If you're looking for interesting new hardware features from the Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition, you won't find anything groundbreaking, depending on whether you count its unusual 8.2-inch screen size, but there are a few surprises. Like the 10.1-inch Xoom 2, this is mostly just a slim and slight tablet without any of the bells and whistles that could add bulk.
Unfortunately, that includes the likes of a 3G mobile broadband antenna, and even a microSD card slot. You're stuck with the 16GB of built-in storage here.
There are two hardware features that are a bit out of the ordinary, though. The first is a splashproof coating inside and outside the Xoom 2 Media Edition, just like its bigger sibling. Though you won't be able to take the Xoom 2 into the sea for a spot of diving, it should protect against splashes in the kitchen or perhaps a spilled drink.
The other hardware feature is the infrared transmitter. Combined with the pre-installed Dijit app, you can create a setup to control your AV kit at home. We had no problems getting it working with our TV and set-top box, but the actual number of controls on offer for each remote was often quite poor.
We have separate buttons for TV guide, on-demand and the main menu on our remote, but there's only a menu button in Dijit, so it's a lot more effort to do anything.
So with the Xoom 2 Media Edition mostly just being a nice, light touchscreen when it comes to hardware, much like the iPad 2, it comes down to the software to make it stand out.
Like the bigger Xoom 2, this runs Android 3.2, and it's a shame that Ice Cream Sandwich won't be available for buyers from day one. It's a big update to Android, so Xoom users will just have to keep an eye out for upgrade details.
We've already touched on the Dijit app, but it's not alone on the Xoom 2. Of course, there's the usual Google apps, including Maps (which can make use of the built-in GPS feature, another feature it shares with the 10.1-inch Xoom 2), Gmail, Places, Talk and YouTube.
Motorola has added some extra productivity by including Evernote, the cloud note-syncing service, Dropbox for file-syncing, Quickoffice HD for creating and viewing documents, and Citrix and GoToMeeting for working on the go (provided your particular employer supports them).
We've already mentioned that the Floating Notes app from the big Xoom 2 is missing, and it's something we really can't understand. If anything, being lighter and more portable, this is better note-taking device than the 10.1-inch version, and yet it's been totally dropped.
The most important part of Motorola's added software is definitely MotoCast. This is a media streaming app that connects to a client on your PC or Mac to find and stream movies from your computer to your tablet. The reason for using a custom app and client rather than good ol' DLNA is that it can also work from outside your home network – in theory, you can connect with MotoCast from anywhere with a good Wi-Fi connection (no 3G, remember).
It shares your music, photos and movies, and is actually capable of playing movies in formats that aren't supported by the tablet natively by transcoding them on the fly, but this will hammer your PC – it used 50 per cent of the CPU on the 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 computer we were using to stream from. That's not a problem if you're not using the PC, but could get in your way if you're trying to play a game.
MotoCast is isn't the only streaming solution on the Xoom 2 Media Edition, though – there's a link to download Twonky, a DLNA streaming server, so you can stream content from your tablet to a compatible device, such as a smart TV or PlayStation 3.
You use Motorola's PC and Mac app to connect the Xoom 2 Media Edition over USB and store media on the device itself. Bear in mind, though, that the 16GB of storage is before formatting, and before the operating system has taken some of the space. In reality, you've got about 12GB to play with.
The Xoom 2 plays back movies up to 1080p, but storing them will take up a lot of your precious space. When you try to copy a movie file over USB that's in a format the Xoom 2 doesn't support, the software will actually transcode it to something more suitable before it transfers, which is handy.
For some reason, Nvidia's TegraZone app is included with the Xoom 2 Media Edition. Since neither of the Xoom 2 tablets actually features a Nvidia chip, we're not sure why. The app won't even let you download anything if you don't have a Tegra chip. Which the Xoom doesn't. Is it just to tease? No idea.