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OT: Tablet computers... what do they do and not do?

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  • OT: Tablet computers... what do they do and not do?

    The request has been made for a tablet, but I am unfamiliar with them.... Most seem to have a "phone" type OS, typically Android, but a few have a windows OS.

    Since I have a flip phone (it fits in my pocket, smart phones do not) I have not messed with Android etc.

    What limits are typically present with an Android tablet vs what one could do with a standard laptop or "palmtop" windows machine?

    File types that can be viewed?

    Facilities for working with word etc files?

    Capability to add useful programs (probably more limited "apps", yes?)

    Reasons to get a "phone app" tablet vs a "real" Windows tablet? (don't start with hating Microsoft, we know about that)

    Keep eye on ball.
    Hashim Khan

  • #2
    Android has been designed for such use, it is not just for phones. And it has vastly more applications and programs and more open than what is available for Apple or Microsoft products.

    In short, I would not hesitate a second to get an Android device, as it is more flexible if/when needed.
    Amount of experience is in direct proportion to the value of broken equipment.


    • #3
      It seems to me like the experiences are very personal. I only use mine to consume information on the couch, each time I need to write something more than a few lines I grab a real laptop. You could probably mess with Word files on any tablet, but I dislike typing on the screen.
      There are a number of tablets with detachable keyboards, so that could solve part of the problem. However, the real programs on my laptop are much more productive when creating content.
      The best of both would probably be a windows 8 laptop with detachable screen, but they are expensive compared to a simple android tablet.

      The best features of a tablet for me are:
      - light weigth (I have a 7 inch, but would probably buy 8 next time)
      - cheap (my nexus 7 was $250 or so)
      - instant on for checking weather, traffic, whatever
      - good for watching movies on the plane
      - use it as a DRO display for the lathe :-)
      - I would buy a higher resolution version next time so I don't have to zoom pdf's so much



      • #4
        I can't speak to the android tablets, but the Microsoft Surface PRO 2 or PRO 3 is stunning. You can use it as a tablet or snap on the full keyboard (attaches magnetically so no connectors to worry about). You have the best of both laptop and tablet worlds. Not cheap though. Window 8.1 actually works well on this device!

        The best way to understand how well it works is go to a store and try one.


        • #5
          I-pads and maybe Android tablets don't have any mouse support so if you need detailed cursor control that's a problem. They have some "office" type programs but if you need this for work then stick to a Windows tablet. My friends Windows tablet even runs Autocad quite well but you need a mouse..
          The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

          Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

          Southwestern Ontario. Canada


          • #6
            In my opinion, a tablet is a useful adjunct to a real computer. I prefer Apple's iPad, but that is partly because I prefer the iPhone as I think the user interface is better. For real computers I have a MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini. The Mini gets the most use, but there are plenty of times where I need the portability of the laptop. The tablet gets the most use when I'll be somewhere that may not have wi-fi.


            • #7
              To repetitively reiterate the piling on ...

              I find my tablet & phone (iPad/Phone, but that's not really important) best when minimal input is required. Looking at things, doing web searches, reading books and emails, listening to music, are great. Using apps that have constrained inputs (forms to fill in or the like or input schemes designed for use with the 'smoosh around your fingers' mode of input) is also good. Sending emails and posting to bboards like this are fine --- as long as there's not too much editing to do.

              Entering lots of stuff, esp. free-form text that may require editing/etc, is pretty bad (I would not want to type in this long message on the iPad). I've thought about getting a detachable keyboard, but that's one more thing to carry around --- and that is counter to the single most importantly wickedly awesomely best (enough?) things about them their portability and always-on-ness. If I wanted to carry stuff around/etc I'd use a laptop.

              Btw, my wife has pretty much given up on her desktop; she does just about everything with her ipad. In fact, just a day or two ago she said it was the best thing I ever bought for her (I'd have thought stuff like her wedding ring might be number 1 ... but who am I to say :-)

              One thing that I've found that really makes them much more useable is to ensure that all the important stuff is synched over the various devices. I have a Mac, an iPad and an iPhone and have them set up so that stuff like my address book synchs across all of them.

              I have never felt hindered in not being able to find an app to do something I want (again, I use Apple, I assume Windows and Android are, more or less, the same). (A bigger problem I have is not being able to find movies/music/books that I want --- older things that have not been digitized or are available only pirated on youtube ... grrrrrr)

              As to document types; I think that there are not a lot of problems there. Generally, pictures, PDFs, etc, are natively supported. For the iPad I found an app that can display a zillion different special file types. I've not had problems displaying word/ppt/xls files I get via email. Oddball, specialized, etc, types ... you may have problems if there is no app for them.

              Hope that helps


              • #8
                My mid-80's dad uses his to remain connected. He has had many PC's over the years and each in turn has failed under the non-stop hammering of malware. He has started several times to chronicle his life and used digitized imagery from boxes of photos only to lose it all. I'd suggested he try a Mac but he's stubborn about learning new ways. Some months ago the inevitable happened again and he lost everything. This time he bought an Ipad and he's never been happier. The Facetime app is one of his favorites - his "Dick Tracy video phone watch at last!". All his stuff is stored in the Apple cloud - it's not for me, but fine for him. It has several tools for manipulating photos, a hi-res camera for digitizing his images, and apps to let him write his memories and publish them to his web site. All nicely integrated, and no keyboard to hinder his arthritic fingers. He called me recently using Facetime and I gave him a walk-about of my new home and stunning balcony view. Priceless.

