Tablets: Why do we need them

Tablets: Why do we need them

Really, why do people want or need what is basically a large smartphone that can’t make phone calls?  I have written about this before, but I figured it was time for an update.  Turns out there are a lot of reasons, many of which I am finding out since I have ditched the smartphone.  A tablet does really bridge the gap as a device between a smartphone and the laptop.

So where does the tablet fit, what are the advantages of the larger screen, faster processors and easier to see screens, due to there larger form factors.  The average smartphone screen is around 5.7 inches.  While small tablets are normally 7 inches.  That extra two inches of real estate can make a huge difference when viewing the screen for a long time.  The second advantage of the larger screen is that the chassis underneath can accommodate a larger battery for more use time between charges.

The tablet also offers more portability over a laptop.  The smaller slate design versus a laptops clamshell makes a tablet easier to slip into a large pocket or bag where a 13-inch laptop would not work.  So for reading or watching videos on the go, it’s hard to beat the size of the tablet.

So why is the tablet market so weak?  I think mostly it is that people are not wanting to spend $200-$500 for a bridge device.  The tablet was supposed to be the answer if not the replacement for the laptop for a lot of people, but that tide never really turned.  Even Apple has downsized their vaunted tablet lineup to just a couple of devices.  They position the iPad Pro as a full laptop replacement as long as you add the optional keyboard to it.  I have seen people out and about using the Pro in this way, I for one think typing on that keyboard feels a little unnatural.

Microsoft has also tried to be in the tablet as laptop space with the Surface Pro.  Jamming computer level hardware into a tablet form factor is no small feat.  They do manage to see a few of these devices but they also produced a Surface-branded laptop alongside it.  It seems if you are going to pay close to $900 for a tablet, you can get a really capable laptop for the same price and have about the same or better functionality.  Since a laptop does not have to hide all its internals behind the screen.

So that’s the high-end.  What about the flood of budget-friendly tablets?  Not really talking about the not-so-cheap iPad Mini 4.  That comes in at $350 but more like the Amazon Fire Tablets that are $50 for the 7-inch and $80 for the HD 8-inch.  Or the other off brand 7-inch tablets from various Chinese companies you have never heard of?

It’s in the sub $100 range that I think the tablet becomes a viable alternative to using your smartphone for media consumption, gaming, email and web browsing.  Now that I don’t have the smartphone to compete for my attention, I have really paid attention to the tablets that are out there.  I still have a great laptop for managing my website and writing these blog posts.  Since typing directly on a tablet/phone onscreen keyboard is a chore.  Still way better than trying to compose a text on my flip phone.

So what should you get in this cheapy range?  The undisputed king of the sub $100 tablet is the Amazon Fire line of tablets.  Well constructed, decent hardware and great support.  The drawbacks?  Well, they are plastic build, they don’t feel cheap.  The 7-inch tablet lacks an HD screen, but it still looks pretty good.  Has decent brightness.  Text from website looks a little fuzzy but not terrible.  At $50 with special offers (ads on the lock screen), you can buy 7 of these for every iPad mini.  Makes a great tablet for kids.  They are also way more durable than an iPad.

For a little bit more, about $30, you can get the Fire HD 8.  With an HD (720p) screen text is rendered really well and is easy to read.  Movies and shows look great from Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.  Dual speakers also reproduce decent sound, some basic headphones or a Bluetooth speaker work nicely to fill the room with sound.   The screen is very responsive to touch inputs and the battery goes for about 12 hours in mixed use.

Amazon does run their own version of Android on these tablets and you technically can’t install apps from the Google Play store, there are ways around that.  The parental controls are second to none, which furthers the Fire as a great tablet to give to the kids.

So dollar for dollar when it comes to tablets unless you really want/need an iPad the Amazon tablets are the way to go.  They offer the best balance of performance and price.  If you can get over having an ad on the lock screen you can even save a couple of bucks.  The Fire HD 8 is probably your best bet.  The screen is not iPad Retina quality but works just fine for sending email, reading blog posts and watching videos.

