I have in my possession a Surface, an iPad, and an ASUS T300 Android Tablet. After having spent time with all three, I look at the pluses and minuses of them, from my perspective, which means that there are opinions in here that are just that, opinions.
Tablets are the new big thing. Everyone wants one, and plenty of companies are making them. Some tend to be designed for specific things (Nook, Kindle) while others make what seem like empty promises to me. I started out with a Nook Color e-reader not long after it came out. I had figured that it would be the tablet of choice for me. Problem was, the 7″ screen and lack of apps, especially free (Ad Supported) apps made me think of getting something else.
That something else came from my work. As we were getting iPads and starting to support them at client sites, they gave me one. this was for me to play with, learn about and use so I could support them. I enjoy the iPad experience. It is quick, and solid. I don’t like Apple, their holier than god and we know what is right for you attitude, and the lack of decent tech apps. Video playback on it has been nice on trips, but I am limited to the Apple formats, as usual.
The Surface is the newest of the Tablets I have. I really had high hopes for this machine, and maybe in the future it will reach those aspirations, but not at the moment. Right now, I deal with the frustration of not finding either the apps I use or an equivalent. Flip Toast is ok, but has bugs (They have told me they are working on fixing them). I can’t find decent Network tools, most apps that I can get free with Ads on other platforms, cost money, or are more expensive than they are on other platforms. Then there is also my Nook issue. I have the Nook app, or my Nook Color on everything else. My Library is there on all my other devices. Microsoft, which bought an 18% stake (IIRC) in Nook has no Nook App for Windows 8. In Fact if you search for Nook in the App Store, you get 2 choices as of writing this article, Kobo or Kindle. So much for partnerships. Don’t get me wrong, there is good about the Surface. Office works nicely, the hardware is responsive and the tile system looks nice. Plus there is the keyboard cover, which is pretty sweet.
Both the Surface and the iPad I got through my office for testing and learning purposes. We want to make decisions on what our sales and service techs are going to use going forward. Honestly, I would lean to the Surface, because of Office, and because of the ease at which it integrates into a Microsoft environment. I can access network shares easily (even though I cannot join an RT device to the domain), and it will do everything that our sales and service teams need. The iPad integration we were trying with a Mac server and we just could not get it to do what we wanted.
The ASUS Transformer T300 is a personal item. It was a birthday gift back in Sept. To tell the truth, I love it. Outside of Flipboard not being available for it, I have everything I want or need on it right now. Yes, I am using Pulse on it, but the lack of new sources I like, and the lack of aggregation from the social media world, makes Pulse a bit annoying, especially in regards to World/U.S. news. Still, I have everything else, including a free Office Suite (which is amazingly useful in its own right). The only drawback to the T300 as compared to the Prime, is the plastic back. I also got a 3rd party case/bluetooth keyboard for it which works as nicely as the Surface’s keyboard cover.
My recommendation right now to people would be the Android Tablet. The T300 does it all, and while a bit sluggish at times, is still is plenty responsive. There are more free apps available for it, and you are not tied into iTunes or Apple’s network. The Surface might be the thing in the future, bight right now, it doesn’t have enough to make it worthwhile, especially on price point. The T300 costs under $400 for a 32GB model. The iPad and Surface (with Type touch cover) are both at $600 for 32GB (Without the Cover the Surface is $499 for 32GB).
Just over a month ago, I decided to get a Nook Color. Now after a month of using it, here is the good, and the bad.
I have friends who have the Kindle, and family with the regular Nook, but I wanted something more than just an e-reader, since I would be using it for IT related items. An iPad or Galaxy Tab were right out of my budget, as much as I felt a tablet would be fantastic. Besides their higher initial fees, then you needed a monthly data plan for 3G. Sorry but I’m not going to cut down on what I spend on items I really need, like food, just to have a tablet. I had been hearing good things about the e-readers out there, but everyone agreed that the web experience was not as good, and PDF rendering was poor at best. Then I saw the Nook Color, and I did a double take.
The Nook Color is the next generation of Nook e-readers. Yes it did away with the e-ink display. This allows for better web site viewing. The drawback is a bit more reflections when reading in bright light, although I have not had a major issue with that. The special coating that Barnes and Noble say they put on the touchscreen to help cut down on the glare seems to do its job decently.
The Nook Color runs on Android 2.1, with a special front end which was developed with help from Adobe. The fact that it is Android 2.1 is noticeable in speed and sensitivity of the touchscreen. while not completely awful, if you don’t do a hard power down every now and then, the lag time between opening a book, and the time it opens becomes unbearable, let alone the slowness of page turning. I haven’t had to do a lot of reboots, but once every few weeks seems to do the trick. This isn’t a game breaker for anyone, but more of an annoyance. It should get better with Froyo when that comes out early in 2011, but there is no exact time frame on it arriving. Also coming out in Early 2011 is supposed to be a marketplace, which I am curious to see. I really feel that the Nook Color could become the perfect thing for students, but alas while you can view Word Documents, you can’t edit or create them. I am hoping that sort ability comes from apps in the marketplace.
There are some other disappointments with the Nook Color also. One being that Watermarked PDFs do not open. I haven’t tried the DRM PDFs, which are supposed to open on it, but the watermarked ones will not. Regular PDFs open nicely, but if there is graphics behind the letters, you well get a light red X on the screen because it cannot display the graphics properly, which is another annoyance. Yes you can still read the PDF with the red X through it, or at least I could, but this is something else they might want to fin a solution for. I know plenty of people who play RPGs, and while the Nook Color is better than the Kindle or regular Nook for dumping all those source books onto, the Watermark and red X issues do cause pause for thought. Considering Adobe helped with the technology behind the Nook Color, these issues are a bit surprising.
The Nook Color comes with WiFi only, no 3G. Considering how much WiFi is out there now this isn’t that big of a deal, although it would be nice to see some sort of plug in 3G modem that would work with it. Web browsing is as good as any Android device, although it won’t have flash until Froyo comes out for it.
Small thing to note if you do decide to get the Nook Color, it is larger than the regular Nook. As of the last time I went into Best Buy, they still did not have any cases for the device, and had no clue as to when they would have cases. Barnes and Noble stores do have the cases plus the devices.
Overall, the Nook color is a solid device, and I have been enjoying it. I keep my tech books on it, along with some magazine subscriptions, and find it very nice that I don’t have to carry 1000 page tech books anymore. For $250 you get a mini tablet that really can become a full tablet and overtake the market if Barnes and Noble make the right choices.