Buying My Tablet
One does not have to search very far for a new tablet on the market. After the last couple if years hearing how this is the year of the tablet we finally have happened upon such a year. The market is bristling with slick slabs of glass for work or play. Weather you are ready to take the plunge yourself or just are interested in what your patrons are now arming themselves with I wanted to share some of the factors that I considered when choosing my tablet.
First, some background. I had been using and enjoying an Apple iPad for about a year now at work. The time had come to turn it back in and I was left in a bit of a pickle. I really liked the iPad but I do not care for having to sync it to iTunes every time I want to load something on it. Plus the cost left me with a sinking feeling in my wallet. Since even the newest iPad does not offer external storage I would be looking at the 32 GB one to replace the one I had been using, and at $600 it simply was out of my price range. Even the entry level 16 GB iPad was at the outer reach of my range at $500.
Time was price wasn’t really a factor because all the tablets cost the same. With more manufactures entering the market we have now the benefit of competition in the price field. Prices are coming down with tablets such as the Kindle Fire going for as little as $200. I knew that somewhere out there was a tablet that would do what I needed and was in the $300 to $500 price range I could afford.
Your choices for a tablet will largely by influenced by the operating system (OS) it runs. Currently the two leaders are iOS (Apple) and Android (Google). Some tablets do run a version of Windows 7 but it is less than ideal and Microsoft has yet to show what Windows 8 will do for tablets, though the promise is high. I have been using iTunes and the iTunes Store since getting my iPod five years ago, but since getting my Android smartphone I have left that ecosystem behind. I have also become quite a fan of having all my email, calendar and contact information synced in the cloud and accessible with a minimum of effort. Long story short, I knew I wanted an Android tablet. I will say I like how simple it is to get around on an iPad and for the user who is already happy with getting their digital media through Apple this is a fine choice. I also found myself wanting a tablet that is more PC like in behavior than device. I like the ability to load files to and from my tablet either through the cloud or PC on the few occasions when I do sync it. I also am used to having access to the files on my PC and phone and would like that feature in a tablet.
Using the iPad had given me a good idea what I would be using a tablet for. I needed a good web browser, access to storage for my music, books, and movies, a good library of apps and a means to take notes and write (type) on. On the iPad I had been using Evernote and iA Writer and was very happy with both. Unfortunately iA Writer is only available on the iPad, but a look through the Google Market and I found Jota Text Editor, a basic text editor with similar features.
The storage issue was the biggest and most decisive factor for me. The tablet I wanted had to have access to an SD card of some sort. As mentioned, that left out the current offerings from Apple and iOS. On the Android side things weren’t looking too bright either. The current flagship Android tablet, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is absent that one feature as well. At that point I had come across a review for the Toshiba Thrive that mentioned one of it’s standout features; a full sized SD card slot. Apparently Android 3.1 (Honeycomb), the Android tablet OS, does not include support for external storage, but Toshiba’s engineers managed to slip this in. The latest version of Honeycomb, 3.2, rectifies this, opening the door for more tablets to offer this feature. I should also mention the Thrive came in 8, 16 and 32 GB models where as many current tablets only came in a 16 or 32 GB model. The benefit there is you can couple the smalkest size with a larger SD card and save yourself quite a bit of money. The Thrive also has full size USB and HDMI ports. This makes the tablet a bit on the thick side. Actually quite a bit on the thick side as it is the thickest tablet out there but it is still slimmer than a net book not to mention my laptop. Once I learned that the Thrive also featured a robust file manager I was sold. I would now have access to all my files and can move them around at will.
Another consideration was battery life. This is one area where the Thrive comes up a little short. On the plus side, the Thrive has a user replaceable battery so should it stop taking a charge or even if you wanted to carry a spare around you do have that option. Because if this, the battery is smaller than most of the competition. The result is where the iPad can last nine hours on a charge the Thrive only lasts about six. In the real world that translates to about two days on a charge. By comparison the iPad I was using averaged about four days before needing a sip of Uncle Charlie’s electron juice. Not a deal breaker for me but certainly a bummer.
Remember earlier when I mentioned I could not afford the iPad at $600, well Android tablets like the Galaxy, and the Zoom were busting the bank at $500 to $700 as well. The Nook Color was attractive at $250 as was the Kindle Fire, but since those tablets run a customised version of Android they do not have access to the Google market making app selection modest at best. I found Android tabkets in the sweet spot between $300 and $500 from manufacturers like Acer, Archos, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Visio etc. I found that the Thrive was right in that price range as well. Looking around, I found the best price on Amazon. Though my wife did one better with a Groupon for a 16GB Thrive for $300 dollars. For my Thrive I paid $375, add in $20 for a 16GB SD card and I now have a 32GB tablet for $395. That is $105 dollars cheaper than the base 16 GB iPad.
I could not be happier with my Thrive. Many of the Apps I use on my phone work on the tablet as well, plus it syncs my personal and work email and my personal and work calendars from the cloud. The Jota text editor works as good as iA Writer for me and I am now powering through the last third of my next novel on it. Once I loaded up the SD card on my laptop with my music and movie libraries I was good to go. I have also connected it to my TV via the HDMI port (using the cable I already have I might add), for some big screen video watching. I can finally catch up with The Big Bang Theory on CBS.com. I should also mention my wife liked it so much she did use that Groupon and bought one for herself.