What tablets do you think are worth the price?  Or do you think tablets are a waste of time and money?  Leave a comment below.  If you like this article please share it with your friends.


Review: Acer R11 Chromebook

Review: Acer R11 Chromebook

A lot of things to a lot of people

The Acer Chromebook R11 2-in1 was one of the first wave of Chromebooks to offer the Google Play App Store.  I wondered if this addition was going to be value added or somewhat of a distraction from an otherwise great operating system.  I held off doing this review for a little while, to see if I was missing the point.  I didn’t see what adding Android apps to a laptop would really bring to the table.

You can find them on eBay or Amazon

 

www.avgguytech.com Acer Chromebook R11

First Things First

As a laptop the R11 is great, the screen is bright from a lot of angles and while not a full 1080p HD screen it is still a respectable 720p Standard HD panel.  It renders colors bright and there is little to no lag in fast scenes.  It is comfortable on the eyes to look at for long periods of time.  The keyboard is soft, without being squishy.  It is the closest to the MacBook keyboard on a Chromebook I have had the chance to use.

I have not been a huge fan of the 11-inch form factor in the past.  But this one does make it work without the keyboard feeling cramped or leaving me wishing I had more room on the screen.

The processor is snappy and web pages came up quickly without any issues with running multiple tabs at the same time.  Chrome is great about “pausing” tabs that are currently active.  This helps keep resources where they are needed, on the tab you are working on.  Battery life benefits from this also.  I was able to consistently get 10 hours out of a charge, a little less when running the power hungry Android games my son wanted to play.

For surfing the web and checking email, etc.  There is no reason that this laptop cannot last you all day on a charge.

On the back is a full aluminum panel with a texture to it.  Not sure how to describe it overall, but it feels nice to the touch.  This laptop does not feel like a sub-$300 machine.  The hinges are sturdy and the overall build is tight and attractive.

The trackpad is large and does a good job of rejecting errant taps or your palm when you have lazy typing form like I do.  I have had some laptops that the cursor jumps all over with the slightest misplaced thumb or palm

The white chassis is bright without being loud.  It is a subtle white color that looks professional and breaks up the sea of gray aluminum laptops you see everywhere now.  It stands out for sure, but not in a bad way.

This is also a 2-in-1 laptop, which means you can use it like a normal laptop, or a tablet by folding it back on itself.  This also comes in handy when you can fold it into a backward “L” to give it better stability to watch videos or play games on the responsive touchscreen.  I never really tried tent mode, but it works.

The speakers are down firing when in the laptop configuration, but side firing in all other orientations.  They are loud and can fill a small room with sound.  It reproduces sounds well, if a little lacking in bass.  Which is pretty normal for a laptop.

Connections

www.avgguytech.com Hands-On review of the Acer Chromebook R11The R11 has what you need to get through the day, a headphone jack, full-size HDMI port, 2 USB ports (1 3.0, 1 2.0) located on opposite sides of the machine.  They are well spaced to not interfere with the ports next to them.

Also included is an SD card slot.  This allows you to expand on the included 32GB eMMC flash storage.  I tested it with a 32GB SD card and read/write times were great.  I was able to stream video content from the card with no hesitation or lag.

Power is from the provided connection, the usual round plug.  There is not an option for USB-C.  While most newer laptops are moving towards the new USB standard this one still has a legacy power connection.  Most of the Chromebooks coming out this year are going to opt for the USB-C Standard.

Android

So what everyone is waiting for.  Android on a computer.  The promise of convergence, the holy grail of computing, at least for me.  I want to be able to work on my laptop, move to my phone and back to the laptop when needed without breaking what I was working on.  While in theory, this should be easy, and Chrome gets me close, as far as web browsing goes.  There are still some holes in the execution.

Most people already think that the ChromeOS, since it comes from Google, that it is just a big version of Android already.  This is not true.  In reality, ChromeOS is a fork (different version) of Gentoo Linux.  (For more about Linux, check out this article).  Android is a Java-based operating system that was designed for SmartPhones.  I don’t think the designers at Google ever imagined putting it on a computer.  But here we are.

