Looking for a Tablet Computer?
Which one is right for you?
The iPad & iPad2 (both running Apple’s iOS) seem to get most of the headlines. On the Android side, the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab & several lesser-known versions are all hyped. Now, RIM has released the Blackberry Playbook and HP is scheduled to release their TouchPad running WebOS. What is common among all of these devices: They are all EXPENSIVE! They cost from $500-1100. Most even require you to sign a 2yr contract for data services(which can add over $1000 to the real cost!).
But for those of us who are willing to put a little work into it, the two HOTTEST tablets are the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and the ViewSonic G-Tablet. Both are Android devices that sell for under $300. They are WiFi-only (no direct connection to a cellphone data service – although they CAN be tethered to a smart phone providing a “hotspot”). Although both devices have marginal value “out-of-the-box,” when they have been “rooted” and loaded with a custom ROM (such as Android Gingerbread from CyanogenMod or even HoneyComb), they compare nicely to some of the most expensive tablets on the market today. So, what is it like to use them and how do they compare to each other?
In March, I bought and rooted a Nook Color for my wife. A couple weeks later, my daughter gave me a G-Tablet for my birthday – which I rooted almost immediately (instructions found here. Now I have both devices running CyanogenMod 7, so it is only appropriate that I compare them. (Update: I am now running HoneyComb on my GTab but my wife still has CM7 on the Nook).
Notice: this is NOT a scientific comparison – it is simply my personal observations of the two devices based upon real use. Also, the home screen of the GTab is MUCH prettier now that I have HoneyComb!
You can check the official specs for the two devices here:
- Nook: http://www.androidtablets.net/forum/nook-color-technical/3483-nookcolor-full-specifications.htm
- GTab: http://www.viewsonic.com/gtablet/spec.htm
I have some benchmarks for the GTab here. I have not run similar bench tests on the Nook.
Weight: The GTab weighs 1.5 lbs while the Nook weighs 1 lb. But I can tell you that the Nook feels MUCH lighter – especially when holding it with one hand and operating it with the other. I like to sit in my hammock and surf on the GTab but it becomes uncomfortable quickly unless I rest it on my lap. However, the Nook is quite comfortable in my hand for extended periods. Winner: Nook
Size: The Nook has a 7″ (diagonal) 1024×600 display while the Gtab has a 10.1″ 1024×600 display. The Nook’s display seems to have less glare and a better viewing angle. Both displays are nice and both (after rooting) support live wallpapers, widgets & other Android goodies. There is a lot to love with the GTab’s larger display but that love comes at a cost. The GTab is difficult to hold and, even in portrait mode, thumb typing is uncomfortable. Without a special tablet-enabled keyboard application, is impossible to thumb type on the GTab in landscape mode. If you have large pockets, you might put the Nook there – but the GTab is almost as large as an 8×10 inch notepad and has fewer handy spots for toting. Winner: Nook
Processing speed: The dual-core 1000 MHz GTab has the 800 MHz Nook outpowered with both the main processor and the graphics chip. But in actual use, both are quite adequate. The CPUs on both devices can be over-clocked to provide even better performance (at the expense of heat, battery drain, and other complications). Still, the GTab is clearly more powerful. Winner: GTab
Battery Life: I have not made any real comparisons for battery life. The GTab has a 12V 3650mAh Li-ion battery and the Nook has a 3.7V 4000mAh Li-ion. Battery life on both devices is very good and users should experience from 4 to 6 hours of continuous use with either device (much longer with intermittent use). One significant issue with the GTab is that you cannot charge the battery with the USB connector. You MUST use a specific 12V adapter (supplied). Winner: Nook
Communications: Both devices have similar stats in this area. Both have radios for 802.11b/g/n WiFi (but neither seems to link to the N-devices in my home.) Both have hardware supporting Bluetooth. I have no problem linking to Bluetooth devices with the G-Tab but (although there is an option in the settings in CM7) I cannot get Bluetooth to activate on the Nook. This *IS* a big deal! The Nook does not have a built-in microphone, so without Bluetooth, there is no way to “speak” to the device. That eliminates a LOT of functions/applications. One of my favorite Android features is the voice search and voice-to-text. Both work great with the GTab but all such applications are non-functional on the Nook. I have read that the Bluetooth hardware on in the Nook does work but until without it, a lot of functionality is lost. Winner: GTab
Other features: Both devices have an external micro-SD slot that supports cards with up to 32GB. Both have a USB slave port (to connect the device to your computer). The GTab has the older mini-USB port – that does NOT charge the device while the Nook has the newer MICRO-USB connecter – which DOES charge its battery. Beyond that, the Nook doesn’t have much more to offer. Added to that however, the GTab includes both a front-facing 1.3M camera and an internal microphone. But the GTab also includes a USB HOST connector. This is for attaching other devices to the GTab. Not only can you EASILY plug in your thumb drive to display pictures, video clips, documents, etc, you can also attach a USB mouse (although it is a bit coarse in operation). I have used two different USB keyboards and I read that it will also support some USB webcams, etc but I have not tested that. From what I have read, it will support almost anything that does not require a specific driver. GOOD STUFF! Winner: GTab
So, there you have it. My real-life comparison. I hope it helps you make the best decision – based on your specific needs for a tablet.
Your comments are requested.