First of all this is not a review, this is more of an attempt to put together my thoughts on what its like using the two tablets. It is very subjective and, frankly, your mileage may vary considerably. Fortunately both of these great tablets are available in the market and we can choose to buy the one that suits our needs, tastes and pocket books.
I originally bought the Transformer over the iPad for several reasons: expandible memory via micro SD card, the attachable keyboard dock, cheaper price (marginally), the prospect of getting rid of iTunes, the ability to access the the Android file system (although in a limited fashion without rooting the device), the ability to switch default browsers and the ability to assign file types to particular applications. Of those reasons only two really wound up mattering to me; accessing the file system and the abiltiy to assign file types to particular applications. I wish I could do those things on an iDevice.
As for the others:
- Expandable memory turns out to be a pain. There is almost always a problem with it. On boot it has to have media recognized by the OS and you cant access a song until that’s finished. On more than one occasion the sd card in both my Galaxy S2 Skyrocket and my TF700 have be come corrupted and required a reformat and reloading my files. The hassel has not been worth the flexibility. I buy 32 GB devices generally and that is more than enough for my needs since I have only about 10 GB of music and most of my pictures and documents are in Dropbox.
- The attachable keyboard/dock was so inaccurate and finicky when typing that I could get nothing useful done with it. And the trackpad is nearly worthless, it’s as difficult to select a text insertion point or select text with the trackpad as it is with your finger.
- The difference in price was not worth the lower usability.
- The ability to switch default browsers was a big deal and not a big deal. It was good to switch, but the only feature besides browsing (and all of them do fine at that) I really want out of a browser is the ability to block ads. The only one on Android that can block ads is Firefox which is a dog to date (although that may change), the rest require a root and install of software to modify the hosts file for adblocking. While iOS also requires a Jailbreak and install of software to block ads in Safari, there are several decent browsers that block ads in iOS
- It turns out that iTunes really is as bad a piece of software as I thought it was, bloated, slow and doing things it should never have to do. Its really bad, except in relation to all of the other software out there that can sync with Android. iTunes is the best at automatically syncing with your phone or tablet, nothing is close and believe me I’ve tried them all (Double Twist, Media Monkey, WMP, Winamp, you name it). To borrow a line from Churchill; iTunes is the worst possible media management and sync program, except for all the others.
And then there are some things I have discovered about the iPad that I didn’t go into the switch looking for.
- The apps really are better on iOS. I don’t know if its developer familiarity with the platform, unified reach, customer response, what, but the apps are richer, look nicer, have fewer sharp corners, and are just better (I know that’s subjective, I told you it would be). And I’m talking about the same applications on each platform, Evernote, Olive Tree Bible, Banking apps, etc. And iSSH is, no foolin’, the best SSH client out there, way better than ConnectBot.
- The screen is better on the iPad. I’ve read all the stuff about how any screen can be a “retina” display depending on the viewing distance and agree that at the standard viewing distance for a tablet the 224 dpi display of the TF700 is a “retina” display. The TF700 display is by any account a great display, gorgeous in fact with crisp sharp text and beautiful pictures. But the iPad is better, it looks better it looks sharper, colors look more vibrant. It just looks better to these eyes.
- The iPad is better than butter. With the upgrade to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) the TF700 became much smoother to use, but still not up to iPad standards especially on web pages, no matter which browser I use. This is likely not something inherent in Android, because my wife’s Nexus 7 is as smooth as the iPad.
- The Smart Cover. Now this is really stupid. I hate covers and cases, I never have one on my phone and I don’t intend to get one for my iPhone 5 when it arrives. They are bulky, ugly and usually interfere in some way with using the device. But the Smart Cover is nice. It maintains the slim profile of the device, I don’t have to think about which side I lay the device down on, it functions as built in stand and it removes easily when I don’t want it.
As I said at the top, I really would like access to the file system, at least in a limited way in iOS. I’d like to run a program like Dropsync on Android that lets me truly sync chunks of my Dropbox files to the tablet. I’d like to store stuff where I want, to get at the files directly instead of having them locked behind apps. I’d like to go to my file manager, click on a file and decide the program that would open that type of file. But Apple will not let me. I know at least some of that capability is only a Jailbreak away, but I’ve done Jailbreak before and I’m trying to stop futzing with computers and get on with life. So I’m giving those things up in exchange for the other things on the list I thought I wanted but didn’t. We’ll see how that works out over time.
I have my Mac Book Air now as well along with a Thunderbolt 27 inch monitor. Next up will be a similar discussion of the switch from Windows to OSX/Mac.