The one thing I see as the advantage of bringing Android to Chrome is the inclusion of games.  You can now play a lot of the games that are available on Android on your Chromebook.  I don’t game that much anymore, but my son was excited to get to play Lego Star Wars on the 11-inch laptop screen as opposed to playing on my 5-inch phone screen, or 7-inch tablet.

 

On the other hand, you can install Instagram, which, if you keep a lot of your picture on your computer, or you don’t have a smartphone, you can now interact with the app like you would on the phone.  There is also the added benefit of being able to see your friends food pictures in 11inch 720p glory!

Bottom Line

As Chromebooks go, the Acer R11 is one of the better ones.  It is a good form factor, and comfortable to use.  The fit and finish of the construction materials feel nice in the hand and the touch screen is responsive.  While you probably won’t use it in tablet mode a lot, since it is heavy as a tablet, it is nice to have the option.  The processor is snappy and the 4GB of RAM is more than enough to handle everyday tasks.

Should you buy this for the Android apps, in my experience, no.  Is it a nice addition, yes.  If you need a second laptop that will mostly be used for consuming streaming media or entertaining the kids, this is the one.  If you need a serious performer to get some work done on, I would still go with my favorite, the Acer Chromebook 14.

Whatever your reasons, adding a great Chromebook to your lineup is always a great idea.

What are your thoughts on Android apps coming to the Chromebook, leave a comment below.  Also, for more information and to find out when new articles are posted.  Sign up for our email list.

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Last Minute Gift Ideas

www.avgguytech.comChristmas is two days away

And you haven’t done any shopping yet.  All is not lost.  Well, it might be if you need to ship something since the holiday falls on a Sunday this year (2016).  If you are looking locally for that last minute gift for that special tech fan in your life, fear not.  There are still plenty of cheap and easy options that are sure to please anyone.

For the Gamer:

  1. No Man’s Sky – Probably one of the biggest games this year
  2. Destiny – Always a favorite for the online gaming set
  3. Battlefield 1 – The biggest war game of the year
  4. Grand Theft Auto – Always a favorite
  5. The Lego video games – for the younger gamers in your life

For the Media Consumer:

  1. Amazon Fire Stick – Great for streaming the latest movies and tv shows
  2. Google Chromecast – Great option for turning a less than smart TV into an entertainment powerhouse
  3. Amazon Fire Tablet – Perfect for streaming content or surfing the web.  Seriously the best tablet deal right now
  4. Google DayDream VR – Virtual Reality is the hottest thing this year
  5. Google Home Wifi – One of the best routers on the market, perfect for handling streaming video throughout the house

For the Music Lover:

  1. Google Play Music – Access millions of songs with a $10/month subscription (Also 3 month free trial)
  2. Bluetooth Headphones – Take you music on the road without the wires.  Tons of options at all price points
  3. Bluetooth Speakers – For when they want to share their tastes with the party
  4. Turn Table – Vinyl is making a comeback.  There is something more to the music with the cracks and pops
  5. Car Stereo – Media only decks make it easy to blast tunes in the car.  Most places include “free installation”

For the Gadget Geek:

  1. Tile Locators – Never lose your stuff again.  Attach a tile and use the app to locate it
  2. Google Home AI – Your personal assistant without all the mess of dealing with a human
  3. Amazon Alexa – Like Google Home, but works great if they already have an Amazon Prime subscription
  4. Universal Remote – No one likes 15 remotes laying around, make life easier with one remote to rule them all
  5. Raspberry Pi – Super Small computer with millions of uses and options

Bottom Line

Hopefully, this gets you started and gives you ideas beyond just the “hey I got you a gift card” which is not a bad gift either.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Average Guy Tech!  Looking forward to sharing 2017 with you all.  Make sure you get the latest content to your inbox by signing up for our email list.  I promise no spam and we won’t sell your email address to anyone.