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The Android Experiment: AIOs, hybrids and a 13in tablet

Episode seven talks about the hardware that makes it possible
Wed Jan 22 2014, 17:18
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ONE OF MY OBJECTIVES THIS MONTH is to provide an overview of as many Android devices as I can, so I'd like to explain what they all are and what I think of them.

There's something to like in all of them. After my rather dour comments in my last column, let me take a moment to praise the silicon, aluminium and plastic devices that made this happen.

Samsung Galaxy Mega i9205 phablet
This is my contract phone. A lot of people are shocked that I would buy a phablet, and I must admit that there are times when the 6.3in screen is a pain, such as using Endomondo during a ten mile run, for example. But there's a lot to like in this mid-range handset, and it is certainly easier than lugging two devices about. It has only 8GB of internal storage and no App to SD card function, which rules it out as a serious game machine. I've put an unofficial port of Cyanogenmod on it to give it some chunky Kitkat flavour. It's definitely made me confident that phablets are a good thing, and due to the storage issue alone I'll probably pay the extra for a Galaxy Note or similar phablet next time.

Good for: Reading and watching video on the move without squinting.

Bad for: Fitness monitoring, gaming.

Asus Transformer TF701T hybrid laptop/tablet
If I have to accept an award for "best dumb journalistic experiment", this will be the device that I'll say I couldn't have done it without. The Nvidia Tegra 4 processor has coped with everything I have thrown at it, the keyboard is a joy to type on and the 32GB of internal storage has meant that I could get most of my apps on there without worrying and leaving a full sized SDXC, micro SDXC and full sized USB 3.0 ports to add to it. Detaching the keyboard, you realise that it's a bit on the heavy side for a 10in tablet, but not unforgivably so, and the screen is so responsive that you don't care. The HDMI output is capable of 4K, and the screen has 2560x1600 resolution, so everything renders beautifully. A nice little touch is that the keyboard dock also acts as a spare battery giving you up to 17 hours of use between charges. I love this little thing and will miss it when it's gone.

Good for: Pretty much everything, but it's also the most expensive device so you'd hope so.

Bad for: Not accidentally triggering the touchpad with my fat palms. I've deactivated it now.

Lenovo Yoga 10 hybrid laptop/tablet
One of the criteria for trying these devices has been that they bring something different to the party and the Yoga definitely does that. Its rolled edge that folds out into a kickstand has been controversial with some people, but I absolutely love it. It's easily the lightest of the bunch, even lighter than my phablet, and very comfortable to hold. The screen colours are a little dull and the screen resolution is average, but as a tablet being used as something to have on my lap when I'm watching TV or need to quickly look something up, it's my favourite. Where it really excels is battery life. I've had it running for 36 hours between charges and that's pretty special. It makes up for the awful plastic physical keyboard that I have barely used, instead opting for the most comfortable on-screen input of the bunch.

Good for: Being a tablet and doing the things a tablet is supposed to do.

Bad for: Doubling as a netbook, as the physical keyboard is separate, plasticky and unresponsive.

Goclever Aries 785 tablet
This is my "Oliver", the little tablet that I have an inexplicable affection for. It's basically an iPad Mini clone - very light but it feels very well built. It's capable of voice calls but at nearly 8in, you'd probably look a bit like Dom Joly holding it up to your ear. It is, however, still small enough to fit in a coat pocket. The screen is light and bright, and although the benchmarks are fairly average, it coped with almost everything I tried on it and somehow felt like it had a character all of its own. It's a Polish machine, made by a company that I will be keeping a close eye on in the future. The screen, however, isn't made of strong stuff - it actually cracked under my finger pressure. But I was so enamoured with the little thing, I forgave it fairly quickly.

Good for: Being your faithful electronic pal.

Bad for: Being used as a frisbee.

 

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