Dear Jane: What Do You Think of the Android Tablets
I’ve received a number of questions about the Pandigital tablet and the Cruz tablet from Borders. These are Android tablets and within the next few months and the coming year or so, we will be inundated with Android tablets. Reddit crew is keeping a Google spreadsheet of all the Android tablets on the market. Here are some things to look for when determining whether a particular Android tablet would be a good reader for you.
1. Battery life. If you are going to read with the tablet, I feel like you have to have a tablet with a battery life of at least three hours. Three hours is the bare minimum in my opinion. This is because if you want to read a book in one sitting, I think you would like to read on your device without plugging in your device for at least three hours. And remember, the longer that you have your device, the more the battery will degrade meaning that overtime, your device will need to be plugged in sooner and sooner.
2. Screen. Not all Android devices have the same screen and screen resolution can make a difference. The iPad, for example, has a resolution of 1024 by 768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). The Pandigital Reader and the Cruz Reader both have 600 x 800 pixels resolution. The Blackberry Playbook has a 1024 x 600 screen resolution. (The Blackberry Playbook is NOT an Android tablet).
3. Capacitive v. Resistive. This might just be a matter of preference for individuals but the difference between these two types of screens is response. A resistive screen is responsive to pressure. A capacitive screen is one senses something on its surface (like skin or something skin like) and then sends a signal to the processor of a device. It allows for only light touches and is generally more responsive (sometimes too responsive). The capacitive screen allows for swiping where as a resistive screen is more responsive to pressing. Resistive screens are cheaper to make and thus the lower end Android devices like the Cruz Reader and the Pandigital Novel have resistive screens. As the review of the Pandigital Novel at Engadget notes:
Obviously, we found it more natural to use a finger when reading and, unsurprisingly, we had to press fairly hard to make selections or horizontally drag a finger across the screen to turn the page. Here’s actually where we found the touch experience to be extremely frustrating — repeatedly we couldn’t turn the page of a book by swiping a finger on the screen. To be honest, we’re not sure it’s the screen or the slow processor, but regardless there’s really nothing worse than being in the middle of a gripping novel and having to drag a finger across the page multiple times to get to the next words.
I would highly recommend you try out reading a few pages, if possible, at a Borders or some other retail location so you can test whether the turning of a page on a resistive screen may bother you. The Cruz Reader and the Pandigital Novel don’t have buttons to turn the page and so you really do have to rely on the touchscreen. I am a tapper v. a swiper myself and tapping is a little more responsive on a resistive screen than swiping.
4. Internal Storage. This isn’t a huge deal anymore so long as your Android device has an external memory slot (like a digital camera has or a cell phone may have) because prices of SD cards and micro SD cards have plummeted, but part of what you are paying for is internal memory. A Kindle, for example, has no external memory slot but comes with 4 GB of internal storage. The Cruz Reader comes with 256 MB internal storage but a 4 GB SD card. Essentially you are storing everything on the external storage. The Pandigital device has 1GB of storage but an external memory slot.
5. Weight. If you are using this for reading, you do want to be conscious of how heavy the device is, particularly if you like to read with one hand. I do this at night when I read on my side. I found the iPad to be too heavy for one handed reading. The Kobo weighs only 8 ounces. The Android tablets like the Cruz Reader and Pandigital Novel are twice as heavy. The iPad is a pound and a half.
6. Android OS. This is a hard one to figure out but one of the great things about the iPad is that there are so many reading apps available for a reader. Nearly every major ebook retailing outlet: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Borders has apps for the iPad. This means that you aren’t stuck with buying books from one store and that the books you’ve bought in the past can be read on your new device.
The great thing for Android users is that there are Kindle, BN, and Kobo apps for Android too. So that means you can get the Amazon, BN, or Kobo apps on your Pandigital Novel or Cruz Reader. Right? Wrong. Unless you are tech savvy, the Pandigital Novel has an Android 1.5 OS and it’s locked meaning you can’t access the Android App Marketplace without hacking and rooting your device. The Cruz Reader offers access only to the Cruz Market which, sadly, does not include any reading apps like Kindle, BN or Kobo but does allow access to FBReader (a reading software for FB formatted books). This good review of the Reader suggests that there are only 14 apps in the Cruz App Market.
It’s hard to tell by looking at the specification sites for the devices as to whether you can access the Android App Market, but if you look at the Google spreadsheet, there is a column for “Market Type”. You really want a device that can access some kind of app market, but hopefully the Android App Market.
For reading, the Kindle, nook, Kobo (and maybe the Sony if the low end ones had wifi) are probably your best bet but if you are looking for something that is more multifunctional, you really are going to want to have access to a large App store. My experience with the iPad has led me to the conclusion that the Apps really make your device worthwhile. The iPad, on its own, is nothing more than a beautiful and expensive digital picture frame. It is the Apps that make the device powerful so don’t limit the use of your device by choosing a tablet that doesn’t allow you the freedom of the App market.
Which brings me to the last thing you will want to consider (well, maybe not the last, but the last I’m going to discuss) and that is processor speed. I think one thing that took Apple’s competitors by surprise was how amazingly fast the iPad was. I don’t think that Microsoft or HP (both whom had prototype tablets leaked) were prepared for the speed. One of the reasons I got rid of my netbook was that the slow processor speed made every program appear as it was laboring to climb Mount Olympus. Watching video on my netbook was nearly impossible. Look for devices with at least 1GHz processor or I think you might be sad about your devices multimedia capabilities.