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2023 Nissan Rogue Sport First Drive: Smaller, but not lesser SUV

What’s in a name? If that name happens to be ‘Rogue,’ well, you’re looking at the substantial brand equity of the best-selling SUV in America, and a vehicle that’s managed to move more units than even the mighty Ford F-150 pickup through the first quarter of 2023. It makes perfect sense, then, for Nissan to swap out the ‘Qashqai’ name that’s used to identify its latest compact crossover everywhere else in the world and go all-in on the ‘Rogue Sport’ badge for the American market.

The 2023 Nissan Rogue Sport more than just a familiar name slapped on a new lunchbox and placed on a lower, more budget-friendly shelf. At its core, it’s a re-think of what a certain slice of sport-utility customers might be looking for in a versatile commuter, and one that seeks to carve out new territory for the automaker rather than simply chip away at the existing Rogue buyer base.

The Rogue Sport checks in shorter and lower than its older sibling, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it falls into the subcompact category – the regular Rogue has casually inched up into mid-size territory if you go by EPA passenger volume standards. In fact, when contrasted against popular cute ‘utes like the Mazda CX-3 and the Jeep Renegade, the Rogue Sport pulls ahead with an adult-capable rear seat and between 10 and 15 more cubic feet of total cargo space (with that second row folded forward to reveal 61.1 cubes of stowage).

The latter, which will run you $26,070 before options (and $27,420 if you want all-wheel drive), was on hand at the Rogue Sport launch this past month in Nashville, Tennessee, where I was afforded the opportunity to run the SUV through the countryside surrounding Music City. Given that the Rogue Sport SL is priced at a level that will have buyers considering not just the larger, mid-level Rogue but a host of larger competitors from Ford (the Escape), Toyota (the RAV4) and Honda (the CR-V), I was curious to see how strong of a case the legitimately compact Nissan was able to build for itself.

Nissan is aiming the Rogue Sport away from families and instead targeting couples or younger folk who want something other than a hatchback to cart around their kayaks, sports gear, and Costco booty. It’s a smart play – larger SUVs do things like car seats and rear-seat entertainment systems better than the Sport – but as mentioned earlier, that rear row won’t crush grown-ups when it’s time to load up a pair of friends for an out-of-city excursion. The Rogue Sport also has access to an impressive level of safety equipment (including automatic braking, lane departure warning and intervention, and blind spot warning), proving that downsizing doesn’t have to mean giving up the latest in active protection.

Interior room certainly isn’t a problem, and while the plastics and materials used throughout the Rogue Sport err on the side of affordable there’s really nothing missing from the crossover’s feature set that would impinge on enjoying a longer journey in the vehicle. Power, however, is a bit of a different story. All versions of the Nissan Rogue Sport are motivated by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, matched with a continuously-variable automatic transmission.

Acceleration is milquetoast, but acceptable, even when merging on the highway, as long as it’s just you and a buddy along for the ride. Start to pile that cargo area high with suitcases, camping gear, and other lifestyle accoutrements, and then toss in 400 lbs of additional adult ballast in the back seat, and you’ll most likely notice the missing 30 lb-ft of torque as compared to the larger (and only marginally heavier) Rogue’s engine. This lack of grunt is made up for by a nimble character out on the road that’s not quite athletic, but which certainly reflects the smaller dimensions of the Sport. This flair is compounded by the easy-to-park nature of the crossover’s shorter and more narrow platform, which will no doubt entice buyers stuck dealing with the sliver-sized spaces stuffed underneath big city condo developments.

Is the 2023 Nissan Rogue Sport destined for success? Undoubtedly, as crossover-hungry consumers flock to dealerships in search of something, anything that isn’t a sedan. With so many regular Rogues sold each year, there’s also a strong chance that anyone in the market for an SUV knows at least one other person willing to recommend Nissan’s volume leader, which in turn will drive buyers seeking a smaller option to the Sport sitting just across the showroom. Giving the people more of what they want has never been a bad strategy in any business, and when it comes to sport-utility vehicles, Nissan’s in the perfect position to satisfy all comers.

