In Blog

(Getting the Nexus 10)

Posted by: on Jan 17, 2013 | No Comments
Usually I blog about reading and writing, but occasionally I talk about tech. Today's tech topic is something that I actually did not want to buy: a tablet.

I've long resisted buying a tablet for myself. Tablets occupy a space between laptops (such as my Macbook Air) and smartphones (such as my Galaxy Nexus), and frankly, I didn't think that space was big enough to fill. The biggest reason would be to read Kindle books and PDFs, and I had something that would do that: A Kindle Touch (which I similarly resented when I bought it).

In fact, I like my Kindle Touch very much. No, I can't practically surf the Web on it, nor can I easily listen to music, nor can I watch movies. But I don't particularly care to do any of these things in a tablet form factor. I can read, and the e-ink screen is great for that function. Battery life lasts forever. And it's portable.

But the Kindle Touch is too small. I can read some PDFs on it, but not all, because the screen doesn't have enough real estate. I can't mark up PDFs. And the larger Kindle, the Kindle DX, is no longer sold. As I faced the prospect of spring classes with heavy PDF readings, as well as the prospect of traveling with either printed PDFs or PDFs on the Kindle that I could barely decipher, I sighed and decided that I had to buy a tablet.

Which one? The iPad was an obvious choice, and I'm quite familiar with it. I just don't like it. I don't like iOS.

So I made the hard decision to buy the Nexus 10. Not the Nexus 7, which is a good deal cheaper and more portable—I didn't think it would be big enough to display some PDFs—but the 10, which is roughly the size of the iPad. And once I bought it, I decided to use it for everything I could, not because I particularly wanted to, but because I wanted to get as much out of it as I could.

So here's the results:

  • The tablet is indeed good for reading and marking up PDFs. In fact, I now store my PDF library on Google Drive, so I can use the Drive app to find a PDF and touch it to bring it up. If I want to mark up a PDF, though, I have to save it locally.
  • In fact, Google Drive turns out to be very good on the tablet. I can make spot changes to documents without much trouble, and I can download them to the tablet for offline reading (but not editing). Drive has really improved the commenting function too.
  • The tablet's just okay for reading Kindle books, but I got tired of the glare and the big screen isn't an advantage; I prefer the Kindle Touch for this application. 
  • On the other hand, it's very good for scanned Google Play Books. For instance, I read Franz Boas' The Mind of Primitive Man (free from Google Play), a book I had been meaning to finish for a while. Annotations are easy.
  • Instagram pictures are way too big on the tablet.
  • The big winners are Google Calendar and Astrid (the to-do app where I currently manage my projects). I've managed both via my phone and laptop, but the tablet combines the advantages of both: a more portable form factor than the laptop, but a bigger screen than the phone. 
  • Web surfing and email are fine, but suffer from the current limitations of the mobile platform. I find myself turning to the phone first for light use.
  • Presentations would be a great application, but the tablet's video out is a micro HDMI, which doesn't seem to play well with VGA. If I can resolve this problem, I'll probably leave my laptop at home when I travel in March—not only is the tablet lighter, it doesn't need to be pulled out of the luggage when I go through security.
  • The tablet is okay for bringing up documents in meetings. But I have not tried to take notes on it; the screen can't accommodate fast enough typing.
Overall? I really resent having to have another screen in my life. But I do see definite applications for the tablet in my tech ecosystem, especially for travel. YMMV.