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Buying a Tablet? Should I buy an e-reader or a tablet (Part 2)

Exploring my decision on if I should buy a tablet or an e-reader?

I wrote last week regarding the difficult decision I had been battling between buying an e-reader or a tablet. As my new “toy” sits on my desk beside me, I think I have made my choice (still a few days to return it) but admittedly, the decision was made not without a little apprehension. I have to give the staff at the local “The Source” and “Staples” some kudos, as they certainly gave me a little bit of wisdom to chew on before I made my final choice.

The Battle

I would have loved for Apple to have offered a small form factor iPad; the existing full size was just not practical for my key purpose of a supped up e-reader. Sorry Apple, you missed out — give us a 7″ version! So the battle was on between three competing for 16 GB tablets, the:

Android OS Vs. BlackBerry Tablet OS

Although the Android OS has been in the marketplace since 23 September 2008 with the launch of the first Android device, the HTC Dream G1, I will be the first to admit, I have had little or no exposure to the Android operating system until my mother-in-law asked for some help installing an application (Kindle by chance) on her new phone. At that moment it was trial under fire for both the OS and me as the “techy of the family” not to fail each other. Developed by Google, Android was designed to be the first open-source operating system for mobile devices (smartphones) and tablets. Where Android rocks is in its popularity. Similar to Windows desktop computers, Android provides for a consistent software platform no matter the phone manufacturer (HTC, Samsung, etc.), which software developers love. Even if Apple, HTC and Samsung had equal sales on phones next year. As HTC, and Samsung both run Android, the Android market share would be 66% compared to Apple’s 30%. Power in numbers!

In contrast, you have BlackBerry Tablet OS and the iPhone OS from Apple that finishes up the market. Thinking back, Betamax vs. VHS, Blue-ray vs. HD-DVD, there is always one defining winner. What will it be?

How do the Tablets Stack Up

I decided I was going to bite the bullet and go with a tablet over a pure Kindle, so what were my options?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 ($249)

The first time I held the Samsung in my hand. I was in love. The 7″ tablet was balanced nicely while holding it with one hand, and fit well. To top off my excitement, the brushed aluminium looked great. The Samsung also boasted a higher capacity battery (4,000mAh) then most tablets I looked at for extended usage and powered by Android (Honeycomb). IN addition, the tablet features as all a microSD card slot so the internal storage size is not as much of an issue. What more could I ask for?

Well, it was all downhill from there. For starters, the camera was only 3 megapixel and 2 mega front-facing camera compared to 5 on the Blackberry and Acer. Not that it is my intention to go picture crazy with my tablet, however, you should always be prepared for that picture-perfect moment. Secondly, and the real deal-breaker, Samsung is all about the add-ons (at a cost of course), proprietary charging/syncing cable, and the real killer, an adaptor needed to connect to an HDMI cable. I know, this is the same business model as Apple with their iPhone / iPad but does not mean I am willing to make the same mistake twice.

As much as I loved the device, I was not willing to give up the basic necessities, or more importantly willing to spend $$$ to get them. However, if neither of those two points is of concern – I would say, this is a great tablet. Samsung is releasing new models this summer, so it will be interesting to see what they have in store.

Acer Iconia 7″ ($329)

The Acer picks up where the Samsung Galaxy failed by including a nice 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, integrated micro-HDMI, and microUSB (no extra attachments needed here). Similar to the Samsung, the Acer features as a microSD card slot so the internal storage size is not as much of an issue.

However. battery life is the most significant concern voiced by most Iconia users. What good is a portable device if your battery is dead whenever you would want to go use it (strike one). secondly, as I was looking, for the most part, a glorified e-reader, form, fit and balance for one-handed reading is highly important. Completely a personal comment, however, I found the Acer awkward to hold and looked commercially as awkward (strike two and three).

BlackBerry PlayBook ($199)

At $199 for the same 16 GB of storage as the Acer and Samsung or $299 for a beast of a 64 GB version, you can not go wrong for the price. When it comes to bells and whistles, the Blackberry PlayBook is at par with the Acer Iconia when it comes to the camera with 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, and a 3-megapixel front-facing camera, and integrated micro-HDMI. however, unlike the Acer, the PlayBook’s symmetrical form makes it easy to hold.

As an e-reader, the Kobo application comes pre-installed and Kindle (Android version) can be installed with a little finesse, however due to the smaller market share of the PlayBook, applications are not as readily available for the Playbook but improving. However, official support by Kindle and DrawSomething by OmgPop would be welcomed additions. Unlike Android, the Blackberry Tablet OS, much like the Apple iPad OS has been designed exclusively for Blackberry. If for any reason RIM walks away from the tablet world, as HP did within 49 days of launching its TouchPad powered by WebOS, the PlayBook would no longer be supported by both developers and RIM. However, the Playbook is a beast – rugged, and versatile, and with its ability to natively run Android applications, a huge opportunity for the best of both worlds – BlackBerry innovation and the popularity of Android. Where the PlayBook could be improved is with better integration with Microsoft Outlook as syncing my calendar and contacts is not possible without using Google GMail, Contacts, and Calander to do the relaying of content.

My only criticism is that for the OS to really shine, it is very reliant on a BlackBerry phone. As an example, it would be my hope to be able to chat / BBM with other BlackBerry users.  Apparently, if you are too cool to own a BlackBerry you are to cool to bbm and excluded from the boys club. Looks like my wife’s BBM is safe for now.

The Decision

Well, I think I may just make you wait.

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Mark is a foodie in training, photographer, Starbucks addict, runner, cyclist, and single parent living outside of Toronto, Ontario. Living with Crohn’s Disease and Diabetes, life for this Transportation Planner and RPP can be an interesting mix.

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