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2023 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive

2023 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive

The all-new Cruze makes a noticeably more modern visual impression, and while on paper it clocks in larger than the model it replaces you’d be hard pressed to point out exactly how and where the sedan has grown. Chevrolet has disguised the almost three extra inches of length by dropping the car’s roofline and pinched the car’s cheeks and hips, drawing them back along its frame and presenting a profile that’s more sprinter than body builder. LED running lights are available with higher trim levels, which work to create a classier visage that complements the Cruze’s eye-catching styling.

The Cruze’s longer-limbed status hasn’t translated into any extra bulk. It’s all lean muscle for the sedan, which weighs a couple hundred pounds less than its predecessor (depending on how it’s configured) – a feat that was achieved by taking mass out of both the chassis and the drivetrain for 2023.

Of course, extending the wheelbase on the Chevrolet Cruze has also benefited anyone who finds themselves riding in its rear seat. In addition to the extra inches that are now available for stretching out legs, the Cruze’s cabin feels airier than before, and has also been given an upgrade when it comes to trim and style.

There’s still a fair amount of plastic on the door cards and dash panel – even on the new Premier range-topper – but it’s well in keeping with what you’ll find inside other comparable compacts like the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, and the leather that’s available on pricier models edges the Cruze past the Ford Focus when it comes to interior refinement.

Chevrolet’s affordable offering also pulls ahead in the features department. The Cruze is the only car in its class to offer a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot as standard equipment, regardless of how much you pay for the vehicle. You also get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability with the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, and while I’m not sold on the benefits of either – the implementation of the Android system in particular falls far short of what I’d like in terms of functionality – it’s a sign that Chevy is thinking hard about in-car connectivity.

Features like this are only haphazardly available from the compact competition, and GM’s insistence on democratizing its high tech safety gear and making it available even on inexpensive models like the Cruze is an example more automakers should follow.

While the features list for the 2023 Chevrolet Cruze might have expanded, under the hood the sedan has simplified its offerings. The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s been available for the past five years of Cruze production has been struck from the program, and in its places is a revamped 1.4-liter turbocharged four-pot that was once optional, but is now included free of charge on every edition of the car.

Pay close attention here: Chevrolet has made its most mightiest and most efficient engine the only one available with the Cruze, in a market where accessing any other brand’s turbo mill or high-efficiency drivetrain means paying more money.

Not only does the Cruze’s new 1.4-liter motor offer up to 30-mpg city and 42-mpg highway, but output has been boosted to 153 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque, numbers that represent a substantial improvement over the outgoing engine. Chevy’s also refusing to play coy when it comes to transmission choice, as you can select either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with the turbocharged 1.4.

With almost 30 additional pound feet of torque on tap for 2023, one would expect the Chevrolet Cruze to be fleeter of foot. From the driver’s seat, acceleration comes off as perfectly acceptable given the car’s price point, with the automatic transmission offering sometimes languid kickdowns when passing. It’s not fair to label the Cruze’s performance as ‘exciting,’ however.

Handling tends more towards the composed than the communicative side of the ledger, and steering is similarly tuned to maximize comfort rather than emphasize thrills.

This is entirely on purpose. Yes, the Cruze is available in an RS trim, but this is largely an appearance package that translates into a sporty look rather than an engaging driver experience. Perhaps one day soon Chevrolet will go full ‘SS’ with the Cruze platform and build the turbocharged pocket rocket we all know is an accountant’s rubber-stamp away from becoming a reality, but until then the decision to build car that everyone can enjoy during their daily drive to work and back was a much smarter move than trying to out-slalom the Mazda3.

