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July 18, 2012

Keep taking the tablets

Follow-up to Another tablet from Snap!

I've been looking for the ideal tablet (for my needs) for some time and written previously about my experiences with two 10" tablets (the original iPad and the Acer W500 Windows tablet). These tend to be heavy and cannot be read for more than a few seconds holding them by a corner.

So I have also been looking at 7" tablets such as Kindles. I've had the Kindle Keyboard, then the Kindle Touch and finally a Kindle Fire. The slim grey plastic Kindles with eInk screens do what it says on the tin. They are light weight and excellent readers. They have an experimental web browser which is quite slow and clunky, so they should not be viewed as anything more than a very good reader.

The Kindle Fire is an Amazonised Android tablet with an excellent LCD screen, so more of an iPad competitor. As a Kindle it is fine, though with a backlit screen it has both advantages and disadvantages over the other Kindles. Its battery gets eaten up quickly and the screen is harder to read in strong ambient light. As an Android tablet, it is crippled at the moment by the lack of UK support. You can find ways to install Android apps, e.g. initially using a Dropbox account, so the Opera browser provides an alternative to the built in Android browser. Kindle is a pretty good PDF reader so for my purposes, once set up the Kindle Fire is an alternative to an iPad which is easier to carry around and use on the go.

Just under a week ago I received an early delivery of a 16GB Google Nexus 7 from eBuyer. It seems they jumped the gun, but I'm not complaining :)

It is slightly lighter than the Fire, similar form factor and a backlit LCD screen which looks to my eyes slightly less saturated than the Fire and paradoxically, since it has higher resoultion (1280x800 versus 1024x600), sometimes less sharp. I don't do video or games so the more powerful processor in the Nexus is not really noticeable, but the integration with Google Play makes kitting the Nexus out with apps more straight forward.

However, running Android 4.1, the Nexus is beyond Adobe's cutoff point for Flash, so there is no Android browser and currently no iPlayer. Instead there is the Chrome browser installed. Which is fine. Presumably websites which accommodate the other non-Flash tablet will also do so with the Nexus. Then I can watch the BBC News again.

The Android email client works well with my different accounts.

Android is as deficient as iOS in not having a TeX installation. I can use cloud TeX services just as on the iPad. But if I need offline access to a TeX installation then it has to be a laptop or the Acer W500 tablet which has TeXLive installed. This is, of course, also the heaviest of the lot.

Leaving aside compiling TeX on the go, then the three 7" tablets I currently use (Touch, Fire, Nexus) all have plusses and minusses. Probably the one which will get squeezed out is the Fire. The Touch is far and away the lightest and has great battery life. The limitations on what I can currently install on the Fire means the Nexus will have the edge in software. With UK support for the Fire the gap would be much less. The iPad trails in last.


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