Hands-on with the Motorola XOOM [video]

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, Motorola gave both journalists and consumers their first opportunity to touch, feel, and experience its soon-to-be-launched tablet, the XOOM. Sure, we’ve gone hands-on with Motorola’s tasty Honeycomb tablet before, but today we got to spend a bit more time with the sleek slate. We sat down with our friends from Moto and got a chance to shoot some video, take some pictures, tap on the tablet, and ask questions. We couldn’t get the electronics manufacturer to comment on pricing, or pin them down on an exact release date, but we did get enough hands-on time to give you an idea of exactly what the XOOM is about. Hit the jump to check out the video, photo gallery, and to read our thoughts!

Motorola is a company that prides itself on strong build quality, and this really shines through with the XOOM tablet. While other manufactures have opted to use a plastic casing, Moto has chosen a milled aluminum back which gives the device an incredibly durable and solid feel. The silver backing covers most of the tablet’s rear, with the exception of the upper 20% — where black plastic is used to let the XOOM’s radios transmit properly.

We asked the company’s representatives if they had been told the device bears a resemblance to any other, older electronic device, but they said no. What’s funny, to us, is how similar the back of the XOOM — because of the use of aluminum and black, matte plastic — looks like the original iPhone. Not in shape, but in color and layout. Not a bad thing, just something that sort of immediately jumped out at us.

The device also has a great shape; the front edges form tight, right angles, and the back abruptly swoop towards the devices front. It is a very comfortable device to hold and use in your lap in the landscape orientation or with one hand while in portrait mode.

The XOOM lacks any kind of physical or soft keys and, if we had to guess, this will probably be standard with most Android 3.0 tablets. The soft-keys that are oh-so-common on most Android 2.2 tablets are unnecessary, as they have been moved onto the screen with Android 3.0. This allows you to hold the tablet in all four orientations without having to worry about where the buttons are. It’s a nice touch.

The front of the device contains a ghosted Motorola logo on the upper front-bezel along with a centered 2.0 megapixel front-facing camera — other than the screen, that’s it. Holding the device in that same orientation: the top contains a centered 3.5mm headphone jack which is flanked by a small door for the micro-SD and SIM cards (if applicable); Motorola noted they will be coming to European GSM carriers in Q2. The left side of the device has a volume up and down key and the right side of the device is empty. The bottom has a small mic pin-hole, the HDMI-out port, a micro USB port, and magnetic contacts for the company’s dock/charging station. We asked Moto if, like the DROID X, this unit had more than one microphone for noise cancellation purposes, but they said this wasn’t necessary since there was no phone capabilities built-in (we would have liked an extra mic or two to mirror the voice recording prowess of the DROID X, but that’s just us). The back of the device houses the 5 megapixel camera and dual-LED flash setup, along with two speakers to provide stereo sound.

All in all, the device is really sharp. We asked Motorola what differentiates the XOOM from other Android 3.0 tablets that will come out, and they were a bit non-committal… but we think we know the answer. Build quality. As we’ve already said, the materials used and overall design of the XOOM really make it feel like a high-end, luxury device; one that won’t be replaced by any old Android tablet next month. Moto definitely has an advantage over its competition by being first-to-market, now all that’s left to do is price this thing “competitively.”

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