It all comes down to knowing your role – and more specifically, understanding exactly what your target audience wants out of a car. Chevrolet would rather sell more Cruzes than magazine covers, and so we have been gifted with a refined version of a sedan that was already quite good. The addition of standard turbo power and efficiency, comprehensive active safety, and a calm and comfortable ride to the car’s portfolio comes very close to pushing the Cruze all the way out of the ‘good’ column and tipping it into ‘great.’

2023 Kia Optima First Drive

2023 Kia Optima First Drive

Fourteen years ago, Kia was last on J.D. Power’s quality survey; today, it’s second behind Porsche. That’s a big deal, but what does it have to do with the new 2023 Optima? Turns out, pretty much everything, inside and out. It’s Kia’s best-selling vehicle for the past three consecutive years, not to mention its first model to top the 150,000 yearly sales mark, with demand up 480-percent versus 2010.

So, while there were a few jokes thrown around about whether the new Kia Optima really looks different from the last generation, all kidding aside the subtle changes are for the better. The designers have sensibly avoided change for the sake of change; as former Audi designer Peter Schreyer says of his work at Kia, the watch-words are to keep it clean, simple, and timeless. No need to mess with a formula that’s working, right?

“Moving forward “change is an improvement not just for the sake of change,” Scott McKee, Director of Corporate Communication, Kia

Starting with the exterior, the front “tiger nose” grille and cleaner sheet metal looks great, despite being clearly related to previous generations of Optima. The devil is in the details: the wider grille emphasizes the car’s broader stance, wrapped with HID bi-xenon headlamps. While I didn’t have the opportunity to test these new lights in nighttime driving, they articulate and follow corners – a feature that’s not commonly found in this class of car.

Other nearly-unnoticeable changes include a slight increase in width, height, wheelbase and overall length. Kia tells me that, as a result, the cabin should feel more spacious; to be honest, it’s already roomy as-is, so I could barely tell the difference. I’m not sure if an increase in 0.5 cubic-feet of trunk space will sway a potential buyer one way or another, though it’s still worth mentioning.

More importantly, the interior got a significant upgrade in terms of materials. Kia invested a lot into the interior, raising the bar for other vehicles in the same class, and figuring that the best way to capture new buyers is to wow them inside.

It works, too. There’s a stronger horizontal line across the dashboard, lending to the feeling of space but also helping to organize the controls. All of the buttons are now above that line, while anything in the touch zone is below.

While still an affordable four-door sedan, the 2023 Optima feels more luxurious than any of the previous generations, not to mention when compared to competitors in the same segment. There’s new, more premium materials with soft-touch finishes, eye-catching diamond stitch patterns, and small but collectively significant attention to detail that adds up to a car that’s both more stylish but also more functional.

Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be available when the 2023 Optima goes on sale. Other safety features, meanwhile, include intelligent cruise control with radar tracking of other cars, lane departure warning, and emergency braking.

The improvements continue where you can’t see them, too. An increased used of high-strength steel means about 50-percent of the body is constructed with the material, up 150-percent on the old car, for better protection in a crash along with improved driving dynamics and a quieter ride.

It means that the best way to feel the difference versus the old Optima is to drive the new model, since the most significant changes can’t be seen with the naked eyes. My more spirited driving through the twists and turns in, around, and outside of Aspen was nothing short of fun, something you don’t necessarily expect from a sedan in this class. Handling proved to be astonishingly good, especially when paired with Kia’s 245 HP, 2.0-liter turbo with 260 lb-ft of torque available with the upper trim levels.

Other engine choices include a 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a new-to-Optima 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, with 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, that’s only available on the LX model and paired with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

It’s that ambitious pricing, combined with a thoughtful selection of features and solid driving dynamics that single the 2023 Optima out. If Kia’s rapid rise through the satisfaction charts hadn’t already worried Toyota, Honda, and other mainstays of the automotive mass market, this new Optima should give them sleepless nights.

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2023 Porsche Taycan Turbo S First Drive Review: Electric Excellence

2023 Porsche Taycan Turbo S First Drive Review: Electric Excellence

There are electric cars, and there’s the Porsche Taycan. Make no mistake, the Taycan is a very big deal for Porsche and every other performance electric car released in the future. For the sake of simplicity, what started out as the Mission E concept around five years ago has morphed into what is really an electrified and elongated version of the Porsche 911, and that’s all for the better. In the process, though, you can’t miss the chatter around how the Taycan is around $50,000 more than a Tesla Model S Performance model, a car which goes faster to 60 mph, can accommodate five grown adults comfortably, and theoretically has a longer range.

This is where the Taycan enters the fray. From day one, Porsche wanted the Taycan to be a proper Porsche. Specifically, it should be able to tackle the road like a 911, but be as comfortable – and as practical – as a Panamera. Based on my initial test drive of the Taycan, I can verify Porsche has done that precise thing.

The new Taycan will initially be available in two models: the Taycan Turbo and the Turbo S. I drove both cars back-to-back, and no matter which you choose, you get two electric motors – one for each axle – and a large 93.4 kWh battery pack in-between. The Taycan Turbo generates 670-horsepower and 626 pound-feet of torque in over-boost mode and is good for 280 miles of range on the European WLTP cycle (though a lot less by EPA figures); altogether it’s enough to propel the rather heavy Taycan to 60 mph in around 3.2-seconds. The Taycan Turbo S, meanwhile, is the one to get if you want a real speed demon, a car that can potentially shame a Tesla Model S Performance edition in repeat performance given the right circumstances.

The Turbo S offers additional torque and horsepower over the Turbo model in over-boost mode, which is really the only performance difference between the two models. At most you get 750-horsepower and 774 pound-feet of torque, enough for a zero to 60 mph time of 2.6-seconds while reaching the quarter-mile in approximately 10.8-seconds. Due to the stronger power output, the Turbo S has a lower WLTP range of 260 miles. In reality, though, both models deliver an everyday 616-horsepower without the over-boost function in launch mode. Porsche gives the Taycan Turbo S a larger front inverter and some electronic tweaking in order to produce more power. No matter the case, both Taycan Turbo models have a top speed in excess of 160 mph.

In my opinion, the Taycan turbo with “only” 616-horsepower is more than enough for the daily grind. Both cars use a unique two-speed gearbox along with an 800-volt electrical architecture. The former is responsible for the agile responses of the Taycan: first gear is engaged at up to 50 mph, whereupon a taller second gear takes over to maximize range and efficiency. It’s a first in an EV and is only fitting for a performance-oriented EV like the Taycan.

While there’s something to be said for simplicity, I do think having more than a single gear is the real future of EVs. The same could be said for 800-volt architecture, which contributes faster charging, less battery heat, and more compact wiring for better packaging. And by faster charging, this means the ability to top up the batteries in less than 30 minutes: assuming you can find a 270 kW DC fast charging station. Porsche admits developing this electric architecture is costlier than Tesla’s 375-volt system, but it pays dividends in terms of consistent power delivery.

Electric cars are known for their plentiful torque. Even so, the power in the Taycan Turbo S isn’t just consistent and relentless as you push the accelerator pedal: it can be downright violent, to the point of inducing nausea or fear, depending on who you ask. The Taycan is a fast car even in base Turbo trim, while the Turbo S model is, well, ludicrous for lack of a better description.

Outright speed is a given. After all, it was Porsche’s intention to make it feel exactly like a 911. But what really impressed me is the interior design. Unlike Tesla, the Taycan’s interior is a triumph in modern minimalism with better materials and a more luxurious feel, topped off with enough tech to satisfy the most geekiest of geeks. True, the steering wheel is lifted directly from the 911, but it’s hard not to see that as a good thing, and the rest of the cabin design and layout is spot-on. The only physical buttons you’ll see inside are on the doors and steering wheel. Everything else is controllable by a plethora of touchscreens along with intuitive voice controls.

The seating position is very low, which contributes greatly to the sports car-like driving feel. Also like a proper sports car, while the driver and front passenger have more than enough room, it’s a different story in the rear seats. True to form, taller passengers might find the rear quarters slightly claustrophobic and tight by modern standards, but at least you get sufficient cargo room in the trunk – as big as that of a VW Golf – along with a smaller front trunk for a large computer bag.

Ride comfort surprises. Even with 21-inch wheels and lower-profile tires, the standard air suspension does a good job of isolating the cabin from major humps and bumps, even in the Normal or Sport setting. Summoning Sport+ mode is a different story, giving the Taycan the sort of ride similar to a car fitted with street-spec racing coilover suspension. By that I mean stiff, mildly jarring, and yet eager to embrace a winding corner at higher speeds.

Despite all the high-tech components and engineering effort, what boggles my mind is just how the Taycan manages to feel as sporty as a 911 despite the weight penalty. Make no mistake, Porsche’s EV can go like nobody’s business, but no amount of tinkering can overtake the laws of physics on this one. The Taycan may feel light on its feet in a straight line, but you’ll feel the weight of the car once you’re aiming for the apex. And yet, the Taycan can sort itself out without minimal effort or drama.

The added weight and lower center of gravity enable the Taycan to tackle corners you’d initially assume you’d need to slow for, but you do feel the heft of the vehicle. By contrast, the Tesla Model S feels cumbersome at higher speeds while the Taycan feels planted and ready to attack every corner you can throw at it. Also, the two-speed gearbox makes the Taycan feel more exciting. In fact, this feature alone makes it feel like a normal car. Aided by Porsche’s Electric Sport Sound that pipes in some artificial mechanical noise inside the cabin, the Taycan managed to feel like a normal performance car with nothing lost in translation towards electrification.

After an hour or so of thrashing the Taycan, selecting Normal or Range from Sport+ transforms the car from an Autobahn-beating machine to a silent, comfortable, and almost tame daily driver. With this in mind, it’s better than a 911 around town, and you get four doors, impressive cargo space, and proper seats for humans in the back. At this point, the regenerative braking will do most of the anchoring for you. For all its technological might and vast reserves of power, the Taycan is no harder to drive than a compact car.

Porsche did its homework with the Taycan. It’s far from being perfect, but true beauty is not without natural flaws. Tesla can rightly say the Model S is faster or possibly more capable of scaring the bejesus out of everyone in the cabin. But in terms of handling, ride comfort, and overall driving feel, I’d say Elon Musk and the rest of the gang at Tesla have some homework to do.

Deleted Files From Hard Drive, But It Is Still Full

Some users are experiencing storage problems on their Windows 11/10 devices. According to them, they have deleted files from the hard drive, but it is still full. Among the affected users, most of them have experienced this problem on their C drive. If your hard drive space remains full even after deleting the files, the solutions explained in this article may help you fix the problem.

Deleted files from Hard Drive, but it is still full

According to the feedback of the affected users, the problem is occurring mostly on the C drive. However, you may face such a type of issue on any hard disk partition on your computer. The solutions listed below may help you fix the problem.

Use Command-line version of Disk Cleanup Utility to clean more

Turn off System Restore

Disable Hibernation

Stop Windows Search Indexing

Use free software to identify the files taking up more space on your hard drive

Uninstall Rollback RX software

Perform WinSxS folder cleanup

Let’s see all these solutions in detail.

1] Use Command-line version of Disk Cleanup Utility to clean more

Windows saves a copy of previous Windows versions in the chúng tôi folder after updating to the newer version. With time, the size of chúng tôi folder increases which consumes the free space on your C drive. The chúng tôi folder is useful in case you want to go to the previous version of the Windows operating system. But if you do not want to do that, you can delete the files it contains.

The correct way to delete the files inside chúng tôi folder is to use the Disk Cleanup utility. The steps for the same are written below:

Select the Disk Cleanup app from the search results.

