Over the course of the last few years I’ve owned and used four different tablets, three are still working, one has a cracked screen but still works, and one has gone to meet its chip fab. This post is about what I have liked and not liked about them all.
Number One: iPad v1
My first tablet was a first generation iPad with 64gb flash and 3G. For consuming content it is OK, but for creating things, especially posting on blogs and forums, it was always horribly frustrating. Apple sold me this device with 256mb of RAM, this is way the hell too little, and it made using a multi-tabbed browser session absolutely miserable because it would reload the pages when I switched between tabs. I hate it for using a browser, but it is a good navigation device. I also have grown to hate the way Apple is making their products more and more difficult to navigate at the file system level. I finally felt locked in and enslaved using my iPad and wanted out of iOS.
Number Two: Acer Iconia Tab A500
My second tablet was a refurbished Acer Iconia Tab A500. I loved it right away, and I fell head over heels in love with Android Ice Cream Sandwich (not really, I prefer humans, but just barely). I felt set free, emancipated. I can put files on it and take them off without using iTunes, and who does not hate using iTunes? Although my Iconia Tab did not have a 3G or 4G modem and was not ideal for use away from home, I’m usually at home anyway so that was not a big deal. It was faster, smoother, and Android is much more user friendly IMHO than iOS. It was a revelation that I could have a tablet I did not hate using. Then one day it would not boot, just showing the Acer logo at power up. Try as I might to reflash, reset, or restore it there was no success. It’s a brick now. C’est la vie.
Number Three: Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 completely blew away all other tablets I had ever used. It is just barely small enough to hold in my smaller than average hands, it is fast, smooth, well designed, and very pleasant to use. I was down in the dumps about my Acer tablet going belly up, and there it was, right in front of me, and I’m glad I bought it. Mine had Ice Cream Sandwich on it when I got it, and was autoupdated online to Jelly Bean within a few hours. Among my uses for a tablet at home is watching TV via a Slingbox on our LAN, that experience is much better on the Nexus 7 than it ever was on my iPad or Iconia Tab because the Nexus 7 has a fast quad-core CPU. Everything was going along great. I was sitting outside on the deck near a freeway, holding it up to my ear to hear a weather forecast (the speakers on the Nexus 7 are tiny, tinny, and not loud enough) when it slipped out of my hands and fell face first onto a cement deck. I was not pleased. It still works, but the blush is off the rose. So it goes.
DISCLAIMER: I have strong positive associations with Amazon, a family member is an employee, and I was an Amazon affiliate for many years, operating dozens of Amazon linked shopping sites until 2 years ago.
Number Four: Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G
When Amazon announced the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ I was interested because I was used to the larger form factor, and my wounded Nexus 7 has no cell modem. I wanted to completely replace my iPad and the 4G model of the new Fire HD 8.9″ seemed like a good candidate. Jeff Bezos wanted the Kindle Fire HD to be ideal for consuming content, especially content from Amazon. The Kindle Fire HD is locked to the Amazon Appstore, but not nearly as tightly as the iPad is linked to the iTunes store. It is very easy to add apps from sources outside Amazon, but they have made it much easier to shop their app store, no surprises there. I think the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is a big success. I like it even more than my Nexus 7 in some ways, the sounds is the best yet from a tablet, the 4G speed inside the structures atop Geek Hill.
It has an ideal screen ratio (like the Nexus 7) for 16:9 HDTV, and using my Amazon Instant Video access is enormously easy and pleasing. Amazon’s customized version of Android does isolate the user a bit from the basic features of Android by creating a very attractive and pleasant to use interface. It has plenty of RAM, is easily fast enough, although the Nexus 7 seems slightly faster, the only flaws I see have to do with the locations of buttons and connectors. The on/off switch and the volume control are in an odd place, there is no contrast between the buttons and the surrounding also dark case material blends visually with the buttons, they are hard to see and not at all where your fingers might expect them to be. I’m also not impressed with the idea of having the power connector so close to the very similar microHDMI connector – that was stupid. Still, it is my new favorite tablet.
Since I do have an Android tablet setup to use the Google Play store I have the option to sideload apps I legitimately own between my Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. I was not at all thrilled with the idea of my browser traffic being routed through a proxy server run by Amazon (or anyone else) as happens with the Amazon default browser Silk. (I do like Silk soy milk, but that’s a different blog) So I sideloaded Dolphin Browser from my Nexus 7 into my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G and now the world is a good and happy place.
Similarities and Preferences
Both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G are clearly very well made and purpose designed products. Both are truly excellent IMHO. They both have brilliant, lovely high resolution displays. I slightly prefer the temperature of the Nexus 7. It is the best handheld display I have ever seen on any product, and the one area where the Nexus 7 outshines the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G, but only very slightly. The Fire HD display is crystal clear, and you might have to touch the screen with your eyelashes to see a pixel, they seem to have faded into invisibility. The Fire HD backlight seems just the tiniest bit too warm, with an almost imperceptible yellow tint. Both displays seem to have nearly 180 degree field of view, no problems there. They both work outside in the shade at Noon letting you still perceive some colors, in full sunlight they lose apparent contrast and are not pleasant to my very old eyes.
This was nothing like a review, which would have matched a current iPad against the Droid devices. It’s more a tale of the evolution of the tablet market over the last few years, as viewed from my experience. Bottom line, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G beats the Nexus 7, but both are very fine devices. The Kindle has better speakers and it has been optimized to do exactly what a tablet does best, provide you an observation portal into the world. I do not miss the Apple App store, my Droid tablets do whatever I need. Dropbox on Droid rocks. iCloud, who cares?