Tablet dilemma and other Gadgets

I was going to name this post “keep taking the tablets” or something witty like that, but then I realised it would be an extraordinarily bad pun and not very funny.

Anyway, here’s the problem… I’m a contented soul who doesn’t want for much or expect much. I have a few gadgets… I actually have four iPods (and use them all) and an Archos 605 media player. The 605 looks a bit long-in-the-tooth – it’s three years old which is almost pre-historic – but it serves one extremely important use case for me… I can record from Sky Plus and then watch stuff wherever I find myself with my trusty 605. I’d have you all believe that I’m furiously working during long journeys on the Camberley Express, but the reality is that being sardined into a position where you can’t move your elbows is not a good work environment. So out comes the 605, and I can catch up on movies that I don’t get a chance to watch back home at Adams Towers. Generally a good thing, but occasionally I end up watching something like Will Ferrell’s Land Of The Lost, which made me wish I’d spent the time snoozing, looking out of the window or counting the hairs on my arms instead, and is like that with all the gadgets I have, sometimes I even go online to find more lifestyle gadgets that serve me well depending of the purpose I need to give them.

After three years of use, the 605’s battery life isn’t what it used to be. The original life of more than six hours has dwindled to under three hours – the battery isn’t easily replaceable without risky screwdriver surgery. Given the advancements of technology in the last three years, and the fact that once again Mrs A has no idea what to get this contented want-for-nothing soul for Christmas, I started looking at the options for a new device (remembering my primary use but considering other potential uses around the house and at work).

Firstly, the Apple iPad. Apparently they’re quite popular. I had an iPad in my possession a few times (the shared Lotus team one) – it sat on my desk at home for two weeks gathering dust and quite frankly it was in the way. When someone told me they needed it for a demo I felt no angst in parting with it, and when they said they’d get it back to me I replied that it wasn’t mine and they could hang onto it until someone else needed it. Okay, whoever said that I would have felt more of an attachment to it if it had been my own was probably right. But I can’t deny that I’m just unexcited about the iPad. And there’s two other things to consider. Does it allow me to record from Sky Plus? Not as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong). And there will be a new iPad next year, and it’ll have one or possibly two cameras. Christmas comes at just the right time for Apple – they can clear the shelves ready for the new stock next year. I don’t want to be one of the people investing in the outgoing model.

What about Archos? Since the 605 Archos have released two versions of the Archos 5, the newer one based on Android and sold as an ‘internet tablet’. I looked at this a while back and was tempted, but then realised that the DVR station (which connects the device to the Sky Plus box and television) was different to the 605’s DVR station. Quite frankly this p!ssed me off – good for Apple for staying with the same dock connector – I’d have to buy a new one. The Archos 5 is now an outgoing model, and it’s natural replacement is the Archos 43 Internet Tablet. However, there’s a couple of problems with the 43 – one is the storage, 16 gb compared to my 605’s 30. But the bigger problem is the apparent lack of a recording function or DVR station – Archos seemed to have dropped this from their new offerings. I put this point up on an Archos discussion forum, and one of the replies stated an opinion that Archos’ direction for video would be more about live streaming. But I ask you – is live streaming any use on a train? It’s difficult enough holding a ten minute phone conversation on a train without it dropping. Why would I want to stream video when I could have it sitting on the device?

RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook… looks nice. But it won’t be a Christmas present in 2010.

Finally, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab… if I had to put anything at the top of my Christmas wish-list this would be it. It doesn’t have a record function or Sky Plus connectivity, but I’d be willing to forgive it – I could turn the 605 into a recording slave and transfer the movies to the Galaxy Tab. The default storage is 16 gb but that can be hiked up to 32 gb with an SD card. I like the size – smaller than an iPad, it would fit nicely into my bag for trips on the Camberley Express. But it’s big enough to provide a decent web browser, e-mail, calendar and social networking experience.

So, what’s the drawbacks? Firstly, mixed reviews – reports of a sluggish browsing experience, Android applications which don’t scale up, and the opinion that Android is not designed with tablets in mind (yet). Secondly, the price – the cheapest I’ve seen it is £450, which I personally think is a lot of money for what it is.

So, the big question is not “which one do I get?” – rather “do I actually need one?”. On reflection it seems that the Adams fortune won’t be depleted by £450 and the Archos 605 will have to remain my faithful travel companion for another year. Mind you, it’s my birthday in January.


  1. Darren

    Personally, I’d (a) wait and (b) consider the iPad, *unless* you fancy a hacker’s device, in which case I’d go for an Android rather than i/OS-based tablet.

    I love the Apple kit, but the cost does drive me a bit bonkers – at the same time, I’m a Linux geek, so the Android device appeals to me more than the iPad, which is, to a certain extent, an over-grown iPod.

    Just my €0.10 worth ( not sure what 10% of a Euro is worth but …. )



  2. Dave, big question is how much 10% of a Euro is worth in Ireland and Portugal?

    All of the tablets are expensive when you consider you can get a decent netbook for £300. Only exception are the Archos devices which are very reasonably-priced… however, the new models are a bit frugal on storage capacity.

  3. The biggest issue I have with the iPad, is that it’s hard to move across movies to it, and it’s DIVx support is dependent upon 3rd party applications.

    To play a divx I have to install a 3rd party app, and in itunes drag the file to that app. Sure I can see the ipad as a drive, but if I put the movie on the drive, the apps can’t see it.

    Around the house the iPad is pretty much used as a media device in the bedroom. I use it via a UK VPN to catch up on BBC iPlayer shows, or using to watch shows from Hulu.

    If I didn’t have foreflight on it for flying, I’d find it hard to find a reason for it.

  4. …and for those of us who can’t afford / justify* the price (*delete as appropriate) the iPhone 4 or iPad, I spotted these looky-likies. I’m not condoning them, and I certainly wouldn’t buy one – I just think they’re hilarious as a blatant rip-off:

  5. How about an Archos 101 Internet Tablet? Runs Android 2.2 so will be Traveler compatible and takes a Micro SD Card so storage can be changed easily. Also only costs £250 inc vat.

  6. Paul, personally I like to see something in the flesh before I buy it, and I haven’t seen anywhere stocking any of the new generation Archos tablets. Availability of the 101 seems to be limited, and 8 gb on-board seems to be rather meagre compared to just about everything else on the market, even if you can jack it up with an SD card. But it is an option and certainly a better price than the Samsung tablet. However, it doesn’t support 3G, only wi-fi and Bluetooth.

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