Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A tale of two tablets

In a few minutes, Apple will start their presentation of several new products including the 7.85 (7.9 inch, actually) inch iPad, if that's actually the size, only they know at this time.  Six days later, Google are going to announce their next Nexus phone and re-formulated Nexus tablets, probably including a 10.1 inch model.

At this point, these tablets may be the only tablets you'll want, unless of course, you're okay living in the somewhat limited Amazon.com land.  I'm a fan of the Kindle Fire HD but it's not for me, as I'm not looking specifically for a book reader.

In the last 10 days, I bought a Nexus 7 tablet--right before the rumours started about the doubled storage version for the same price.  I was impressed by the display and disappointed with the jerky performance.  I could read Japanese and Chinese clearly and that's unusual in a 1280x800 display.  On the other hand, while playing my favourite mobile game, Galaxy on Fire (THD, in this case), the graphics would be flowing smoothly and suddenly jerk, as if different parts caught up with each other.  Had I not been using 3 (2 on iOS, 1 on Mac OS X) other versions of the game, I'd think that the game developers were not very good.

For most people, will this be a problem?  No.  They'll browse the web and handle e-mail and play Furious Pigeons, errrm, Angry Birds splendidly--I never use that word--splendidly.  They'll realize that the Nexus 7 tablet is the best thing since sliced bread and enjoy that they only paid US$249.99 for it.  I would have, except for the one issue--I may again.

Now, when Apple reveals their new tablet, and their enhanced 9.7 inch tablets, they'll have a rush of people buying the new models.  What's new about that?  They always have someone rushing to buy their products after the announcement.

I'm expecting that all tablet models will have agreeable LTE/4G connections in countries where LTE is fairly well populated, especially Australia where the government attacked Apple on LTE that didn't work with their networks.  The "new" iPad will be revised further to include their latest processor (A6X) with enhanced graphics capabilities and overall increased performance.

Rumours in the last few days suggest that the 7.85 (7.9) inch tablet will start at US$329 (correct!) instead of US$249.  I suppose this is reasonable for the increased display area.  Someone has to pay for that extra 0.85 inches.  I'm sure they've tested the heck out of it and performance will be as smooth as the idiomatic hot knife through butter.  Take that Google and announce something that smooth on the 29th!

I'm also looking forward to changes in the iMac, Mac mini, and more today, but most of the attention will go to the tablets.

Update: I'm confused as to Apple's attempt to put us to sleep with the iPad mini.  It's a good tablet but it's made up of older bits that did a very good job when they were new, but it's 2012, not 2011.  The Nexus 7 hardware with iOS would be great.  I'll probably buy an iPad mini when they're refurbished.  Since Google's presentation didn't happen, due to Hurricane Sandy, the new hardware arrived without much notice.  The Samsung-based Nexus 10 is a capable tablet with revisions on the latest ARM designs, and it's beaten handily, apparently in some early testing, by the fourth generation iPad.

Update 2: I returned my Nexus 7 tablet, with much trouble, and ended up buying a new 32 GB model for roughly the same price.  This one seems to have build issues, and the accelerometer seems to dislike calibration.  I really like the size and portability, but what's with making one that works correctly?  Is there so much pressure to grind these things out that few of them are good out of the box?  I saw some drop and water testing and was surprised that the Nexus 7 didn't survive.  Now, I'm doubly careful, and I'm extra careful anyway.  It's obviously not any better than the previous model, except for the storage capacity.  It's a missed opportunity, but perhaps Android 4.2.x will make it better.

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