help me buy a tablet

I think I'm finally up for buying a tablet.

I have a little Lenovo IdeaPad netbook that I bought for school. I thought if it made it through four years of grad school, I'd consider it a good buy. It did, and it was. By non-tablet standards, it's light and portable, and I love the keyboard, which is 90% of full-sized.

I never wanted a tablet before. I always saw them as toys. Sleek, good-looking, fun, but non-essential, more for play than work, and lacking the crucial component: the keyboard.

Now my netbook is getting cranky, and nearing the end of its (stupidly short) lifespan. Since I originally chose the netbook for its lightness and portability, a tablet seems like the natural progression: lighter and more portable. I'm not hugely into eBooks, but it's nice to have the option. And I am clearly being seduced by the "this is where things are going" feeling. Getting a new netbook feels a bit antiquated.

The drawback is the keyboard issue. I really don't like typing on those flat, virtual keyboards. I've never had any problem typing on small keyboards, including the one on my antiquated BlackBerry, but the onscreen keyboards are awful. (As I've noted before, I dislike touch-screen technology altogether. I wish it would go away.) Several friends who use iPads use the little USB keyboards for heavy note-taking, but obviously it would be best to adapt.

I won't buy an iPad - not even considering it - so I imagine I'll get a Samsung Galaxy of some kind. There are many models and I haven't done any research yet. I'll be using a Galaxy in programming at the library, so I'll have a chance to fiddle around before buying anything. Also, I definitely do not want a so-called phablet, or an over-sized phone.

So, are you using a non-iPad tablet? How do you like it? Is there one you have your eye on?


How To Get the Right Tablet the First Time (WikiHow)

Tablet Guide for Newbies (ZDNet)

Tablet Buying Guide Round-Up (CNet)


Kev said...

I'm in the market for a tablet as well Also need a keyboard as I'm hopeless with the on screen variety. Being a huge fan of ASUS I have my eye on this https://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ASUS_Transformer_Book_T100/

Les Smith said...

I have an Asus (model TF300T, it tells me) running Android 4.2.1
I have paired it with a bluetooth keyboard from HP's ill-fated attempt at a tablet.
They work together seamlessly. I'm quite happy with the set-up.
I certainly wouldn't pay $1.75 for the Windows version though.

Kev said...

The android is worth the xtra expense but I'm not fond of the bluetooth keyboard Still may go that route

I wont likely make up my mind til the last second

laura k said...

So Kev, you're looking at essentially a netbook when it's docked, and a tablet when it's not.

Are you really getting the portability of a tablet then? (Maybe, just asking.)

I have to start using the tablet in the library to see how I feel about the onscreen keyboard, if I hate it any less after a lot of use.

James Redekop said...

We have an ASUS Transformer, which is a great little tablet *and* has a great little keyboard available. The pair are essentially a notebook that can come apart. Very lightweight and solid construction.

That said, you can get a case-with-built-in-bluetooth-keyboard for just about any tablet these days, so there's no need to hold back on that account. The nice thing with the ASUS is that the keyboard connects directly, so it doesn't waste power on Bluetooth, and actually acts as an extra battery for the tablet itself.

If, for some reason, you want Windows instead of Android, there's also the ASUS VivoTab, a similar form factor, but running Windows 8. But I haven't tried that one.

laura k said...

So three for three comments are ASUS Transformer! Hmm, interesting.

The nice thing with the ASUS is that the keyboard connects directly, so it doesn't waste power on Bluetooth, and actually acts as an extra battery for the tablet itself.

That does sound like a good advantage. And of course I want Android.

The 10" seems too big, I'll investigate if they make a smaller model.

But if the Galaxy has a cover-with-built-in-keyboard thingy, then maybe that will work.

James Redekop said...

The 10" Transformer isn't bulky at all, if that's what you're concerned about size-wise. Think of a clipboard with a cover, and you've got the approximate size.

But it's definitely not pocket- or purse-sized.

Kev said...

I like the versatility laptop when I need it Tablet when I want it

laura k said...

Thanks, James. Yes, I was concerned about bulkiness. I don't want to end up with another netbook. I'm not in a rush (netbook is still working), so maybe next time we see each other, I can check out yours.

johngoldfine said...

