The other day I was in Best Buy and I happened to walk through their display of e-readers and tablets. To be totally blunt: the e-readers looked very sad, boring, and even outdated.
It’s not their fault. E-readers are great devices that are really good at what they do. The problem is that they are paling in comparison to tablets, which can function just as well as e-readers while doing a million other things in full color. Next to that, an e-reader with its black & white E-Ink display sort of looks like you’re seeing some piece of technology from the 1950’s.
I’ve written some articles about the differences between tablets and e-readers, such as my Tablet vs eReader Squidoo lens. In my opinion, whether you choose a tablet or e-reader really just depends on what you need from the device.
If all you want is a simple device for reading ebooks, then an e-reader will be fine. The E-Ink screen will also save you a massive amount of battery time, compared to a tablet. E-Ink was created specifically for reading, mimicking text-on-paper, so it can be easier on your eyes than an LCD screen. And, of course, a huge difference between e-readers and tablets is the price. At the Best Buy I was in, they had the Motorola Xoom priced at $799. You can get a Kindle for $129 nowadays.
But then the big question for a shopper is: if I’m going to buy a tablet-style device, why buy one that only reads ebooks when I can get one that I can use for books, games, internet, video, email, apps, etc? The extra cost is reflected in the additional functionality, and they’re not all as expensive as nearly $800.
Modern e-readers, especially the Kindle, did an awesome thing for ebooks. eBooks have been around for 10-15 years but only became mainstream when Amazon managed to make Kindle a household name. In that sense, e-readers have fulfilled their purpose, and done a good job of it.
Now it seems that Amazon will be releasing a tablet, according to this article and others. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is already partially a tablet, and I’ve read that they might be coming out with a new device that might be more tablet-like. BeBook has just released a tablet called the BeBook Live, which runs on Android. It’s not yet available in the US, but it’s selling for $279, which really helps in the affordability department.
It also looks like the makers of mobile phones are scrambling to offer tablet devices. Blackberry is now running commercials for their Playbook tablet. We already have the Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course, the iPad, which everyone is trying to compete against.
Personally, I am torn at the moment. I prefer to read from a device that is back-lit, like a tablet. However, I would not spend more than about $300 for this type of device since they’re not quite full computers and I already have a phone that does most of the same things, albeit on a smaller screen.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out this article about 10 Memorable Milestones in Tablet History.
Recently I was at Best Buy to check out netbook computers, and while I was there I decided to look at the tablets. I recently wrote a Squidoo page and article comparing tablets to e-readers, but that was based on technical specifications and my own general knowledge about the technology. I figured it would be a good idea to mess around with these devices a bit, since there is no way I’m going to be buying one anytime soon.
The main three tablets available right now are the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the Xoom.
First, I looked at the Samsung Galaxy Tab. All I could find was the 7″ model (like these). The price for these was $499. I didn’t see the newer 10.1″ model anywhere (not sure if they are even in stores yet). The size of the device seemed too small to really function as a tablet. It’s inbetween the size of a phone and a larger tablet like the iPad, which just leaves it in some kind of no-man’s land. I felt like if I owned one, there would be no real reason to use it instead of my phone or laptop. Its response time seemed just a tad too slow, as well, but I don’t know if that was just a problem with the particular display model I was using. When I would tap the icon to see the apps, the screen didn’t change instantly so I tapped it again, thinking that it didn’t register my tap. Then everything processed all at once, and the app screen appeared and then closed again. I went through this twice before realizing that it was just a bit slow. It’s okay if it takes a second for the screen to change, but there was no indication that anything was happening, so it caused me to tap again and again, waiting for something to happen. Once I was able to get to an app and open it, the graphics looked nice, though.
Next, I looked at the iPad. To be totally honest, I’ve never been that impressed with the iPad. It’s basically a big version of the iPhone. I used an iPhone for about three years (before the upgrades in iOS caused my 3G model to function really poorly) so I’m just not excited about the iPad because it’s the same exact thing. I do like the size of it, though. If I owned one, I would definitely use it to read ebooks and other texts. I think it would also be fun to play games on it. I think it would be excellent to use during travel, especially while waiting in an airport, but I rarely fly anywhere. Again, the price was $499.
Finally, I found the Motorola Xoom. It was displayed next to the netbooks, which was my main reason for going to Best Buy in the first place. I’m glad that they had the Xoom in that location, because it was amusing to see the size comparison. The netbooks have a 10.1″ screen, and so does the Xoom, so the Xoom looked like a netbook that was missing its keyboard. The Xoom is way fancier than a netbook, though. I was more impressed with it than the other tablets by far. It was very responsive, no matter how much I tapped or flicked through the screens. Something about the design of interface seemed futuristic, which was cool. Without paying attention to the actual specs, it felt like it was the most powerful device. It was also the most expensive, at $799. If I were shopping for a computer, I’d buy a whole laptop at that price instead of a tablet.
I didn’t end up getting a netbook either — I mostly went to the store because I wanted to see how big the keyboards were, to get an idea of whether it would be comfortable to type on one. I’m considering buying a netbook to use for some writing projects that I’m going to be doing soon, as well as possibly using it as a backup hard drive because they come with a lot of disk space. If I get one it will be the HP Mini. At $299, it would give me a very lightweight and portable laptop with a real keyboard. For my purposes, I would prefer that over a tablet.