Talk to me about tablets, part 2

I made that post the other day in a hurry, hence not going into detail about what I’m looking for and how I’m using my laptop right now. But in a way, that made it more interesting; I got a broad array of answers. Thank you all!

So now comes the detail, and if you have other advice to offer, please do.

First of all, I have a desktop computer, which is where I do 95% of my writing work — maybe more. Also a lot of e-mail, websurfing, listening to music, and most of my game-playing. That’s still working fine.

My laptop mostly gets used in front of the TV, where I deal with e-mail and surf the web while watching TV. Sometimes I write blog posts. It also gets taken along when I travel, and that’s where its deficiency really starts to show: it’s too large, too heavy, too inconvenient. It takes too long to wake up and reacquire a wireless signal, which is partly a function of its slow degeneration from age — but not entirely.

Ergo, I want something that is smaller, lighter, and more responsive, as well as something that can function as a better ebook reader than the tiny screen of my phone. Netbooks are generally too small; I don’t have large hands, but it’s still a bad ergonomic idea for me to try and type a lot on such a small keyboard. I think I’d be better off with a Bluetooth keyboard for a tablet, which will be about the size of the one on my current laptop. An ultrabook is a possibility . . . but I’m not sure I really need something on that scale, for the use I make of it.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the restricted environment of an app market, whether Android or iOS, which is a point against tablets. (The Surface would be a compromise on that front, but it has other things against it — price for one, and apparently it’s a nightmare to repair.)

Anyway, I’m likely to go test-drive some prospects soon, as this laptop is having an increasing amount of trouble finding our wireless network and maintaining a connection to it. Without that, it’s nothing more than a very hot brick. So if you have advice to offer, get it in fast, ’cause time is running out!

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0 Responses to “Talk to me about tablets, part 2”

  1. kleenestar

    The only netbook I can recommend is my Toshiba (NB205, I think) which has a 98% full-size keyboard. It’s pretty amazing to experience. I travel with it all the time – it’s really light – and have no problem typing on it for hours if need be.

    Otherwise, may I recommend The Wirecutter as a well-researched recommendations source?

  2. ckd

    Android tablets will let you install random binaries from random places if you want to; you do have to change a setting to allow it, and when you do it warns you that it’ll be all your fault if you install SendAllMyPasswordsToFraudsters.apk.

    The Surface doesn’t seem like a good bet to me (and it doesn’t sound like you want a Kindle/Nook reader-that-can-kinda-tablet) so I think you wind up with a 4-option matrix:

    – small (7″-ish) or large (10″-ish)
    – Android or iOS

    If you go Android, I’d recommend the Nexus line because those get updates direct from Google rather than depending on the hardware vendor. (My N7 just got Android 4.2.2.)

    [Disclaimer: I work for the big G, but not on Android; I use both Android and iOS and own both in tablet and phone form.]

  3. swords_and_pens

    For the use pattern you’re talking, I think tablet will be the way to go. Both Android and iOS have a surprising variety and depth of apps, to the point that I am wishing I could get some of them on my Mac/PC (and some I can!). I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you start using them.

    If it is only for occasional writing, and more for surfing, e-mail, and the like, then I think a tablet will do everything you list, especially wake up & connect quick, and be light).

  4. aedifica

    In case this is helpful: I agree with ‘s 4-option matrix, and I think that within that matrix you will probably not make any bad decisions. I’ve used iPads and Android tablets, and between them, IMHO the one that’s better is the one you’re used to.

  5. kateelliott

    I have basically replaced my laptop with my iPad-Logitech keyboard combination. I use Pages (not great) and Dropbox (great). Will probably switch to Scrivener once the iPad app is developed and especially if it syncs well with the Mac Scrivener.

    I don’t have a lot of demands on my portable device so an iPad will definitely not work for everyone. But it is good enough and I love the portability and convenience of the iPad as compared to the laptop. However I should say that like you 90+ % of my work is done on my desktop and it remains my computer of choice. So any laptop/tablet I use is going to be my back up not my main device. so ymmv

    • green_knight

      You might want to check out Office ^2 (by byte ^2) as a text processing app (tracked changes, also includes a spreadsheet) and Storyist (similar concept to Scrivener; I like it a whole lot better than Scrivener, but maybe that’s just me.)

