Sunday, July 24, 2011

HARDWARE: And The Winner Is ...

My search for a tablet/pad has taken more than a year to come to an end. But the end is in sight. Within a month (not THE month), I will finally buy a tablet to add to the computer population here at the Castle of Confusion.

A while back, I basically came to the conclusion that I would await the arrival of the Samsung 10.1 Galaxy Tab come hell or high water. I didn't want an Apple iPad2 for reasons mentioned before--chiefly censorship and the lack of flash support. I did like the curated App store and the gazillion TV shows and magazines that supported the product. Plus, it was light, and I'm too old (alright, too lazy) to lug around something heavier. But as time went by and the Samsung didn't appear (it ships in Canada in August), other contenders had their chance to make me re-think.

Finally, I did a spreadsheet with weighted categories and tried to come up with an objective answer as to which device would be best for me. The contenders were the iPad2, the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, the Acer Iconia 500, the Asus EEE Transformer and the Motorola Xoom.

Weight (Told ya I was lazy): [15] Samsung 13.3, iPad212.3, Asus 10.9, Xoom 10.9, Acer 9.6.
Battery Life: [14] iPad2 14.2, Samsung 12.9, Acer 11.3, Xoom 11.3, Asus 9.2
Curated Store: [14] iPad2 10, Samsung 7, Xoom 7, Acer 6, Asus 5
Price: [13] Samsung 10.6, Acer 10.6, Asus 10.6, Xoom 8.8, iPad2 8.6
Camera: [9] Acer 5, Asus 5, Xoom 5, Samsung 3, iPad21.2
Reading: [8] all got 6
Web Browsing: [8] Samsung 7, Acer 7, Asus 7, iPad2 6, Xoom 5
USB Ports: Acer 7, Xoom 7, Asus 5, Samsung 0, iPad2 0
Storage: [4] iPad2 2.6, Acer 2.6, Asus 2.6, Xoom 2.6, Samsung -2.8
Accessories: [3] iPad2 3, Samsung 1, Acer 1, Asus 1, Xoom 1
Availablility: [3] iPad2 3, Acer 3, Asus 3, Xoom 3, Samsung 1
GPS: [2] Xoom 2, Samsung 1, iPad2 0, Acer 0, Asus 0

NOTES: All were WiFi models as I have no need for 3G/4G network devices. The Samsung model compared to the rest only had 16G of storage, which accounts for the negative score there. Apple exceed the maximum score for battery life because, well it's SPECTACULAR in that regard. My initial enthusiasm dimmed for the Samsung when it went back to the drawing board on the announcement of the iPad2 to produce a bigger, lighter competitor, at the cost of the external ports built in. For me, it was a bad trade.

If you're adding things up, ACER ICONIA 500 finished first with 72, followed by the Motorola Xoom 70, the Asus EEE Transformer 68, the iPad2 66 and finally the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tab 57.

Hmmmm, that was NOT what I expected. Although a few things have changed ... the Acer apparently does have GPS and the Xoom's price has dropped a hundred bucks in the States, but not here, and the weight issue has been thrown in disarray because weight DISTRIBUTION is as important, if not more important than dead weight measurements, the fact is I've decided on a different winner.

And the winner is ... The Toshiba Thrive. It's been on sale in the States since late July and will arrive in here domestically in August, almost at the same time as the Galaxy. The 32G version is priced competitively, but I could possibly live with the hundred-buck cheaper 16G version because the Thrive not only has a full panoply of ports, it even has built-in software to use with the devices. It also has a corrugated, easy-to-hold backplate (replaceable with different colours if you are so inclined) AND, this is a first in the product niche, a user-replaceable battery. WIN!

You can read a decent layman's review and a side-by-side comparison with the iPad2 here at the International Business News. As always, for more in-depth, check out

Yes, it's the heaviest of the lot, even tipping the Xoom. But, MOST reviews have mentioned how surprisingly light it did feel (and we are talking a quater-pound difference between the iPad2 and the Thrive). And that, ta-da!, is better weight distribution. You add certain audio and video fine-tuning (which not all reviewers found persuasive) and you can see Toshiba's long history with laptops coming through.  Unfortunately, there's a spate of trialware on the Thrive that will hopefully be disposable. That's one remnant of laptops I wish hadn't been carried over. Still delete or ignore, you don't have to run any of it.

I've also re-thought the app store category. I almost dispensed with it. Despite the gazillion apps Apple has, I have no need for about a bazillion of them. Not interested in social media, tunes, travel apps and most games. What's that leave? Well, I want readers. Readers for books, magazines and comic books. Turns out, Android Honeycomb is okay in those areas. A GPS system for those rare times I venture out beyond my comfort zone is good, but Apple doesn't have an app for that, because the iPad2 doesn't have a GPS. I only have crappy cameras in the house, a standalone 2Mp one and my venerable Sony Clie PDA. The Thrive, like all the rest of the Android tablets at least offer up a 5Mp that instantly becomes the best in the house.

Now, the Thrive is not without issues. The ports have covers and dongly, dangly covers tend to break off or get lost or both. The battery probably is the worst of the lot, but not by much (which is why you buy an extra). Flash is everything that Steve Jobs says it is, resource-stealing and buggy. But it is omnipresent on the Internet, including on the bridge site I like to play on-line at. Flash still gets the Thrive every now and then.

And last week, the Thrive was revealed to have issues with sleep mode. Not a good thing. And a good reason why I don't try to save the six per cent I have as a user of Canadian bucks to buy one down in the States. I'll let Toshiba figure out a fix and have that already done when they start selling here in my back yard.

When I get the Thrive (to be nicknamed Rivet or Ribbit--I'm up to R in my computer naming system), I'll be doing reading that requires a big screen or colour or both (think text books and picture books, magazines, and comics), watching TV through my new Slingbox that makes my TV a broadcaster over my private network, surfing the web and occasionally taking pictures or have it guide me whilst outside the house.

So, really, the winner is ... ME!

No comments: