Friday, September 3, 2010

The quest for a 7” tablet

Or, why I don’t hate the Pandigital Novel.
pandigital novel
A lot of reviewers do.  It should be noted that those are reviews of the black version of the novel, and the differences between that one and the white novel go deeper than just the paint job.  The white one fared even worse when it first came out.  There are some significant hardware differences between the two, which results in difference firmware for each.  The black one doesn’t seem to have an accessible adb mode.  This is important as this is how Android takes commands from a computer.  The white novel runs Android 2.0 and with adb on, is very easily hacked. 

I have had a number of tablet style devices of varying screen sizes, but never 7”.  The 5” Viliv S5 was too small.  The 9” Asus T91 was too big.  I figured 7” should be just right.  The thing is, my experience with the tc1100 and the iPad have shown me that I prefer a tablet device to have a 4:3 screen.  I know it seems odd, as everything has been widescreen for so long now, but for reading and portrait web-browsing, I find widescreen to just be oddly tall and 4:3 to be quite comfortable.  The Pandigital novel is the only 7” slate Android device I know of that runs 4:3, 800x600.  There are a million new Android slates coming out, but they are all widescreen.  One of the main reasons I went for the Novel is the screen. 
The biggest drawback on the hardware side is the lack of physical buttons.  Sure, it makes for a nice sleek and clean looking device.  But this is not iOS, we need some buttons to run Android.  One of the great hacks available from SlateDroid is the volume button hack, which turns up into menu and down into back. 

On the software side, the main draw of the novel is its integration with the Barnes and Noble book store.  I already have a nook, which I love, so I have a fair amount of ebooks purchased from the Barnes and Noble store.  It’s nice to have the option to access these books on a backlit color screen, for easier reading in the dark.  I do have a book light for my nook, but that thing eats batteries.  Using the Novel in the dark is so much easier, especially with night reading mode. 
Thanks to the fine folks at SlateDroid, the process of turning the white Pandigital Novel into a 7” Android 2.0 tablet is quite easy.
With the Google experience hack and market hack, I have quite the Android tablet.  I can pull almost any app I want from the Market, although some don’t deal well with the extra pixels.  But I’ve got Twitter, Facebook, email, and all sorts of things to distract me from the reading I’m trying to do on whatever reader I feel like using.  I’m currently reading some books I sideloaded in Aldiko, but the Barnes and Noble reader is still there and many users are enjoying the Kindle app on it as well.  I don’t have anything in Kindle format, so I haven’t bothered with that one myself. 

Despite all the neat things it can do in a nice sleek package, there is a reason it was slammed in reviews.  The performance is sluggish.  A large part of the problem is the custom homescreen created by Pandigital.  It is slow.  Performance is improved by running the standard homescreen, although there are some odd rotation issues where most homescreen replacement apps will forceclose when rotated to the left for landscape.  This is a bit annoying as that’s the direction the dock is designed to hold the Novel in.  Luckily, the dock will hold the novel in any orientation, you just end up with the power plug sticking out the side. 

Here it is living happily alongside my “big” tablet:

It is apparently fast enough to play back video, but I haven’t tested that much.  It has a hard time even generating thumbnails for the gallery, so I consider it more of a word-consumption device rather than a media-consumption device.  But as I love reading all manner of words (books, the internet, facebook, twitter), it’s fine for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment