Waiting for a tablet

It has been quite a while since I’ve started thinking about an e-Reader. The primary reason is that I have a bunch of e-books (many of them from Manning). I bought them with an e-reader in mind. However, they are in various formats, PDF among them.

The mainstream e-reader is still a 6” device with a single 9” out there - Kindle DX which is quite expensive and run by Amazon. This could be a worrisome fact – they demonstrated it twice at least: first they removed legally bought books from e-readers just like that (ironically those were Orwell’s) and they denied hosting Wikileaks on their cloud servers because of a single phone call made by a politician. Being at the mercy of such a company isn’t really something good, is it? Anyway, the thing is that 6” devices are suitable for displaying more or less e-books only, not all e-content (think PDF) due to the screen size. And e-readers with bigger screens are not coming yet, are they? During this time iPad happened  which shows that a tablet is a good alternative to e-readers if properly done (plus it can be used for many daily tasks where e-readers simply don+t work). Thanks for that, iPad. Hence I shifted my focus to tablets.

Here are my requirements for a tablet capable of displaying e-books in various formats, reading e-mail, surfing, etc:

  1. Real battery life at least 6hrs
  2. Screen resolution at least 1024x600
  3. Screen size at least 7” (not sure if I rather set it to 9” – have to check them in real world)
  4. Not being at the mercy of anybody for content installation
  5. Applications can be developed on PC (.net is preferred)
  6. A decent chipset (nVidia Tegra 2 looks the best bet right now)
  7. Open architecture with an option to install custom OS (when the manufacturer stops supporting it)

So let’s start with the eliminations.

iPad

I’ll never buy iPad due to the conflict with requirements 4, 5 and 7. My biggest problem with iPad is the Apple politics behind it. If you have it then you are at the mercy of Jobs who decides what are you allowed to run, install, share and read - Apple censors content for no reason, at least they don’t even try to explain it, Wikileaks application was one of them. From the hardware point of view it is a fine device though.

Windows 7 tablets aka slates

There are some and come in various forms and factors. However, none of them makes it over my first requirement. They are slow, too - thanks to Windows 7 not being optimized for tablet format. I could survive slowness but not being able to run over 3hrs straight is a complete showstopper. Imagine, you just boot Windows 7, open Word and your document within it and you have to recharge already. It is beyond me why the manufacturers even bother producing them. The only bright point here is that Microsoft announced support for ARM and SoC with forthcoming Windows 8. I guess I’ll have to re-evaluate Windows based tablets in two years or more.

Chrome

No idea.

Android

Which leaves the Android based tablets as the only alternative. Currently the only decent one is Samsung Galaxy Tab which is heavily overpriced. It is more expensive than iPad even though it features much smaller display (7” compared to iPad’s 9”) and a free open source OS. Furthermore it is running Gingerbread (or is it Froyo) without any upgrade commitment from Samsung (you can’t just use stock Android due to Samsung’s customization).

The real deal are many Tegra 2 based tablets running Honeycomb announced at CES and I guess many more are coming in the near future. I think this spring there will be enough tablets on the market to choose from. I don’t know yet which one I’ll buy but I am skeptic about Motorola and HTC. The first one because of Milestone fiasco .They released the same hardware as Droid in the US which is a Google reference device. Meaning Google support and stock Android. But they released its twin as Milestone in EU as completely closed system with rare and very late updates (requirement 7) as if EU doesn’t deserve and open device. Screw you Motorola. Nor do I trust HTC which, rather than supporting their phones or putting some effort and care into them, releases new and new models almost monthly. Not saying others are better or worse but I just don’t trust these two.

To be honest Samsung is very bad at supporting as well. Just look at their flagship Galaxy S phone which could be much better. Having a top notch hardware is FUBAR slow due to the incredible stupid decision to use RFS as their file system. You have to use one of the lagfixes to see it fly. OS customization bloat named Touch Wiz doesn’t help with upgrades - The OS upgrade speed shown so far is poor – upgrading to Froyo took them around 6 months.

I don’t know about other manufacturers but I assume they can be even worse. Hence I’d really appreciate a tablet running a stock Android or the possibility to install a stock Android. This way updates would be piece of cake. This is valid for phones as well, not just tablets.

I am still optimistic for this spring. Am I too demanding?

Comments (7) -

  • Andrej Tozon

    11.1.2011 10:55:26 | Reply

    3. 7" - not enough imho, esp. for reading pdf "e-books".

    Personally, right now, I'm choosing availability and user experience. Like it or not, that's iPad all over. Unfortunately, Galaxy Tab doesn't come close, at least for me. No other way to wait for better alternatives I guess.

  • Miha Markic

    11.1.2011 17:51:19 | Reply

    The resolution between iPad and Galaxy Tab is more or less the same, correct? So the screen is to small / pixels are too small? I have to go to the Simobil office to check Galaxy Tab out one day.

  • Marc Greiner

    14.1.2011 15:18:02 | Reply

    Hi Miha ;

    I bought an Archos 70 Internet tablet for my parents for Christmas as a Picture frame, but I was surprised by all it can do, as I had no experience with Android (froyo).
    In the shop here in Basel where I first saw it, it was displayed aside of the Samsung Galaxy (and the iPad, but let's forget about it).
    The Galaxy is really overpriced.
    For one Galaxy, I could buy at least two of Archos (200 € at the Archos site with partner price, or else around 240 €).
    They have the same screen size (7").

    The Archos 70 is very light, around 300 grams, and 20% thiner than the Galaxy.
    For sure, it does not reach the quality of the Samsung Galaxy but it does its job as PDF viewer, picture frame, music and video player, internet browsing, games, etc.

    There is a bigger 9" version (Archos 101).

    If you go for the Samsung Galaxy, you should rather get it with phone operator, you could then get it to a reasonable price.

    Bye for now,

    Marc

  • Marc Greiner

    14.1.2011 15:19:08 | Reply

    Hi Miha ;

    I bought an Archos 70 Internet tablet for my parents for Christmas as a Picture frame, but I was surprised by all it can do, as I had no experience with Android (froyo).
    In the shop here in Basel where I first saw it, it was displayed aside of the Samsung Galaxy (and the iPad, but let's forget about it).
    The Galaxy is really overpriced.
    For one Galaxy, I could buy at least two of Archos (200 € at the Archos site with partner price, or else around 240 €).
    They have the same screen size (7").

    The Archos 70 is very light, around 300 grams, and 20% thiner than the Galaxy.
    For sure, it does not reach the quality of the Samsung Galaxy but it does its job as PDF viewer, picture frame, music and video player, internet browsing, games, etc.

    There is a bigger 9" version (Archos 101).

    If you go for the Samsung Galaxy, you should rather get it with phone operator, you could then get it to a reasonable price.

    Bye for now,

    Marc

  • Courtney

    14.1.2011 20:27:53 | Reply

    HI Miha,

    Your point on the slates is why I never got another tablet.  I got a tablet (Acer) in college but after 2 classes I had to battery swap to make it through the rest of the classes.  That was in 2002-2004.  Nothing has really changed since then unfortunately.  I was hoping Microsoft would get its act together at some point and help produce a really good windows tablet.  I don't know whether that will ever happen now.  This year I was given an iPad which I enjoy but I've never been an Apple fan nor like Jobs.  Good luck on your hunt and let us know what you end up with!

    Tell everyone I said HI!

  • Bill

    8.3.2011 1:17:48 | Reply

    Checkout the Motorola Xoom

    www.motorola.com/.../...TOROLA-XOOM-US-EN.overview

    Runs Ubuntu as well.  
    www.pcworld.com/.../...r_to_the_motorola_xoom.html

    Cheers

    • Miha Markic

      8.3.2011 13:03:48 | Reply

      Well, there are a couple of issues with Motorola.
      1. They tend to lock down their devices. Afaik XOOM is an exception, but who knows if it will be unlocked in EU as well as they treat EU very differently than US. (i.e. Droid is unlocked in US while it is completely locked in EU)
      2. The price is a bit obscene. I am looking forward to Wifi only version, keeping fingers crossed.

      Apart from this I agree, XOOM is a fine device and certainly on my watch list.

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