When the Disk Cleanup utility appears, select the C drive from the drop-down.

After that, Windows will take some time to scan the system files.

Apart from this, you can activate some additional cleaning options.

The command-line version of Disk Cleanup Tool or chúng tôi offers more cleaning options if you use sageset and sagerun arguments.

2] Turn off System Restore

System Restore is a feature of Windows 11/10 operating systems that creates a snapshot of your system files and Windows Registry and saves them as restore points. If you turn on System Restore, Windows will create the System Restore Points automatically. This will consume the space on your C drive. When you turn off the System Restore, all the existing System Restore Points will be deleted and new System Restore Points will not be created until you turn on this feature again.

The steps to turn off System Restore are as follows:

Select the Create a restore point option from the search result. This will open the System Properties window.

Make sure that you are under the System Protection tab.

Select Disable system protection.

The above process will free up some space on your C drive. Now, you can turn System Restore back on and define the maximum usage for System Restore Points. After that, Windows will delete the older System Restore Points while creating the new ones. To do this, follow the first four steps written above, then turn on the System Protection. After that adjust the slider to set the maximum space to save System Restore Points.

Read: Hard drive full? How to find the largest files on Windows?

3] Disable Hibernation

The chúng tôi is a hidden file in a Windows operating system. If you turn on Hibernation on your computer, Windows creates this file and stores the data on it when your system enters the Hibernate state. When you turn your computer on, the Hibernation feature helps you resume your work from where you had left the last time. With time, the size of the chúng tôi file increases which consumes the free space on your C drive. Disabling the Hibernation feature can help you free up some space on your C drive.

4] Stop Windows Search Indexing

Windows Search Index requires storage space on your system to keep the indexed files. Because you already have less space left on your C drive, you should disable Windows Search Indexing.

5] Use free software to identify the files taking up more space on your hard drive

TreeSize and WinDirStat are the two free software that analyzes the storage space on all your hard drive partitions and show you the detailed stats for the same. Install any of these software so that you could know what is taking up more space on your hard drives. Now, you can delete the files that are not important to you.

Read: Hard Drive keeps filling up by itself automatically for no reason

6] Uninstall Rollback RX software

Rollback RX software is an alternative to the Windows built-in System Restore feature. It creates snapshots of your system and stores them on your hard drive. These snapshots will help you restore your system if any problem occurs. According to some of the affected users, it does not clear the previous snapshots due to which they were running out of disk space. Uninstalling the Rollback RX software had also deleted the hidden files created by it which also had freed up space on their hard drive.

If you have also installed this software, uninstall it to free up space on your hard drive and use the Windows built-in System Restore feature to create Restore Points.

7] Perform WinSxS folder cleanup

Perform WinSxS folder cleanup to reduce the size of the folder.

Why is my hard drive still full after deleting the files?

Everything that you delete from your Hard Drive goes to the Recycle Bin. Windows offers users another chance to recover the deleted files from recycle Bin. If your Hard Drive does not show the free space after deleting the files, empty your Recycle Bin. After that, your Hard Drive will show free space.

You can also use some free software, like TreeSize, WinDirStat, etc., to see which files are taking up the most space on your hard drive so that you could delete them if they are not important.

Read: How to free up space on Recovery Drive in Windows.

Why is my C drive full with nothing on it?

There are some hidden files on the C drive that consume space. System Restore, Hibernation, and Windows Search Indexer are some of the Windows features that consume space on the C drive. If you have turned on these features, turning them off will free up some space on your C drive. System Restore is an important feature that should be enabled on every Windows device, as it lets Windows users restore their computers if a problem occurs.

Disabling the System Restore will also delete all the restore points created by Windows, hence, it will free up some space on your hard drive. After that, you can re-enable it and set the maximum storage limit to save the restore points. After setting the storage limit Windows will delete the previous restore points while creating the new ones.

Hope this helps.

