I have always been a resolution snob. I was absolutely spoiled in college using the NeXT hi-resolution grayscale displays and I have not tolerated a standard XGA screen since. My last three laptops were a Thinkpad (1600×1200), Dell (1920×1080), and my current Zenbook (1600×900). I have really felt a little cramped on my Zen but external monitors and iDisplay with my tablet have really helped. Because of my penchant for resolution, I decided to add the new iPad to my tablet armada when they released the high resolution retina display.
A humorous aside: When I got my hands on the iPad, I immediately compared the screen to my ASUS Transformer. I was very underwhelmed. My brother had been tweeting about how amazed he was with the new screen on his iPad so I started quizzing him and expressing my disappointment. He made a sarcastic comment about “needing to put on my glasses” because I recently received my first pair of tri-focals. I was not wearing my glasses, put them on, and I was amazed by the results. The screen is fantastic and I already plan on upgrading to the new Transformer TF700T being released with a high resolution screen in the near future.
As is my style, I will not go through all the same points as other reviewers. I will simply list the pros and cons of each device from my perspective.
ASUS TF101 Transformer
- The APPS! (Irony Intended), everyone pans Android for its poor apps. The productivity apps on android are excellent. QuickOffice HD, Beautiful Widgets, Evernote are all better on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) than the iPad. I use them everyday, it is a no contest.
- Widgets, I had no idea how important the home screen widgets were until I tried using the iPad for productive purposes. What a huge advantage for the Android user. When I open my Transformer, immediately I know the weather forecast for the next 5 days, whether my websites are all online, and my schedule for the day. Evernote is right there with quick access and details right on the home screen. I also have desktop buttons to lock my screen rotation, adjust screen brightness, and lock the tablet. All of this and I still have more app icons on my home screen than my iPad.
- Keyboards, another item I had taken for granted. Android allows users to download alternative keyboards and have them all immediately accessible. This is even more powerful with the addition of 7notes mazec. This incredible tool allows the use of handwriting recognition for input in all my applications. Anywhere I use a keyboard I can choose my input method, even mid-sentence. I can even use it for chatting in every chat client, no way to even approach this in the iPad world.
- Widescreen format, really obvious when watching Netflix. Also very useful for using the three column design adopted by many successful applications.
- Screen, really obvious next to the new iPad (when wearing glasses). The lower resolution screens are simply harder on the eyes when reading text. We need to demand more as consumers.
- Plastic, the use of cheap plastic in Android tablets (most, not all) is unacceptable. The first generation Transformer is no exception, simply unacceptable in a premium device.
- Cases, or lack thereof. Because of the splintered nature of the Android experience case choices are limited. This is especially true for the Transformer. Google (search) for Transformer cases that work with the keyboard dock attached. It is worth the laugh, there is the incredible choice of 1! Users have to revert to the use of netbook cases which are typically geared for the low end user.
Amazon Kindle Fire
- Size, 7″ is perfect for many uses. I have found the kindle is my tablet of choice for late night use, reading and general media consumption.
- Interface, the overall design really works. The interface is really well suited for a small tablet. BUT, I do not think it will scale very well at all. I am sure they will try to migrate the interface to larger form factors and I think it will fail. It is the perfect interface for the mid-sized device. Too much wasted space on a larger screen.
- Rubberized shell, no need to go buy a case for this guy. Another reason it is a leisurely choice is the feel. The thing is really well built.
- Price, $199 has the worlds attention. I am very impressed by the value.
- Screen, ditto what was said about Transformer. The game just stepped up, everyone needs to respond. I would hope Amazon would do so quickly. The quality of text on the Fire vs other Kindles is really obvious.
- Browser, in a word awful. The only way it is remotely usable is to turn off the server usage which was the “wow” feature anyway. I never miss Chrome more than when I use the Kindle to surf the web.
- Apps, not enough work for the screen size. Many apps simply will not function on the Kindle.
- Best…Screen…Ever. Enough said, I love it. Cannot emphasize the impact on reading enough. We are finally getting to a place where these devices will be truly usable to replace books. Whether using really fine fonts or reading the screen is phenomenal.
- Marketing, who can argue with so many people. Like I say “Facts are negotiable, perceptions are not”. Often true of Apple products but incredibly applicable here. This momentum is a reason to buy one, it is a safe option.
- Build quality, really second to none. The volume rocker and switches are a little sharp edged. This is the usual rock solidly built product we expect from the bitten fruit.
- If you want to play games, buy the iPad. If you want to be productive, buy something else. I was simply stunned when I went to the app store and could not find what I needed and expected. I was truly stunned. Overlook Whiz, Beautiful Widgets and Google Docs are all missing. I use QuickOffice for editing Gdocs but there is no substitute for the native apps when you are moving quickly. The Evernote app is at its best on Android Tablets. The Windows version is awful and the iPad version is cutesy but not effective.
- Keyboard, no choices. I cannot believe the interface is so closed that users cannot load their own keyboard. Thumb Keyboardanyone? I can pick various physical keyboards to use with other Apple products, why not the iPad?
On a touchscreen device I should be able to use handwriting recognition as an alternative keyboard, it is a bit goofy that I cannot.
- 4×3 screen, party like it’s 1999. We live in a widescreen world. Our TVs, billboards, highway signs. Time to give up on that one, Apple.
A buyer really cannot go wrong with this list. I am fortunate to not have wasted money on a bad tablet. The battery life on all of them is excellent, they are portable, and they have plenty of processing power. Depending on your use, the right tablet is out there. I will be interested to see which one I end up using the most.
After reading all the articles about how superior the iPad is, I was really surprised at the equal footing that the platforms have with each other. It seems that Apple is shooting itself in the foot by not allowing widgets and flexibility in configuration. I think they will be forced to open up a little bit if they want to truly capture the mass of android phone users that might buy an iPad. Meanwhile, the very existence of the Kindle Fire demonstrates the biggest weakness in the Android platform. The Amazon interface is a fork off the Android tree at a fairly antiquated point. It will be very interesting to see where they go from here. Will they continue to develop on that fork or move up the Android tree and fork again for upgrades?
My beef is not with Apple or Amazon, ASUS, or Google. My frustration is with the reviewers that obviously understand the holes in the iPad but are so biased they cannot even write truthfully about the product. That will only confuse the consumer further and instead of educating they tend to scare non-power users.
This article was written 75% on my Transformer driving down the highway. Anyone that thinks they can type on a touchscreen keyboard as fast as a physical keyboard is smoking something funny.