why he needs it -- it's still galling to spend top dollar for the latest piece of tech when you know it's running an older OS. Devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus are already shipping with ICS so we're hoping Motorola gets its stuff together soon.
If you couldn't give two flips about the latest updates then there's a lot to like. The Honeycomb experience on the Xoom 2 is a fairly tasty one. You get the usual five home screens to fill up with apps and live widgets. They can be resized if you'd like them be more prominent. Apps that you don't want on your home screen appear in various screens of apps, similar to the 'pages' of apps you'd see on the iPhone.
At the bottom of the screen are three navigational buttons, allowing you to go back a step in whatever you're doing, return to the home screen or display a carousel of currently running apps for you to quickly flick between.
The web browser is clean and simple to use, offering tabbed browsing, which is particularly handy when you go on a massive browsing session.
Stuffed inside that slimmed-down body is a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, teamed up with 1GB of RAM. At one time, we'd have been rather impressed with those specs, but with tablets and smart phones pushing out 1.5GHz speeds -- and with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime offering a quad-core chip -- we're no longer bowled over.
That's not to say it isn't powerful though and our favourite tablet -- the iPad 2 -- manages to produce some excellent power from a dual-core chip floating around the 1GHz region. So we still have high hopes for some swift action.
Swiping around the various home screens was smooth and instant, even when we filled them with a whole bunch of power-sucking live widgets. Apps opened quickly and we were rarely left feeling as though it was struggling to run numerous tasks at once. On the Quadrant benchmark test, the Xoom 2 was streaks ahead of devices like the Acer Iconia Tab A100, which packs a dual-core chip running at 1GHz with 1GB of RAM.
The Xoom 2 will easily cope with intense multi-tasking and was able to switch between open apps without hesitation. It's also got enough juice to tackle demanding 3D games. We loaded up Blood & Glory -- Android's alternative to Infinity Blade on iOS -- and were pleased to see no frame rate drops when we hacked and slashed our way through various foes.
We're generally pleased with the performance offered by the Xoom 2; it's a marked step up from the original Xoom. How it stacks up against the coming onslaught of tablets running quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processors, and sporting Ice Cream Sandwich, remains to be seen.
On the back of the Xoom 2 is a 5-megapixel camera. Motorola has evidently realised that putting a camera over to one side, as per the first Xoom, is utterly ridiculous; it's made the more sensible decision to pop the camera in the middle this time.
This means that your fingers aren't in danger of creeping into the picture when you're gripping the edges and it's slightly easier to compose your shots.
Set to auto mode, the camera does a decent job of capturing a scene, providing an average exposure and acceptable colour balance. There's no tap-to-focus, so you're going to have to rely on the built-in auto-focus system, which sadly is quite slow and often inaccurate.
You get a few white balance and colour toning settings to play with if you want to be creative, but we don't imagine anyone is going to spend too much time getting all arty with a massive tablet in their hand. Best to leave those things to the more manageable digital cameras, or at least a good smart phone.
If still images aren't your thing then tap an icon and you can start shooting video. The Xoom 2 captures video in 720p resolution, which is about what we'd expect, but we'd have liked to have seen 1080p crammed in there.
Results from video are similar to the still images. Exposure balance is pretty good and colours are acceptable, if not a little on the cold side. The focus is still an issue, especially if you're shooting at varying distances, as the camera struggles to produce a sharp image.
It does a generally fair job, but it's absolutely no replacement for a dedicated snapper. If you're buying a tablet purely for its camera functions then you've got your priorities wrong somewhere.
It's a real shame that the Xoom 2 won't be shipped with Ice Cream Sandwich, as that would give it something to set it apart from more powerful Android tablets.
As it stands, we're pleased with Motorola's efforts in slimming down the slate. The Honeycomb experience is a rather nice one. But we don't think it's offering enough to justify the premium price tag.