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Cheap, 3G, or readable: pick two
September 22, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What kind of tablet/reader is best for me? I want something with built-in 3G, but I'd rather not pay an arm and a leg for a contract.

The product I am looking for may not actually exist, but I'm hoping MeFites can offer recommendations based on their experience.

Features I want:

-web browsing. I know the Kindles come with "experimental browsers" but are those really slow or annoying? I want to be able to check email, Facebook, Metafilter, etc.

-built in 3G, but free or cheap. I don't know if this is possible. I've read that some Kindles have built-in 3G, but only to access the Kindle library. I really can't afford to pay for a monthly data plan on top of my cell phone bill. But I would like to be able to get online in buses, cars, etc and not have to squint at my 3" phone screen.

- I'd prefer to use Android, and I think the iPad is pretty pricey, but if that seems closest to what I want I would consider it.

Basically, I want something I can web browse on with a bigger screen than a smartphone, maybe watch Netflix on, and use as an e-reader, but not primarily. I like the idea of a Kindle but ideally I want something that is a reader and has web functionality.

Does this product exist? A tablet-sized smartphone, without the phone functions?

(I should add that I have a smartphone and am vaguely aware of tethering, but I use Virgin and I don't think they allow that, plus I'm not very techy and don't know where to start)
posted by nakedmolerats to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Does this product exist? A tablet-sized smartphone, without the phone functions?

The Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD are the consumer-friendly tablets you want; I would pair one of those (which only have 802.11 wifi) with a $50 NetZero wifi hotspot, which comes with 12 months of free wifi/4G access for tablets, capped at 200MB/month. The slightly geekier alternative is the Nexus 7.

No contract, but if you need more than that per month, the packages are here. Note that the Fire is not an e-ink Kindle, and thus its browser is a full one, it runs a custom Android OS, and can display movies/websites/books easily. The Nexus 7 runs standard Android.
posted by ellF at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2012


Have you thought about getting a Kindle Fire or something similar? There's a couple of options out now, including the Nook Colour, Nexus 7 (more of a full fledged tablet) and Kobo Vox. I've never used one because I prefer e-ink but a friend of mine has the Nook colour and raves about it. Some googling says that all of them appear to have access to Netflix app.

(I should add that I have a smartphone and am vaguely aware of tethering, but I use Virgin and I don't think they allow that, plus I'm not very techy and don't know where to start

In terms of tethering, some googling popped up this page on Virigin that gives instructions for tethering with an iphone, which makes me think that it might be allowed. Your best bet is to give customer service an email or call to confirm that. What kind of phone do you have? Instructions for the iphone are on that page, and you should be able to find something for an Android phone pretty easily with some googling.

On preview, the NetZero option seems like it could work.
posted by snowysoul at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2012


The iPad, fwiw, does not require a contract to use 3G (or 4G with the current model). You sign up for a month of data at a time.
posted by adamrice at 2:05 PM on September 22, 2012


Google nexus is coming out with 3G it is rumored in Dec.
posted by pakora1 at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2012


The older 3G Kindles (with keyboard) definitely can be used to browse. Yes, the experimental browser is rudimentary, but more than usable for text-heavy sites like Metafilter. I have used it with Gmail, but I can't remember how it looked. Not sure I ever went to Facebook. I would recommend the mobile URLs for both.

Looks like the browser in the Kindle 3 was definitely a step up from Kindle 2. You may want to search for old reviews of the Kindle 2 and 3 - many specifically mentioned the browser capabilities (like these - the second even has a video of the browser in action).

But if you're not expecting lightning speeds or fancy features (like Flash), the browser may be fine for you. I used it for text-heavy sites (mostly Wikipedia and fic archives) happily for over a year.
posted by timepiece at 1:33 PM on September 27, 2012


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