Thursday, January 17, 2013

(Getting the Nexus 10)

Usually I blog about reading and writing, but occasionally I talk about tech. Today's tech topic is something that I actually did not want to buy: a tablet.

I've long resisted buying a tablet for myself. Tablets occupy a space between laptops (such as my Macbook Air) and smartphones (such as my Galaxy Nexus), and frankly, I didn't think that space was big enough to fill. The biggest reason would be to read Kindle books and PDFs, and I had something that would do that: A Kindle Touch (which I similarly resented when I bought it).

In fact, I like my Kindle Touch very much. No, I can't practically surf the Web on it, nor can I easily listen to music, nor can I watch movies. But I don't particularly care to do any of these things in a tablet form factor. I can read, and the e-ink screen is great for that function. Battery life lasts forever. And it's portable.

But the Kindle Touch is too small. I can read some PDFs on it, but not all, because the screen doesn't have enough real estate. I can't mark up PDFs. And the larger Kindle, the Kindle DX, is no longer sold. As I faced the prospect of spring classes with heavy PDF readings, as well as the prospect of traveling with either printed PDFs or PDFs on the Kindle that I could barely decipher, I sighed and decided that I had to buy a tablet.

Which one? The iPad was an obvious choice, and I'm quite familiar with it. I just don't like it. I don't like iOS.

So I made the hard decision to buy the Nexus 10. Not the Nexus 7, which is a good deal cheaper and more portable—I didn't think it would be big enough to display some PDFs—but the 10, which is roughly the size of the iPad. And once I bought it, I decided to use it for everything I could, not because I particularly wanted to, but because I wanted to get as much out of it as I could.

So here's the results:

  • The tablet is indeed good for reading and marking up PDFs. In fact, I now store my PDF library on Google Drive, so I can use the Drive app to find a PDF and touch it to bring it up. If I want to mark up a PDF, though, I have to save it locally.
  • In fact, Google Drive turns out to be very good on the tablet. I can make spot changes to documents without much trouble, and I can download them to the tablet for offline reading (but not editing). Drive has really improved the commenting function too.
  • The tablet's just okay for reading Kindle books, but I got tired of the glare and the big screen isn't an advantage; I prefer the Kindle Touch for this application. 
  • On the other hand, it's very good for scanned Google Play Books. For instance, I read Franz Boas' The Mind of Primitive Man (free from Google Play), a book I had been meaning to finish for a while. Annotations are easy.
  • Instagram pictures are way too big on the tablet.
  • The big winners are Google Calendar and Astrid (the to-do app where I currently manage my projects). I've managed both via my phone and laptop, but the tablet combines the advantages of both: a more portable form factor than the laptop, but a bigger screen than the phone. 
  • Web surfing and email are fine, but suffer from the current limitations of the mobile platform. I find myself turning to the phone first for light use.
  • Presentations would be a great application, but the tablet's video out is a micro HDMI, which doesn't seem to play well with VGA. If I can resolve this problem, I'll probably leave my laptop at home when I travel in March—not only is the tablet lighter, it doesn't need to be pulled out of the luggage when I go through security.
  • The tablet is okay for bringing up documents in meetings. But I have not tried to take notes on it; the screen can't accommodate fast enough typing.
Overall? I really resent having to have another screen in my life. But I do see definite applications for the tablet in my tech ecosystem, especially for travel. YMMV.


Eagle said...

This is certainly the best piece I've read to make me buy a nexus 10 ! I'm in the same problem as you and just thinking which tablet to go for especially for pdf file reading and annotation! You have greatly helped me..
you didn't talk about its speed ? I guess that wasn't a problem so it never warranted any comment from you.. I'm surely going for a nexus 10. Google just released a new nexus7 and I wish they had a new nexus 10. I'm not for those 7inch tablets! may be will get the nexus 7 for my wife. thanks once again Clay. cheers!

Lorenzo said...

Hi Spinuzzi,

I'm very happy of your post because I found somebody to share many of my opinions about the real estate screen for reading, the main (if not only) for a tablet and the possibility to edit PDFs inside Google Drive.

I discovered this weird thing because I own both a iPad 3 and a Nexus 5.

In Google Drive for Nexus 5 I can highlight, annotate and edit PDFs.... but as you can imagine, that's not useful on 5 inches display...

The absdurd thing is that you can't do it with Google Drive for iPad 3.

I've never owned an Android device, so I thought that Google Drive was a poor product because I knew it only for iOS.

Infact I want to sell my iPad 3 and buy just a Nexus 10.

Can you please confirm me if I can edit PDFs inside Google Drive (highlights and annotations specifically) if I locally download PDFs?

Thank you very much for you contribute and enlightening post.


Clay Spinuzzi said...

Unfortunately that is NOT the case. Even when I store a Google Drive PDF so that it is available for offline viewing, it is stored read-only. To annotate it, I would have to save a local copy. I can do that and then upload it when I'm done annotating, but that seems too cumbersome.

I wish I had better news for you!