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:
- Real battery life at least 6hrs
- Screen resolution at least 1024×600
- Screen size at least 7” (not sure if I rather set it to 9” – have to check them in real world)
- Not being at the mercy of anybody for content installation
- Applications can be developed on PC (.net is preferred)
- A decent chipset (nVidia Tegra 2 looks the best bet right now)
- Open architecture with an option to install custom OS (when the manufacturer stops supporting it)
So let’s start with the eliminations.
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.
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?