Saturday, December 18, 2010

iPad anyone? How about a Galaxy Tab?

I have hundreds of different kitchen gadgets; a tool for every task!  So why not an iPad for recipes?  I set out to test several different devices, and thought I would share my findings with you on this week's blog.

The latest entry from Apple is on the Christmas wish-list of many.  As I already have an iPod Touch, operating the iPad was easy.  The iPad is a sleek, thin device with lots of screen space and presents what appears to be an 8.5" x 11" sharp, full-color page.  This makes for great reading of newspapers, magazines, recipes and other printed materials, as well as viewing websites.  You'll also find quite a number of Apps made specifically to fill the bigger screen of the iPad, but sadly none for MasterCook, my recipe software for many years.  But there was a nice, free Epicurious App filled with good recipes and nice photos.  And of course, with a Google search App with voice control installed, you can easily find many recipes or anything else on the internet.  However, you primarily use your fingers to navigate and while cooking, this can make a mess of the screen. Additionally, input options are mostly limited to the hunt-and-peck keyboard.  Further, Apple devices (including the iPad) don't run Adobe Flash, which is found on many websites.  It is used to produce web videos and for many other interactive activities.  So for example, maps that are interactive online, are not on the iPad.  Most vidoes don't play.  Many web email applications don't work, as they too use Flash.  This is a serious limitation.  The current version also doesn't have a camera (either front or rear facing) so no video chat (aka Skype) is possible.  My final concern about the iPad is its weight.  While it looks thin and sleek, it's actually quite heavy and in short order your wrists and hands become tired of holding it.  You try propping and turning, but finding a comfortable position is nearly impossible for extended use.  For this reason, it is not a good book reader even though the Amazon Kindle app works quite well on the device.  The iPad I tested has both a wireless network and 3G cell phone connection.  I have only used the wireless connection here at home, and not activated the 3G network.  If you do, you pay a monthly fee, but you can buy one month at a time, and it requires no extended contracts and the price for connectivity over 3G seemed quite reasonable.

Galaxy Tab
The just-released Galaxy Tab by Samsung is smaller and lighter than the iPad. It's the big sister of the popular Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone.  As I have, and love, the Galaxy S phone, I thought this device should receive serious consideration.  It's a bit less-expensive than the iPad and weighs only half as much.  But the screen is only half the size of the iPad and thus it is a bit thicker.   You can hold it with one hand, unlike the iPad, but you sometimes find yourself hitting the buttons on the front and sides of the Tab, invoking programs that you were not expecting.  As it runs the Google Android operating system, Flash works just fine.  So you can view all videos and perform interactive activities that use Flash.  Like the Galaxy S smartphone, there are many input options for text, such as voice and SWYPE, both of which are superior to that found on the iPad.  The screen is not as sharp as that of the Galaxy S, as they use a different technology but is comparable to the iPad and twice the size of the Galaxy S smartphone.   This makes it less newspaper, magazine, etc. friendly, but it is not a significant barrier.  There are however, a limited number of Apps made for this screen size.  Thus the huge Android Market becomes quite limited.  While you can install any App from the Market on this device, the vast majority were displayed at the usual smartphone screen size filling only half of the screen. Worse, some Apps like YouTube, wouldn't run at all and locked up every time they were launched. Similarly, the video chat App consistently turned my image upside down, no matter which way you turned the Tab.  You get the feeling that the device was a bit rushed to market and needs a bit of time to mature.  With regard to connectivity, it too will connect to your wireless network but you must also have a 3G cell phone monthly plan.  Unlike, the iPad, you are required to have an extended contract which can be a drawback if you are not planning to use it outside of your home or office very often. 

Amazon has been selling the Kindle since November of 2007, and I was an early adopter.  It's a portable eBook reader, which means it is software, hardware and network connected to enable you to shop for, download and read eBooks, newspapers, and magazines.  I have the first model, which is shown in the photos here.  It is not in the same category as the above two devices, as you can't browse the internet with it, do email or anything else except reading.  Because of this, it is the ideal device and continues to outperform the above two devices for reading books.  It has a black and white screen that is not backlit, but instead ink which is rearranged electronically on the page.  Of the two above, it is most comfortable in your hand as it light and has a slightly smaller screen than the Galaxy Tab.  Like the other two, I still couldn't easy get my recipes on the device and unlike the other two I couldn't search the internet for recipes.  You can convert text to PDF files and upload these to the Kindle, so in theory I could put my recipes on the Kindle.  But every time I  make an addition or change on my MasterCook software, I would have to do the same to the Kindle, which is not ideal.  While the Kindle is wirelessly connected through a cell phone connection to the Amazon store, you are not required to pay for this service.  You can also purchase an even less-expensive version of the device that is Wi-Fi only and connects only through your home/office wireless network.

Since I already own the Kindle for book reading, if I had to choose another device today I would go with the iPad.  I would make the choice primarily for screen size as I  prefer it when sitting around on the sofa and reading news, browsing the internet, etc.  As it connects to the iTunes store I would have my music and iTunes purchased movies with me when traveling, eliminating the need for the iTouch.  But thankfully, I don't have to choose today and I think I won't be putting either the Tab or the iPad on my list for Santa this year.  Both the iPad and the Galaxy Tab need more time to mature.  iPad's issues (mostly related to Flash) are technically easy to resolve, but Apple resists for business reasons seriously limiting the devices usability.  The Tab needs more time to clean up the technical issues and get Apps developed for the unique screen size.  Both could stand to be considerably lighter if they want to compete in the book reader market.  In the end, your decision will be based mostly on how you plan to use the product.

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