I decided to drink the Google kool-aid and buy the Nexus 10
Having used it for almost a month now, I’m somewhat surprised at how much I’ve used this tablet around the house. I’m a first time pad user, but I’ve got a lot of work experience with smaller portable devices for data entry. What follows are the thoughts of an old-school computer user learning the new-school portable device paradigm.
The specs for the device can be found here, so I won’t bore you with that, other than to discuss what specs made me buy this particular tablet. I got the 16 GB model, thinking I’ll just have to delete videos sooner.
I was attracted by the killer display – the resolution is so high we are talking laser printer equivalent, at least, 1st generation 300dpi equivalent. I also was looking at 10″ rather than 7″ for displaying photos to friends. I figured I might do a bit of reading on it, both ebook and web page. I’m somewhat plugged into Google plus, so I figured I’d go that route rather than the iWorld that Apple is building. I also like $400 vs $600 for something I have a much higher potential to drop. With Google backing this up, I figured there will be a lot of applications for this device, if not now, then eventually.
It comes in black, in a black box with black partitions and teeny little instruction books that don’t tell you much. I guess the idea that people don’t read manuals is being fully embraced at Google. I threw it on the charger and started in on the setup. Finds my WiFi network, provide key. Provide Google account information and away it goes. Provide credit card information to Google wallet, and you are set to buy anything in the play store. That’s pretty much it. Easy on a scale of Easy to Hard.
I wanted to try displaying pictures, but since it was charging, I couldn’t. No SD slot is this unit’s biggest hardware downfall. Instead, I tried downloading a game while I was waiting. I decided to try, Osmos. It’s very easy to buy games – a good sign if Google hopes to catch Apple on this front. $3 later, a quick install and I was moving my bubble around, trying to become the biggest.
I plugged the unit into my Windows 7 box with the included USB cable and Windows picked up the Nexus 10 right away. I tell Windows I want to browse files, and away I go putting pictures on the unit. That brings me to the display.
300ppi is high enough resolution for anything. I thought at first that the soft buttons on the side of the unit were etched in, not part of the display. Perhaps some eagle eyed young buck can see individual pixels at 1/2 meter away, but I can’t. The colors are somewhat muted and there is less contrast than I would like. No problem, I should be able to adjust that except I can’t. The brightness is either auto, which is always one step behind your current light level, or manual, which will consume lots of juice if you keep it cranked to max. It’s bright, but like all screens of this type, barely readable in bright sun. Put beside an iPad, the iPad is warmer, but “better” is a matter of taste in color rendition. For my taste, the color is very good for skin tones, not vibrant enough for landscapes. The screen tends to bring out detail in areas that would be black on a monitor. While my monitor is not machine calibrated, I have run it through one of those screens to allow me to see the difference between white/black and almost white/black. I’ll have to find one of those sites and try it on the Nexus – I suspect it will be great in the blacks, but possibly washing out the whites a bit. The ratio of the screen is 16:10, same as a lot of early computer screens. I suspect what Google has gone for here is 16:9, with the extra space on top/bottom for menus. For photography display, I just have to live with black areas on the sides where my pictures don’t fit. The screen is viewable from many angles – 45 degrees in any direction without much color shift, and pretty much anything angle you would care to read from, barring glare from reflections. Overall this is the best screen I have seen to date. If I could adjust it, it might actually go from slightly better to way better than the iPad, for my use.
I decided to do a little reading in bed, catching up on a blog I had not read in 5 years. I normally use Firefox on the desktop, having not used Chrome before. I quickly discovered that the unit identifies itself as a mobile device to websites. A 10″ high resolution display really can handle pretty much any regular web page, thus I click “Request desktop site” every-single-web-page. (Hello? can we make this default?) As the site author is an old school internet writer, I see pages such as Philip Greenspun’s home page that are rendered in really big text, unless I turn the unit upright, then things render reasonable size, with an added bonus of being able to see a lot of page without having to scroll down. Philip’s blog, on the other hand, is really tiny text, even being a touch on the small side for a 21″ 1600×1200 monitor. No problem on the Nexus 10, just make sure you keep the unit in landscape orientation, and the size is large enough. It is interesting to compare, my 21″ monitor has the same sized text as the Nexus 10 for Philip’s blog, but the Nexus renders the text sooo much sharper. Upon reflection, it is little wonder that I spent the next few evenings reading the Nexus 10 in bed catching up on 5 years worth of postings. I’ve seen similar too big / too small issues on other web sites that are mostly solvable by just picking the orientation of the unit. The one issue is when you bring up the keyboard to type in a form. It’s okay in vertical, but if you are holding the unit in horizontally, the keyboard takes up so much screen that you can’t see enough of what you are typing sometimes. The keyboard does not need to take up 1/2 the screen in my opinion – I would want a smaller keyboard. I’m guessing there is an app for that…
As far as link selection goes, I like to do a lot of ‘open in another tab’. Once I figured out the ‘poke and hold’ move, it was easy. I was going to write about tapping links seeming to be off on calibration – but playing with it just now, it seems good. Self calibration on Nexus 10 perhaps? There is no flash officially available for Android – a bit of a pain at this point, as many sites are still using flash. I’m hoping flash dies a quick death. I wish I could turn off the address bar/tabs, would be especially nice for Flickr which doesn’t support Full screen on Android/Chrome. I do love the ‘open recently closed’ website option. Great for when you accidentally close a tab. Zooming is also really responsive for those few sites that are just a little too small on the screen. I also like the little ‘window zoom’ that pops up when the browser is not sure which closely spaced link you clicked on. You just pick the one you want, or click outside the zoom window to cancel the whole link open process.
