I really wanted to get some experience with tablet pc computing. Actually, there was some “need” for this based on my profession and the desire of some of “my” customers to work with tablets. I have been using my Samsung Galaxy S 4G phone for about six months now and love it. I could easily imagine how nice some additional screen real-estate would be.
A bunch of research showed me that tablet computers are not cheap!! Most of them are in the $500 range and you can be a pretty decent workstation class computer for that. Bummer…
Even more disappointing, a friend sent me a link to the Samsung site that indicates the 7″ Samsung tablet can be purchased for $199. I was excited until I found the details. In reality, it is more like $229 AND requires a two-year broadband contract (minimum of $30/month). Not so sweet.
More research started uncovering some of the older and less powerful tablets. I finally found the Velocity Cruz T301. This is an Android 2.0 tablet with 7″ screen and the option to update to Android 2.2 (Froyo). It does not include mobile broadband (Edge, 3G, 4G type “cellular” connection). Believe it or not, I found it for $99 at Walmart.com (online only). I ordered one and it arrived very quickly.
I’m not new to computers so my expectations were realistic – I knew it was not a top of the line device. I’ve played with it for a couple weeks now. Overall, I found the device to be ok. As you would expect from tiny little speakers, the sound is not very good – with headphones plugged in, it is good. The touchscreen is no where near as nice as that found on my Samsung phone. The Wifi seems to be ok but there are a number of places in my home where the connection is dropped – no idea why as my phone and laptop do not do this. It does work though and for the price, I think is a reasonable product.
However; there was one huge shock!! Tablet computers of this era (Google Android 2.2 – Froyo) do NOT have access to the Android Market. The Android Market is how apps are found, downloaded, and installed on the device so this little shortcoming makes things very difficult. Sadly, Google’s official policy with (at least) the earlier versions of Android has been to not allow the use of the Android Market on devices that are not phones. So, if you have a low-end tablet like the one I picked, no Market access for you. Thus; killing the easiest and most painless way to find and install apps on the device.
More research and I found SlideMe.com. This site is very similar to the Google Android Market but without the constraint listed above. Nice, progress…. The other option is to use the sites that allow you to download the .apk files (package) directly (such as Android Freeware). You then drop these files onto a memory card and run the .apk on the device from the card. This approach works fine but finding the .apk file for all apps has proven rather difficult and I have never found the most recent version of the app. All of this is pretty well documented on the Internet but is the type of thing that you can only find once you know what to look for.
The other negative is that the device is not all that stable. I cannot state whether it is the device, device drivers, OS, or the apps that I’ve installed causing the problems. Being a software developer, I am sensitive to such distinctions. In any case, the device freezes fairly regularly (once per day perhaps).
Ignoring the work that has been done from a “professional” perspective, I find using a tablet computer to be a good thing. Sometimes I browse the Internet (research, reading articles, etc…) whilst watching TV (hate commercials!!) – previously I did this with the laptop. Using a tablet is so much “nicer” – less bulk, more mobile (strolling into the kitchen for a drink refill), and it just feels very ‘Star Trek-ish’ (can’t be anything wrong with that, right??). I was working on my car in the garage the other day and found a web site with step by step instructions and photos of the task that I was performing. It was nice to NOT run back and forth into the house to look/read the next step or to print the whole thing – I had it all at hand on the tablet.
UPDATE: 1/6/2012 – I have returned this tablet. While I was satisfied with it’s performance, I was not satisfied with it’s reliability. It regularly locked up/restarted no matter what I was doing. More info here.