Saturday, March 17, 2012

Taking a tablet

A month or so ago I solicited the advice of my readers on the selection of a device for reading e-publications. I learned that the Kindle - my original choice - would not meet all of my needs, but I received some strong endorsements for the Apple iPad.

As someone who pays full price for SIM-free mobile phones just so as not to be tied to one provider, the idea of a device that only let you use what Apple approves and insists on being tethered to iTunes did not, unfortunately, appeal to me. My online activities are very Google-centric, I'm a fan of open source and I already have an Android smartphone so inevitably my thoughts turned to Android tablets. Someone mentioned that Maplin had some cheap tablet computers in their sale - the Archos Arnova 10 G2. Maplin is rarely the cheapest source of anything even in a sale so I visited a price comparison site and found that Carphone Warehouse had the Arnova for £10 cheaper and with free shipping. I checked some reviews and the majority were very positive, even though many qualified their comments with "for the price." The tablet was in my hands 24 hours and £139 later.

Archos Arnova 10 G2
As a tablet virgin my impressions probably aren't worth much but even I can tell that the Archos is not Apple build quality. The plastic case is more reminiscent of something that came out of a Christmas cracker. £11 on eBay got me a leatherette case/stand for the tablet so I don't see the case anyway. But as many reviewers said, it's a lot of tablet for the money. I haven't got around to trying any e-book readers yet but I've used it for email and web surfing and I love it already. Battery life is great, the tablet is silent as there is no fan inside and no Intel Pentium giving you a hot lap so it's a much better laptop device than a laptop.

One problem was that there was no Gmail app as I use on my smartphone. The Arnova doesn't come with the standard Android Market so the choice of apps is rather limited. I found some instructions for installing Android Market on the Arnova but as usual whenever I attempt something technical with computers I got error messages that aren't mentioned in the description. After trying a few things at random and on the point of giving up I noticed that Gmail had been installed and I had the full Market, except that it has been renamed Google Play. That probably confused me into thinking it was something to do with games, which I have no interest in.

The one thing I haven't managed to do yet is find an app for my blogging activities. On the PC I use Blogger Dashboard in a browser (Firefox, of course) but on Android Dashboard is no good for keeping up with the blogs I follow because the list of posts is in an iframe and the Android browser doesn't support scrolling in an iframe. Nor does the Dolphin browser, which I was led to believe would be the solution. I'll probably have to use gReader, as I do on the smartphone, but I'd hoped the tablet would let me use something a bit more sophisticated.

We watched a TV show on the Arnova using the BBC iPlayer and I was impressed by the quality. Until then I could never understand why anyone would want to watch TV on a computer but in fact the angular size of the Arnova screen in my lap is larger than that of the TV when I'm sitting in my armchair, so it's actually better. As you may gather, I'm pleased with my new gadget!
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