Motorola Xoom: First Android 3.0 Tablet Impresses, But Drawbacks Remain

The first Honeycomb tablet remains a solid choice in large part due to its strong overall performance and complement of ports. But newer models are lighter.

All eyes are on the Motorola Xoom tablet, and for good reason: It’s the first device in an expected multitude to ship with Google’s tablet-optimized Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). The Xoom has a lot of features to like, and a lot to set it apart from the ever-growing crowd of tablets; but it also has some drawbacks that temper my enthusiasm about it.

One drawback is its price: $800 with no contract on Verizon, and $600 with a two-year contract (prices as of February 23, 2011). More critically, I experienced some issues with the display and image rendering during my hands-on evaluation of the Xoom.

Using the Xoom confirmed my earlier impressions of Android 3.0: The OS is vastly superior to its predecessor and is so different to use that it’s practically unrecognizable as a close relative of the Android widely deployed today. The software’s tablet optimization was evident in the home screens, the widgets, the music player, the browser, the e-mail, and even the YouTube player. Missing, however, was the Adobe Flash 10.2 player, which is coming soon but wasn’t available in time for this story.

The Hardware: Style and Class

The Xoom zooms to the top of the tablet class in overall style and design. The build quality is solid, with volume and power buttons that are easy to press and a sturdily constructed SIM tray that doubles as the MicroSD Card slot cover. It has a soft, rubberized feel along the top, and black metal on the bottom when held in horizontal mode. It also has its buttons and other elements configured for that orientation.

In Video: First Look: Motorola Xoom

Clearly, the device was designed with landscape orientation in mind: In that position, you hold it with two hands, and the front-facing 2-megapixel camera sits at the top middle of the display, just as the Webcam on a laptop typically is. The stereo speakers, at back, appear to the right and left, with plenty of clearance for your fingers (this positioning is unfortunate, however, if you plan to listen to music while the pad is lying flat, with its screen face-up). The micro-USB and HDMI-mini ports are at bottom, perfect for mounting the Xoom in its optional dock (standard dock, $60, Speaker HD dock, $150). The power button is located on the back, to the left of the rear-facing, flash-equipped, 5-megapixel. The button lies where your forefinger naturally lands when you hold the Xoom in both hands.

The Xoom runs Nvidia’s Tegra 2 platform, with a dual-core 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of on-board user memory. The MicroSD Card slot permits users to double their storage space as they use the device–a boon for anyone who tends to pack gadgets with media. Unfortunately, the MicroSD Card slot is not enabled at launch-so early shoppers will have to wait until a software update comes along (eventually, Xoom will ship with the slot enabled).

The display measures 10.1 inches diagonally, with 1280-by-800-pixel resolution. The widescreen’s 16:10 aspect ratio makes it perfect for viewing video; but for folks accustomed to the 4:3 aspect ratio of the 9.7-inch Apple iPad screen, it may take some getting used to. The unit also stands an inch taller than the first-generation iPad, but it feels comfortable when you hold it landscape-style in two hands.

You’ll definitely want to use two hands: Like the first-generation iPad with 3G and Wi-Fi, the Xoom weighs 1.6 pounds. The weight is manageable for periods of two-handed operation, but intolerable for extended one-handed operation. A third-generation Amazon Kindle weighs one-third as much as the Xoom.

The Display: The Draw and the Drawback

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Xoom’s display’s quality: In spite of its high resolution, I detected graininess; colors seemed somewhat inaccurate and didn’t pop as they do on the iPad and on Samsung’s bright, occasionally oversaturated Galaxy Tab.

Blockiness and artifacting were issues in video playback, too–for instance, in YouTube videos played in both standard and HQ modes, and in Google Talk video chat over Wi-Fi (as well as 3G). The images I captured on the device were disappointingly middle-of-the-road, as well. Overall, the camera was a bit awkward to operate, as was the video camera, though you do get more controls than before.

