Android Tablet Heaven

I have had my Android Phone for a while now, and had been completely happy to have it. However the raw power in it has been diminished a bit by the recent acquisition of an Acer Iconia A500 tablet. I picked on up just over a month ago, in addition to a Viewsonic G-Tablet for the wife. Now… my phone is handy, as is hers, but it’s largely relegated to just pushing wifi so the tablet can surf.

Christy’s G-Tablet is an older, Android 2.2 Froyo device, but it is completely bastardized by Viewsonic. It is a horrible, horrible user experience, and doesn’t even have the Android Market available. Fortunately, CyanogenMod has a very stable custom ROM for it, and that takes the tablet from unusable to the-best-thing-evar! in about 8 minutes, 47 seconds (and four of those minutes was just locating, and downloading the ROM in the first place). She isn’t as gadget happy as I am, and likes things she’s used to. Since her phone is a 2.x (Gingerbread, to be exact), the tablet behaves in almost the exact same way, and nearly all of the apps she uses also work flawlessly. As soon as she got her lat two phones, I immediately put Launcher Pro (Plus) onto them, so she didn’t have to learn a new gui. (The Sony Ericsson GUI is AWFUL. HTC, not so bad.) The Tablet now uses LPP like a boss, so she could use it from minute one. It is a bit cheaper than my Acer, and has an older polarized TFT LCD, so the viewing angles are much more narrow, but that is touted as a “security feature”, since you can’t read over someone’s shoulders.

Mine is the Acer A500, and I love the damned thing. So much to the point that I honestly haven’t turned on my personal laptop in more than 10 days. And that was to rip DVDs for a trip – to put on the SD card for tablet. I have a bluetooth keyboard, that I picked up literally four years ago for my blackberry for $15 from Tuesday Morning. (The reason it was $15? It didn’t work on iPhones. Now, they are much more in demand, as the Amazon prices shows.)  Between the two, I haven’t had the need for my Lappy. 10-12 hours of real time use is freaking awesome.

The Acer came with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but last week I was able to get the leaked 3.1 ROM and upgraded. There were a few minor annoyances in 3.0, the biggest of which was Exchange support. 3.1 fixed that, so now I don’t have to use the webmail portal for work, and the calendars sync seamlessly. The biggest annoyance now is that the bootloader is still locked, so I can’t play with custom ROMs anywhere near as easily as I can on my phone, but there are workarounds. Fortuantely, I’m so pleased with the stock Honeycomb, I really haven’t had the need to move to a different ROM- everything works OOTB.

The screen on the Acer is fantastic. It’s supposedly *not* an IPS screen, but it is brilliant, bright and crisp, and unlike some screens can be very dim if you want it to be. The touch screen is very responsive, and usable.

The features that set it apart from some other tablets are the 1.) full-size USB port (which works out of the box for exteral memory sticks and external hard drives! It may not provide enough power to spin a disk on it’s own, but the fact that I can dock it, or plug in a powered drive dock and have a 2TB filesystem is freaking awesome. 2.) Rotation lock switch. A physical switch. This may seem trivial, but since you are not always in a standard sitting position while using the tablet, this is invaluable. 3.) HDMI out without needing a dock.  (Which, honestly, I haven’t used. If I’m watching a movie, and I’m at home- there’s no need to stream it from the tablet.) 4.) Front and rear cameras. They aren’t great quality, but they are good quality, and as good or better than most phone cams. They are not a P&S replacement, but will work as a P&S if you need it to.

Cons: 1.)Lack of available accessories, and the cost of accessories that are available. This will be corrected if China starts pumping out aftermarket stuff, but my Dell Streak still has this problem too. $30 for a spare charger? Ridiculous. 2.) Movies. God damn it, Hollywood.

Warning: Soapbox…This isn’t a Acer specific problem, or even tablet specific, but Android wide. Hollywood seems to be going out of their way to make sure we can’t legally purchase or use our legally obtained media in our tablets. Look, this didn’t work out too well for the music industry. Don’t make us steal movies to watch them, or people will stop buying them if they know we have to get them illegitimately to use them anyway. I *want* to buy my movies. I recently paid $70 to get a new bluray copy of LOTR with Digital Copies: movies that I already paid full price for a.) at the  theatre b.) on DVD, and c.) on DVD AGAIN for the extended release. It is RETARDED to think that I can buy a movies for a digital release to use only on my MS Windows or Apple Macintosh operating systems. If I buy a movie with a digital copy, I am not necessarily wanting it for the laptop. The Laptop has a DVD player already. Going out of your way to make something impossible to use because of your DRM only makes people go out of their wayto BREAK your DRM. Then people steal your shit.

I’m evaluating several apps, and I’ll give each one that warrants a write up a post or two. Right now I have ~100 apps that I (or Christy) actually use on a regular basis, and another 20-30 apps/games the boys have on their phones. For many of those apps, I have evaluated other before settling on which on I actually use.

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