Motorola's Xyboard: Now With Fewer Features, Weaker GPU

The Motorola Xoom was a notorious flop thanks to a sky-high price tag, features that didn't work for months (the company didn'ts tart upgrading the tablet to its promised 4G capability until late this fall), and a buggy implementation of Honeycomb that was a direct result of Motorola pushing too hard for an early launch.

Moto, defiant in the face of such failure, went back to the drawing board and has given us the Xyboard / Xoom 2. The new tablet doesn't just replicate some of the mistakes that doomed its predecessor, it adds new flaws and foibles. This, my friends, is dedication at its finest.

First, let's talk specs. The new Xyboard comes in 8.2" and 10.1" flavors with full retail prices of $599 and $699 respectively ($429 and $529 w/ two-year Verizon contract). That makes the Xyboard $100 cheaper than a 16GB 9.7" iPad 2 w/ equivalent contract . The front camera is lower quality (1.3Mpixels vs. 2.0 MP on the original Xoom), there's no more removal storage, and the GPU is significantly less powerful. Like the original, it runs Honeycomb (Motorola has said that an ICS upgrade will be pushed out at an undefined later date.

Motorola is primarily talking up the increase in CPU speed (from 1GHz to 1.2GHz), but neglects to mention that it swapped out Nvidia for a TI OMAP4 solution, including an SGX540. There's nothing inherently wrong with the SGX540 GPU, but it's significantly less powerful than NV's Tegra 2 -- much less Tegra 3 or the iPad 2's SGX5432 MP2. In short, this is a tablet that packs a GPU better suited to a smartphone.

The Xyboard makes exactly half this much sense

The Xyboard is equally bizarre from a business perspective. The great, painful tablet lesson of 2011 was that consumers weren't interested in Android approximations of what they viewed as a superior Apple product. Motorola scarcely lacks for company in this field; the Touchpad tanked, PlayBook punted, Streak sank, and the Xoom xucked. Of all the companies in question, Moto is the only one who got up, dusted itself off, and decided to strip out some features and hit a price point marginally lower than the iPad 2's, because clearly the success of the Kindle Fire and Nook tablet at half or less of Apple's MSRP proved the market was ready for expensive Android solutions.

This tablet is very nearly a uniquely lousy deal. If you don't need 3G service, there are cheaper options with better features. If you do want 3G access, the iPad 2 is a much more powerful machine. The 8.2" option is a bit more interesting  (and for a landscape tablet, it fits better in the hands), but both the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet are still much cheaper and have more rich content options available.

Who is this thing supposed to actually appeal to? We have no idea. If it seems like we're being harsh on the device, remember, the prices we've quoted above are for a two-year contract with a minimal $350 cancellation fee. This is a piece of hardware you're going to be sitting on for quite some time -- but it's outfitted with last-generation equipment and actually offers fewer features than its predecessor.