I’ve been playing a bit, talking a bit and thinking a bit. Realising perhaps that some of my thinking was getting me caught in a particular box which I can sort of see outside of now. A return to first principles…well maybe not quite that far. A while back I bought an ASUS Eee PC 901 to replace my Eee 701 that my mother now uses. Mum’s on linux and I’m on XP…go figure :-) The idea of the 901, as it was with the 701, was to have a machine I could take with me everywhere, write thoughts as I thought of them, blogged and so forth. The 901 is indeed a nice little machine and I get around 6-7 hours battery life out of it, compared with the 2.5 hours I got on the 701. The bigger screen is much better too and I’ve been using it for notes in meetings, and live tweeting at conferences. It serves me well…mostly.
The downside is the weight, it’s about 200g heavier than the 701 which is just enough to make it a wee bit too heavy to carry everywhere. I tend not to take it out with me these days, not to mention that my local cafe doesn’t offer wifi either (my old cafe, Anise, did, however it shut down recently and nothing has replaced it as yet). I do use the eee at conferences and in meetings and general notetaking but it’s not really the general purpose machine I was hoping it would be.
Prior to Apple launching the iPad, I was hoping for something along the lines of a 9″ Mackbook Air but lighter than the Eee 701. The iPad is not that machine and in the meantime I’ve been continuing my exploration of the ebook/ereader field culminating in recently scoring a kindle. In light of that and I s’pose swayed by aspects of the iPad coverage that it would replace ereaders, I decided it wasn’t the thing for me. Battery life, at around 10 hours was poor and it didn’t have an e-ink screen – it glared. As per Apple, it’s locked down fairly heavily, sort of like a big iPod or iPhone. It’s heavy too, at around 700g, it’s 2-3 times the weight of the average ereader these days. It just didn’t work as an ereader at all for me.
I got to play with an iPad the other night and I enjoyed the experience and started to get a real sense of what it was, and how it differed from other machines on the market, and even other tablets eg my temptation for eventually replacing my 901 was going to be an eee T91 tablet (weight was around 900g, similar to the original 701). The ease with which the iPad re-oriented the screen upon turning was impressive as was its implemention of the touch screen. But the thing that impressed me most was the speed of startup, almost instantaneous. Admittedly, if you do need to do a reboot, it does take a bit longer to start up. Whereas my 901, takes a while – even from hibernation, and it takes a while to shutdown too; the startup speed of the 901 can be a little painful at times if you need to jot down a few quick notes. The iPad had no lag whatsoever.
The virtual keyboard was a little annoying too though in conversation today, I realised it may well be annoying on the scale that the 901 keyboard is annoying ie they’re both a little annoying in comparison to a fully fledged keyboard on the desk at home. I don’t know on that score yet, I need to play with an iPad some more. The Ipad is a wee bit pricy too; it’s a bit out of reach for a “buy me now” sort of purchase, whereas I’ve paid $500 apiece for the 701 and 901. $500 was a good sort of price for that sort of device. Interestingly, ASUS have their own pad under development so I’ll be curious as to how well that compares with the Apple product.
Consequently I have moved from thinking of the pad as an ereader, back more to the realm of portable computing. At around 700g, it’s much lighter than either the 701 (920g) or the 901 (1100g). That means it’s light enough to carry in my shoulder bag; it means I could have a “take with me everywhere” computer again. The battery life is good for a day’s use and comfortably outlasts the 901 by at least 3 hours. I found during conferences, that the 901 used to die with an hour or so of the day to go; it didn’t last for a full day’s use.
The iPad has got me curious now, but it’s not a “oh my, shiny thing, shiny thing…gimme gimme gimme” sort of thang and I’m happy to sit on the sidelines for a while. Afterall, my first rule of Apple is never to buy a first generation product. Nor is it an ereader replacement. I would happily have both as the e-ink is impressive and I love it much, not to mention having a battery that can last across multiple books. The combined weight of an iPad and my kindle would probably be similar to the weight of the 701 and lighter than carrying an eee and a book. With that said, I can see the utility of the iPad for reading comics, graphic novels, textbooks, and of course PDFs. It’s also good for watching widescreen movies and playing games. It’s a good size screen and the glossy colour is close to ideal for representing the graphic novels I like to read. So too, the screen size is good for examing larger documents and viewing maps and images, moreso than the 6″ screen of the Kindle.
Plenty to think about and plenty of time to think about it.