Welcome to Tech Wednesday here at the blog. Normally I'll be using these tech posts to round up and comment on any recent technology stories in the media, but I thought I'd write today about my Asus Eeepad instead.
About 6 months ago I was faced with the necessity of replacing my laptop. If you'll recall that was smack-dab in the middle of the release of a whole gaggle of new android tablets. Now I have to admit that even though I really really wanted to have one I never thought seriously about buying a tablet. I love the idea of them, as I love most new gadgets, but I just never saw how one would be of any real use to me.
I'm a classic function over form guy. Whenever I look at buying a new device I make a list of all the things I need it to do, all the things I would like it to do and, as I do my research, all the things I didn't know it could do but that I now look forward to it doing. If I end up with more than one device that satisfies all of my use criteria, I consider which one looks nicer. Now, I have a decent desktop system that takes care of my computing needs at home, so my list in this case was focused strictly on my computing needs while on the go.
What I Need (after the break)
I'm a voracious reader, and a device that allows me to carry my whole library with me and hold it like a book suits me just fine. I also listen to an awful lot of music, so a "book" that can play mp3s is chock full of win. I also write a lot, though, and I need to type quickly to keep up with my brain, so a physical keyboard is a must as is compatibility with a variety of word processing file formats. The last requirement is battery life. I'm often away from outlets for several hours at a time, so the longer the battery lasts the better.
I have mentioned before on this blog that I will never buy another Apple product. Having owned both an iphone and an ipod touch for several years, I am entirely too familiar with Apple's insistence that they know better than I do what I want to do with my device. This means I was really only looking at either an Android tablet, or a laptop.
I find the idea of using a Bluetooth keyboard (or even a USB keyboard) with a tablet propped up against something to be a displeasingly inelegant solution. Likewise, there weren't any truly decent word processing programs for Android. Enter the Eeepad Transformer TF101. Huzzah!
What the Transformer Brings to the Party
I won't go into the hardware specs (they can be found here if you're interested) because they are, for the most part, pretty standard for that generation of Android tablet. What I will talk about are the things (hardware and software both) that makes this chunk of awesome perfect for my needs.
The first and most obvious thing is that it has a keyboard dock. The keys are comfortable, with an acceptable amount of travel for comfortable typing, and it has the additional benefits of;
1) Holding the tablet in a clamshell/laptop form factor,
2) Having an additional battery, and
3) Adding 2 USB ports and a multicard reader (sd/mmc/sdhc)
This makes it, in effect, a touch screen laptop with a battery life of between 12 and 18 hours. For around $500. Oh. Em. Gee.
On the software side, the Eeepad comes with Polaris Office which does a very nice job of creating and editing Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. I generally use the tablet to write and my desktop to edit (editing, while possible on the tablet, is much easier on a desktop). I use ES File Explorer to transfer files over wi-fi to and from my Windows shared folder on the desktop. Music playback is performed admirably by the default Android player, except for .flac files which I play using Winamp.
I use a news aggregator called Pulse News for the reading of blogs, and I have to say the interface really is as seamless and intuitive as all the reviews of it indicate. It's a pleasure to use. Also a pleasure to use are the Google applications that come with the device. Google calendar, Gmail, G+, YouTube, Blogger and Chrome integration are all well implemented. I actually haven't used the Blogger app much, as I generally post after editing on the desktop, but the calendar app is a godsend, the G+ app does what it needs to do to be useful, and the Chrome integration means that when I add or remove bookmarks on my desktop, the changes are reflected on the tablet. Oh, and I have three flavors of Angry Birds (all of them delicious).
One of the things I didn't think would be useful to me, but which has turned out to be surprisingly so, is the ability of ES File Explorer to browse Windows shares. In addition to allowing me to easily transfer my writing files back and forth, it also allows me to access my Media Center folders for my Home Theater PC. I can watch one show on the tablet while my wife (or the munchkin) watches another on the TV. I can watch TV in bed. I can keep all of my e-books on the desktop, and grab a new one over the network as I need it. Given that the munchkin has recently discovered the Teletubbies, this has been a wonderful bit of functionality.
The Summary at the End
It isn't often that I can honestly say a piece of technology has drastically changed my life. I thought my first PDA (A Tungsten T5) would do so. It didn't. I thought my ipad touch would. It didn't. I thought (and still keep hoping) that voice recognition software would. So far, nope. It might be a stretch to say that this little tablet has revolutionized my life, but it has allowed me to be almost equally productive absolutely anywhere and that's close enough to a revolution for me.
Now where's my flying car?
Has there been a piece of technology that significantly changed your life? What gadgets and gizmos make your life easier? Let me know down below.