                I think these are features of most tablets so there's no need for Chevy vs Ford debate. Just get one and enjoy it.


                • #9
                  My wife has an IPad and my daughter has an Android based Nexus. Both are good, quick units and do what they are supposed to. I like the long battery life and grab and go portability of the tablets, but I just could never get used to the lack of a keyboard.

                  I recently purchased a Chromebook (Samsung) and couldn’t be happier. It gets 8-9 hours per charge, is lightweight and extremely fast. No touchy-feely screen, but that was what I didn’t like about the tablets. The OS is Android; no real worries about updates, etc, it’s a pretty hands-off system. I already had a Google account, so setting up the unit pretty much consisted of logging into the account.

                  It’s all cloud based, but that works for what I use it for. You can do things like word docs and spreadsheets offline. I won’t be getting rid of my laptop and don’t need to do CAD on the couch, so the limits haven’t been a problem.

                  It’s not a tablet, but it serves my tablet-type needs better than the IPad or Nexus, YMMV.
                  Traverse City, MI


                  • #10
                    The short summary is a tablet is a consumption device, for consuming content.
                    If you plan to create anything (cad, documents etc), the form factor isnt very useful.
                    However, to use it as said consumption device, it all makes sense and is better than lugging a laptop or desktop around when you just want to view a quick snippet or listen to some media.

                    We have android on phones, google nexus tab, a pair of archos 10" tabs and a chinese no name $40 special screwed to the wall of my shop with some old active powered speakers plugged in being the shop music player, + some mini pc's hanging off the back of tv's. I would choose none of these to edit some cad, interact on a forum or make a document.


                    • #11
                      The loss of important and unique data, such as original writings, illustrates the need for regular backups. I have an Archos 7 "Internet Tablet" that I purchased mostly to implement a wireless control panel for a test instrument I was designing, and I was able to prove the concept by creating the "app" as a HTML document and the instrument used this to provide the user interface on the tablet, which needed only its browser to work. Every once in a while I plug in the charger and resurrect the tablet, but usually I just play some games on it (like billiards, bowling, or road racing) that make use of its accelerometer. I am not much into remaining "connected" using electronic devices, so my cell phone is rarely used, and then mostly for important phone calls. I carry a separate camera which I use for good quality pictures and videos.

                      I would like to be able to write "apps" for the Android system and have them run on my tablet, but after a few days of trying to understand the operating system and the IDE recommended for writing and running and debugging the apps (using "Eclipse"), installed on my Win 7 laptop, I gave up. I can see where a tablet could be useful as a DRO or CNC controller but my machines are presently all manual so I have no need. I do like the capabilities provided by Bluetooth and I have connected the tablet to a couple of my PIC devices for data acquisition, and I might use it with my electric tractor project.

                      Maybe Win 8.1 is OK for a tablet, but my frustrating experience with it on my present laptop forced me to "downgrade" to 8.0 so I could get some programs at least to run at all, and I still have found it to be less stable than Win 7 or even Vista. It makes me angry when I see the pop-up cheerfully offering a "free" upgrade to 8.1 and my only choices are to do so or have it "remind me later".
                      Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                      USA Maryland 21030


                      • #12
                        I had bought my 80 year old father an Asus 10.1" Android tablet to use in place of the frustrating old Nook he used for reading his books. The Nook kept crashing, disconnecting from the network and he had a hard time reading with it. Granted, that was an older "reader only" model and they've gotten much better.

                        Anyhow, my dad fell in love with the Asus tablet! He could easily change text size and look with the Nook app. I downloaded a few other good apps for him which he used in the machine shop (calculators, level, etc.) We downloaded the Bank of America app and he loved using it for his banking. I set up an eBay app and account so he could peruse the tools there, though he never bought a single thing and didn't want to. I noticed things he'd looked at and bought him a couple. He could check and read his e-mail, though in his life he never once replied to one (I did for him once.)

                        Now the tablet is mine since he passed away a year ago today. I use it for all the same things. I can get a keyboard for this too, though I doubt I will because for typing I'd rather just use my PC that I'm on now.

                        The Android system can open PDF files and several "Open Office" apps can work with MS-Word and MS-Excel files.


                        • #13
                          Well my Asus tablet is a good replacement for my dead Nook but what has not been mentioned is that you cannot print directly to a printer from an Android device. Get a Windows device with detachable keyboard.
                          "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel"


                          • #14
                            I think my Android tablet should be able to print to my network printer, and if it had a USB OTG interface it should be able to do use that as well. It may depend on what you mean by "directly". There always must be some sort of interface, parallel, serial, or USB, and perhaps others such as Bluetooth and SCSI.
                            Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                            USA Maryland 21030


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jep24601 View Post
                              Well my Asus tablet is a good replacement for my dead Nook but what has not been mentioned is that you cannot print directly to a printer from an Android device. Get a Windows device with detachable keyboard.
                              The Iphone/Ipad use Airprint for printing which means any Mac with a printer can serve as the Airprint server for mobile devices. Not a great solution of you don't have a Mac. You can also buy mobile friendly printers.