I spent less time with the other applications, here are my thoughts on what I did use:
- Google Play – It worked fine on mp4 video I had just downloaded. Seems to have limited (no?) support of other types, at least it wouldn’t play any other types I had. I can deal with it, but it’s annoying to have to deal with.
- Play Music – I hit a paradigm difference in how old school me vs. new school users think about files. I have all my music sorted into folders by type – I copied a couple of folders over and find no way to pick folders. I can categorize my music, but I’ve never done that for Windows / Winamp because I’m never sure the format used will be readable in the next generation player. I would not have thought I’d be stymied by lack of support for folders. While I figured out a way add a whole folder and give it all the same category, I find this annoying, but not expecting any sympathy here. The sound is as good as could be expected from the speakers, good enough for a little background music or some talk radio. I find the music through headphones to be great, but I am no audiophile. One nice touch is if you turn off the screen with the power button, when you turn it back on, the lock screen displays the song playing with music control buttons, so you don’t have to unlock the unit just to pause / change the song.
- Google Maps is actually better on the Android system than on Windows. Everything is crisp and optimized for the unit’s high display resolution. Being able to tilt the map around helps sometimes to reveal labels formerly hidden by icons. I played with the voice recognition a bit here. At least in a room with only a bit of computer fan hum, it was pretty good at picking up street addresses, even some commercial names. I tried downloading Calgary as an offline map and was able to use it pretty much like a city map to find a location I was traveling to. I wasn’t brave enough to try the navigation instructions.
- Youtube works well, but man, you really notice the low-res stuff on that high quality screen! I could wish for a few more ‘related videos’ displayed on the right, but I suspect it’s designed with a smaller screen in mind.
- Gmail and Keyboard – Gmail is not my primary email client, but I am doing a bit of work in it. I wouldn’t be doing a lot of email typing on a touch screen anyways, serious typing is for a proper keyboard. This on screen keyboard does not have arrow keys, a serious shortcoming as poking the screen to put the cursor where you want it is not accurate enough. For looking at email, and doing a short reply, it’s fine.
- Google Books includes three free books. I looked at a few pages and declare the text to be readable.
The self portrait I posted doesn’t really do the camera justice. Here’s another one to demonstrate the limitations of the camera (right click, view image to see bigger):
You can see some light bleed from the bright snow to the dog’s head and back. It’s a tiny little lens in a small space – be happy. I think you could take some pretty good pictures with what I’m guessing is about a 35mm equivalent lens on film. I did edit the self portrait to mirror it back – the editor is basic, but covers what 90% of people would want.
Android 4.2 Comments and Stability
Android 4.2 is quite stable for me, however Osmos hard crashed the unit a couple of times in a few hours of play. At least I can say unit startup time from scratch is reasonable. When coming on from sleep, it’s pretty much instant. Chrome took itself out a couple of times, but at least in the fairly simple web pages I was viewing, it was at least as stable as Firefox on Windows 7.
I found the interface to be fairly intuitive. A few times a little tutorial was offered which was enough to get me off to the races. It’s not really like Windows, but the icons are reasonably placed and for the most part clear. The two status bars on top left and right that you drag down to expand were a fun discovery. Not obvious that they are there, but once you find them – they work really well. The left one is context sensitive, giving you things like new email, currently playing, updates available. The right bar is settings and unit status. Having home, undo and current open apps icons available on the bottom all the time covers the important application navigating tools you need.
On the other hardware issues, I am having some problems with USB transfer of videos. Windows complains regardless of video type that it may not work on the Nexus 10. Sometimes, my transfer hangs, or gets really really REALLY slow. Hoping I don’t have some hardware flake issue. Battery life is good. I can’t see killing the battery in a day without using it constantly, or playing some power sucking game. As I mentioned at the beginning, lack of SD slot is annoying. If it had an SD slot, I could load my camera pictures and do some preliminary editing on the road. Perhaps there is/will be an aftermarket device via the USB port.
Apple had better watch it’s back because Google is coming up fast from behind on the tablet market. Personally, I don’t feel I’m missing anything on the iPad front, but as always, other users may differ.