Interestingly, though the Gallery player supports H.263, H.264, and .mp4 video files, it failed to play .wmv files that Android 2.2 and 2.1 devices had managed to play just fine.

The big piece of glass on the display is readable indoors, but it’s very glarey. I’ve described the Apple iPad as a mirror–but compared to the mirror effect of the Xoom, the iPad is as nonreflective as paper. The Xoom’s glare was noticeable both indoors and out; and closer inspection revealed an air gap between the glass and the display beneath. I expected better: If the Barnes & Noble NookColor could nail the screen and glare issue on its $250 e-reader tablet, why couldn’t Motorola overcome glare on its $800 flagship device?

Performance Zips Along

I was quite impressed with the Xoom’s overall ability to zip through content. I easily and speedily moved through menus, through large collections of digital images, and through the redesigned Android Market. Even the file transfer speeds via USB were impressive. Anyone who has synced content to an Apple iPad knows how torturously slowly content moves from PC to device. On the Xoom, waiting wasn’t a huge issue: I transferred 700MB of digital pictures to the Xoom in just 3 minutes. Not too shabby.

Speed buffs will also appreciate that this 3G+ Wi-FI device will be able to migrate to Verizon’s 4G LTE network in the second quarter at no extra charge. The free upgrade rewards early adopters eager to own the first Honeycomb tablet.

Ultimately, the price feels too high, given that the nearly one-year-old, no-contract, 3G- and Wi-Fi-enabled first-generation Apple iPad came in at $730. But by obtaining a 4G SIM card (when the update comes out) and performing a software update, you’ll be able to surf the Web with the Xoom at lightning speeds. That future-proofing is a very appealing touch.

Other Usage Minutiae

Android 3.0 is easily the most polished Google software effort to date, but the random apps I downloaded from the Android Market didn’t work on Honeycomb at all, let alone scale to the Xoom’s large screen. Moreover, there’s no obvious way of knowing whether an app has been optimized for Honeycomb.

I endured some software crashes, and Google Talk behaved somewhat inconsistently (where’s the button to answer that call?). Also, some folders that I transferred to the Gallery didn’t show up, so I couldn’t test whether Honeycomb does indeed support .bmp files as Google says. (For a full list of supported files, see Google’s Android Developer site.)

Motorola rates the Xoom’s battery life at about 10 hours of high-definition video playback. And the device’s recharge time is fast, at just 3.5 hours for a full recharge (in my testing, it recharged from a 13 percent charge in less than 3 hours).

One of the Xoom’s main assets–aside from being the first Honeycomb tablet to market–should be its deep integration with the Honeycomb platform: Motorola worked hand-in-hand with Google to make Honeycomb run well on the Xoom, Google’s reference Honeycomb device. As such, the Xoom is likely to be as pure a Google Honeycomb device as possible.

All in all, the device is a solid but imperfect first effort. Platform stability and 4G can come with future software upgrades, and the bugs in the graphics and video rendering will (I hope) be fixable through software, too. But the screen’s annoying grid effect can’t be fixed by a simple update.

The Xoom is the first large-screen tablet to provide stiff competition for Apple’s iPad. But as smooth as many of its elements are, and as groundbreaking as this first-of-its-kind tablet is, its weaknesses prevent me from giving it a rousing endorsement. Software rough patches can be patched; but hardware frustrations may run deeper than any firmware update can fix.

Editors’ note (November 21, 2011): Over time, Motorola has improved the Xoom’s usability. An update to Android 3.1 fixed the image-rendering issue cited above, while another firmware update issued in the fall finally enabled the MicroSD card slot. And 4G support is now available for those users who want it. After running the updated Xoom through the PCWorld Labs suite of tablet tests, we’ve determined that it remains a solid performer, in spite of the passage of time; its performance score got a big boost from its battery life, which lasted for an impressive 7 hours, 40 minutes. (The Xoom also took just 2 hours, 26 minutes to recharge.)

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