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What's the best Android tablet for showing color photos and video to a group standing outside?
June 14, 2011 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me find the best Android tablet option for illustrating an urban walking tour.

I've read the previous tablet questions, but since my need is for very atypical usage, am still in the dark. I'm hoping that you experienced tablet users reading this question will know exactly the make and model that will suit this use.

My husband and I give bus tours of Los Angeles, and while we're on the bus we have access to a full A/V set-up that allows us to show slides and play video on the onboard video monitors. We find this essential for contextualizing a city that has changed enormously over the past century. However, once we leave the bus to explore buildings and streets we're left without a way of sharing this illustrational material. We'd like to plug this off-bus gap.

Here's what we want in a tablet, with the essential features listed first, then optional/desired ones:

• Runs the Android OS.

• Large screen with good color resolution in daylight: The tablet will need to be easily viewed by a group of people standing around us out of doors, ideally in the shade, but not always.

• The ability to store a slide show presentation and other media on the tablet, since we can't count on picking up a wireless connection, and would rather not invest in a data-plan for this device. A choice of good apps for presenting slideshows and film clips (I guess this is more an Operating System question--what apps does the Android tablet support that can display PDFs and show QuickTime files?)

• A method for easily and quickly moving content from a laptop to the tablet (mount the tablet as a volume in an OS X finder window, connect via bluetooth, etc.)

• Ideally costs under $250.

• Good battery life (desired, not essential).

• Not terribly heavy, and fits in a secure carrying case (desired, not essential).

• Decent sound quality without external speakers (desired, not essential): Being able to show short film clips with sound would be a plus, but we could probably manage with poor sound.

So that's what we're looking for. Does the tablet we want exist yet?
posted by Scram to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
At $250, no. The only thing around that price range is the Nook Color (7" wimpy Wi-Fi only with no Bluetooth) or for a bit more the Viewsonic G Tablet. The screen kind of sucks on the Viewsonic, and you'll need to futz around with aftermarket ROMs like Cyanogen to actually enjoy using it.

You'll need to spend at least twice that to get a decent tab. The new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is coming out this week. There's also the Acer Iconia and ASUS EEE Pad for a bit less than $500.. There are several apps, including Adobe Reader, that can display PDFs on Android. The stock video player should be able to play .mp4 and .mov files, and you can download something like Mobo Player to play just about any other video format.

The field for Android tablets is still pretty limited. Do you need built-in mobile data or are you planning to just have your data stored on the device. Also, not that I'm a fan of iOS, but is there any reason why you don't want to get an iPad?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:01 PM on June 14, 2011


I don't think you're going to get a superior quality screen at that price point. The price point for tablets is generally $499 - the wifi Xoom and the 10" Galaxy Tab are that much.

the 8GB Archos 101 is $299 which is close, but I cannot vouch for the screen. The Viewsonic gTablet is a 10" screen and again about $300. And again I don't think the screen is fantastic, but I think I've seen these at Staples so you could always go and see for yourself.

The Archos and gTablet have weird Android 2.2 systems unlike the Xoom and Galaxy Tab which are Android 3.0 which is really optimized for tablets. They also have much better hardware - dual core processors, etc. This may not really be a big deal for you if all you want is a screen that shows photos.

My suggestion for display the slideshows would be to export your media to plain images and just use the built-in image gallery app. I don't think any Android tablets are going to be able to handle Quicktime video, so you'll have to transcode to .m4a files or somesuch - Handbrake should be able to do it. I've used Handbrake to encode videos for my Android phone. Again, the default image gallery app can handle m4a and 3gp video files.

But basically you're going to pay at least $300 and no tablet, even the holy iPad, has really good screen performance in direct sunlight.
posted by GuyZero at 9:01 PM on June 14, 2011


I will toss in a couple of points, as I have done some heavy research into Android tablets.

You will have two major hurdles: Screen visible in daylight, and your price point. Most everything else on your list is out there to some extent.

The only proper way to do a screen in daylight is extreme brightness and/or a screen designed for outdoor use. I don't believe there are any Android tablets with these options yet. You will find that on some laptops and tablets, but usually industry specific, expensive, and Windows. The nicest IPS screens (iPad 2, Aids Transformer) are sharp, have wide viewing angles, but wash out in daylight.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:02 PM on June 14, 2011


Thanks so much for the feedback, very illuminating!

Horselover Phattie, re: not wanting an iPad, my husband has an ideological aversion how Apple distributes their apps, and wants to support open source alternatives where possible.

GuyZero, the 8GB Archos 101 seems like a strong candidate. We'll go have a look at one.

Just a note that on retrospect, my description of wanting to use this in daylight is perhaps misleading, since we would be most likely be standing in the shade when showing it around, much like we use our smartphone outside.
posted by Scram at 10:04 AM on June 15, 2011


Also, the Archos claims it can do MOV files with a plugin you download from Archos, so maybe you don't even need to re-encode QuickTime video. But a lot is going to depend on screen brightness - definitely try to see if you can eval a unit before you buy.
posted by GuyZero at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2011


Blowing the price point all to shreds, but I heart my Notion Ink Adam with the Pixel QI screen. In direct sunlight, you can turn off the backlight with the press of a button, and it's like having a colorized eink display that updates in real time without a flicker. Youtube of QI vs Ipad in sunlight.

Word of Warning, though: the Adam's stock ROM drives me crazy, so I use the most popular custom ROM, Beast. And it's produced by an Indian startup, so the level of customer support and opinion of their own importance don't really comply with normal expectations. That said, there's a large developer and user community that makes up for most of the lacks. And yay, shiny new technology.
posted by yggdrasil at 11:18 AM on June 15, 2011


Timing!

This Panasonic Toughbook Android tablet was announced today, to be released Q4 of this year.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/16/panasonic-unveils-android-toughbook-slate-for-q4-sledgehammer-s/

Good news - Sunlight friendly 10.1 inch screen, extremely rugged, built in wireless options
Bad news - No price announced yet (and it will be very, very expensive).
posted by shinynewnick at 12:55 PM on June 16, 2011


And, weirdly, after all that, a business associate is sending a free iPad2 our way as a thank you for participating in a particular project. We'll be getting it later in the month, and giving it a try on walking tours. Thanks for all the great Android suggestions, though.
posted by Scram at 10:14 PM on July 15, 2011


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