I like my Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet.

My fingers turned out to be too fat and clumsy to use the case-with-built-in-keyboard, so I bought a roll-up, flexy Brookstone keyboard--why did they only have hot pink ones???--and that works for me very nicely.

laura k said...

It's great to hear about all these different keyboard options! Even if they are hot pink. ;)

Is the Kindle Fire a full tablet - it has all the other functions, not only an eReader?

James Redekop said...

The Kindle Fire and the Kobo Arc series (as well as the earlier Kobo Vox) are full Android tablets. The Arc is available in 7" and 10" formats.

Karla said...

Going back to the initial posting, why limit y'ourself to tablets? They're fine. Go Cloud, say with the Samsung Series 3 chromebooks, and have remarkably portability (2.2 lbs) and 7 hrs batt life. Have bought 3 in past year, and yes, my wife and daughter have Galaxy tablets too. Chromebooks CAN work well offline, contrary to what detractors say, and ours do most things for us. Wife and I are old farts and she keeps score (don't women always) and tells me we have bought 67 computers since 1980. I also have big mitts (my 3 grown kids refer to them as catchers' mitts) and 'essential tremor', yet the wee keyboard is very friendly to me. Think about chromebooks. They work great and are CHEAP and light...

laura k said...

Thanks for the input. Glad your Chromebook is working out for you, but it's definitely not what I want.

In addition, please always refrain from making sexist comments on this blog. Thank you in advance.

laura k said...

The Kindle Fire and the Kobo Arc series (as well as the earlier Kobo Vox) are full Android tablets. The Arc is available in 7" and 10" formats.

Thanks, James. You have a Kobo, I believe, but maybe an earlier model?

James Redekop said...

Kobo, like Kindle, have two lines: pure e-readers (such as my Kobo Glo), and tablets. The e-readers are black-and-white with the e-ink displays (passive, matte, great for reading pure text, not so good for diagrams & illustrations), and run the book-reading software and maybe a sudoku or crossword game. The tablets are full-on Android tablets with colour screens and run the full range of Android software. Their big disadvantage is the glossy glass screen, which isn't so good for reading in bright light. They also tend to be heavier than the e-readers.

I like having both types. I use the e-reader (Kobo Glo) for novels & text-heavy books, and the tablet (iPad -- the ASUS is Lori's) for music, video, technical books with diagrams, &c.

Karu said...

I've used a Samsung Series 3 Chromebook for almost a year now, recent conversion after owning countless Windows-based laptops for the past 25 years. One is well-equipped with a Chromebook online and offline with a variety of apps: word processor, email,database, photo editing, finance, accounting, etc. Detractors have dismissed the Chromebook but it continues to gain market share given the recent disappointment of Windows 8 and the cost of a Mac. Do check out the Chromebook before dismissing it: sleek appearance, comfortable keyboard,ease of use, apps, and cost of under $300. Remember that everything is stored in cloud,always available and easily transferred, when needed, to another laptop.

PS: I also have a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet and would recommend it. After much research, it was my choice over Android competitors. Pairs well with my Chromebook.

laura k said...

Funny how Carol sounds exactly like George, and has one profile view! What a coincidence.

For my primary computer, I use a desktop with Windows-based software. The one I have now is fairly new and doing great.

I would never go with so-called cloud-based computing. It's slow, it's cumbersome, and Google spies on us enough without entrusting them with all my documents. I can easily dismiss the Chromebook because it is not even remotely what I am looking for.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 does look nice. It's definitely in the running.

If George and Carol are actually the same person, please give it up.

UU4077 said...

Look to ASUS. Android, 10" screen and add the ASUS keyboard. It makes for easy typing, and extends battery power enormously.

And, the keyboard folds together with the screen pad for a nicely protected and portable package. Removing the keyboard is a simple snap.

UU4077 said...

Look to ASUS. Android, 10" screen and add the ASUS keyboard. It makes for easy typing, and extends battery power enormously.

And, the keyboard folds together with the screen pad for a nicely protected and portable package. Removing the keyboard is a simple snap.

James Redekop said...

I should mention that, because we don't use the ASUS that frequently (we usually just use our computers for computery stuff), it's not uncommon for us to go grab it only to discover that the battery has run down since we used it last. But I suspect that's more an artifact of our use patterns than the ASUS itself.

laura k said...

Lot of ASUS fans here! I hadn't even considered it but now will check it out. Thank you.

Karu said...

No, not the same person, just married. George has it right as it is 67 computers, some for three grown kids, all deep into IT. BTW one is not limited to cloud storage (although the business world is quickly making this transition) as one also stores to individual USB drives. So,not giving up on the Chromebook.

SSD capacity is expanding on newer models and a USB-3 retrieval can be PDQ. Housekeeping is minimized:OS updates, virus protection are handled seamlessly online.

As to privacy issues, EVERYONE spies on us online. Our alternate residence is in a northern European country where truly fast Internet is the norm, Internet access is enshrined in the constitution as a human right, and privacy issues are not a concern.

Not promoting Google or Chrome but just to inform your readers that this is the wave of the future. There is nothing slow or cumbersome about it in my experience.In fact, only last April we gave away two brand new Acer Ultrabooks which we,being minimalists, felt had been made redundant by the new CB acquisitions.

George only weighed in on Chromebooks because of your concern with portability,light weight,cost, antipathy to touchscreens, and a desire to improvise keyboard access (external, virtual, etc). It seemed that the Chromebook at $270 or less might meet these requirements.

Samsung Note 8 is an excellent tablet choice and I'm quite happy with mine. Includes a lot of extras that I'm still discovering, like S-pen and S-note. My son and granddaughter (6) also like theirs.

Karu said...

Check out the Samsung Note 8 or 10 as think they both offer neat keyboard option too.

laura k said...

Carol and George, thank you for informing wmtc readers about future trends. It's an exciting world out there, full of spies and minimized housekeeping.

M@ said...

Just to add to the ASUS chorus -- I've had an ASUS Transformer for about three years. (I bought the first model soon after it came out, and an improved model a year ago.) I use the keyboard all the time.

The way I see tablets, the actual tablet is for consuming content (reading, surfing, watching video, playing games) -- great if that's the device you want to have. But with an attachable keyboard, it becomes a way of producing content.

There are three big advantages to the ASUS keyboard: it doubles battery life (something like 16 or 18 hours in total), it acts as a screen protector when you stow the tablet (no case required), and it is a really, really good keyboard. It's small of course, about the same size as a netbook's, but I've literally written books on this keyboard. (I've probably produced two or three hundred thousand words on the two devices.) It's better than any netbook I ever tried, including ASUS's netbooks.

Very, very highly recommended.

laura k said...

Wow, that is a rave. And near consensus, too, at least among people who understand what I'm looking for.

I can't see using the onscreen keyboard only. And I didn't realize that the bluetooth keyboard would eat up so much battery life (hadn't thought about it).

I would have been wary that a clip-on keyboard would make the device bulky, but you're all saying it doesn't.

Plus now I have two possibilities for seeing this in person.

Thank you, all!!

M@ said...

You're welcome to examine mine! And I never use the onscreen keyboard, although I do find the keyboard-touchscreen combo very effective (i.e. going from typing on the keyboard to touching to select things on the screen is a very easy way to work for me).

TigerDirect and so on do have them on display, too. I messed around with one for a while before buying.

I believe the weight including keyboard is under two pounds, and is about half to three-quarters of an inch thick. I don't find it bulky at all.

James Redekop said...

A Bluetooth keyboard shouldn't be a huge drain on power, but your batter will run down faster if you have Bluetooth active than when you don't.

The ASUS keyboard is essentially the opposite -- it adds battery life.

James Redekop said...

IIRC, the ASUS + keyboard weighs about the same as my iPad 1 without keyboard.

laura k said...

This is very cool.

I wasn't originally thinking of a 10", I was thinking more like an 8". But this keyboard-dock changes the equation.

I'll check it out from one or both of you, plus I'll be using the Galaxy 8" in the library, so I'll be able to compare.

I probably repeated myself several times on this thread... but it's exciting I had to continue! :)

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laura k said...

Hi Adria, I'm not sure if you're a stealth marketer (i.e. spam). You might have missed this:

I won't buy an iPad - not even considering it

And if you're not a stealth marketer, thanks for your input!