  6. green_knight

    I’m not a fan of the restricted environment of an app market

    If you are, or want to become, a software developer, this is a relevant issue. Otherwise it is an issue-in-principle (and in principle I agree with you) – but it also brings a number of advantages. And while Apple’s system is more restrictive than Android’s, the restrictions also bring advantages for developers and users alike.

    Personally, now that track changes are solved (I’m obsessed with tracked changes. I’m a writer/editor.) I can think of anything I want to do on iOS that I can’t find in the App Store; but many times I’ve had the opposite experience, of people creating apps that have filled gaps in my life which I had never thought anyone would write. And quite often there are several implementations of ideas. (See, for instance, the type-while-you-walk apps, which project white texts onto the camera screen: you can see through your iPhone and type at the same time. That was just ever so slightly mindblowing.)

    I grok conceptual waryness of a closed environment. On the other hand, it has very little practical repercussions for users (and some advantages), so I’ve come to terms with it.
    I also buy the majority of my computer apps through a very small number of outlets, namely the App Store and, with the odd item bought through other channels, so in practice, my computer habits mirror mymobile habits pretty closely.

  7. ephermata

    It might be more than you’re looking for, but I am in love with my Toshiba ultrabook, which I’ve had for about 10 months. 2.47 pounds, 13.3 inch monitor, fast wakeup, OK keyboard. Starts around $829. Link:

    Note that there are two versions of the Surface. The “Surface RT” also is restricted to apps from an app market, although it does come with Office. If you want to install legacy Windows software, you’ll need the Surface Pro. They have different prices: the Surface RT runs about $500 and the Pro about $900. That said, the Pro is ~2 pounds, which makes it lighter than most (all?) ultrabooks.

    I have a Surface RT and use it with the “Type Cover,” which is the little mini-keyboard with moving keys. I’ve written entire proposals during a 10-hour airplane flight, mixed with some video watching, without running out of battery! I work for Microsoft (so take this for what it’s worth), so most of my work documents are in Office. So I’m pretty happy with it, although it can’t replace my ultrabook for latex or Visual Studio.

    AT&T is also running a special on Android tablets right now, so you might be able to get a deal. If you do that, be sure to handle the tablet first to see how responsive it is. Some of them are great, like the Samsung Galaxy Tabs. Others I’ve seen in the AT&T store just don’t feel right (e.g. I touch, it takes a while to notice). iPads thankfully never seem to have this problem.

  8. lindenfoxcub

    I got an Asus Zenbook (an ultrabook) about six months ago, and I love it. But then, it’s my only computer, so I was all for pouring my money into something that’s going to do everything I need it to do. I don’t need the hard drive space though, so the solid state hard drive isn’t a problem that way, and solid state makes *such* a difference in application loading time. Stuff I used to click and walk away and come back when it loaded, now loads instantly.

  9. Anonymous

    I have a jailbroken Nook but I’m saving for an iPad

    Mainly because there are no good art-creating apps that will run on Android (I have spent too much money finding this out!) and several print-quality ones for iPad (I have been fooled by images made in Brushes and Procreate and not with pastel or pencils!), secondarily because Android is twitchy and crashes a lot, and the OS compatibility problem is a constant nightmare of finding out that you can’t actually run something cool without upgrading to the latest rev, but your hardware won’t run it, so…

    Also, the iPad will work for all ebook formats, which is why I jailbroke the Nook, since I have about equal B&N and Amazon titles. And something with a larger screen — the 7″ tablet is nice to hold for reading, but the onscreen keyboard covers up too much of the viewable area. So the benefits of a larger screen, a more stable OS, and a larger/better selection of apps, are pushing me to a refurbished iPad 3, once I scrounge up the cash. ) I use the tablet as an auxiliary screen to my laptop, sometimes at the same time, more often when whipping out the laptop is impractical due to time or space constraints.)

    PS: Thank you for reminding me of Lia Habel’s book — it turns out there is a sequel, and it is even better (if more suspenseful) than the first! I think I like this series so much because it reads like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, with Discworld zombies. Banter, pathos, and female friendship dominate in this one!

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: I have a jailbroken Nook but I’m saving for an iPad

      Glad to be of service! I haven’t yet picked up the sequel, but I do intend to.

  10. Marie Brennan

    Thanks! There is indeed a sequel on its way; that’s currently on my editor’s desk, awaiting his comments.

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