Is this a terrible idea?
September 22, 2012 1:29 PM   Subscribe

What can and can't you do with Android?

My wife's home computer is a Dell laptop that's about 6 years old and, though still functional, rather long in the tooth. We went to Best Buy today to browse possible replacements, and the only thing that really appealed to her was the Asus TF700, an Android tablet with an optional keyboard that gives it a laptop-like form factor.

Neither of us has even a shred of experience with Android. We're comfortable with Windows and the iOS on an iPod Touch, but that's about it. What limitations might my wife face if she were to attempt using Android as a primary computer? Are there FTP apps available so she can manage her websites? Word processors? Can an Android device talk to our home server and access music and other files stored there? Any thoughts on the Android leaning curve and the overall feasibility of this idea would be much appreciated.
posted by jon1270 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In general, Android is a mobile OS, rather than a laptop/netbook OS. It can likely run basic FTP applications and support some word processing, but you will not be able to run Office on it, nor will it provide an experience that is anywhere near that of your Windows machines.

I would classify Android as great for phones and tablets, but still strongly in the geek-only bucket for primary use. Buy a netbook or laptop to replace the aging Dell, as that's going to provide the best possible experience for website management and content creation.
posted by ellF at 1:34 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want a tablet-pc. Ie a full-power laptop computer that runs windows but in the physical form-factor of a tablet.
These have been available for nearly ten years now, but you will not see them in places like best buy, as they are a niche market.

(Also, because they are a full-power windows computers with additional features like a touch screen and extra compact design, and not a mass-market item, they're typically more expensive than a laptop of similar powerfulness)
posted by anonymisc at 2:00 PM on September 22, 2012

QuickOffice Pro HD for android will let you create or edit MS Word, Excel or Powerpoint files. It works pretty well.
posted by drezdn at 2:05 PM on September 22, 2012

Android can do all these things, but isn't really designed to be used for heavy word-processing, web design, or other work that is typically handled by PCs.

There will be Windows 8 tablets out fairly soon that should have a full Windows install on them, and that might be a better fit if she really wants the tablet experience.

On the other hand, if she likes the style of the Asus device, they make a lot of nice notebooks, including the Zenbook line.
posted by selfnoise at 2:20 PM on September 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Assuming that the lack of standard app menus in the usual places won't totally put you and your wife off, online help for most Droid applications is sadly lacking or nonexistent; you'll usually have to Google the problem you have to come up with any answer.

I wouldn't dive right into Android for anything other than eBooks, Web browsing, music, or movie watching unless I was prepared for a serious learning curve. I'm a Linux user (i.e. used to command-line tweaks and config-file manual edits) and after two years I still can get frustrated by Android apps - as a matter of fact, I just was today!

On the tablet versus notebook issue, definitely try a few apps on a tablet before you buy, and make note of the return policy if you do go with a tablet. Give an iPad a try in an Apple store to get a feel for what tablet use is like. I'm not a big fan of touchscreens, as I found out after my tablet purchase, but I was able to get a cheap USB keyboard for my Droid tablet.
posted by Currer Belfry at 2:24 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want a tablet-pc. Ie a full-power laptop computer that runs windows but in the physical form-factor of a tablet.
These have been available for nearly ten years now, but you will not see them in places like best buy, as they are a niche market.

I own one of these, which I bought from HP. (It's an HP "Slate 500".) It's got a USB port, and there are two more on its stand, so you can hook up a USB keyboard and a mouse and use it like a regular computer. In that mode it's adequate, I suppose, but it doesn't really have any advantages compared to a notebook or a netbook. (And it has disadvantages by comparison.)

Without the keyboard and mouse, it's not a very satisfactory use experience. Mine has a stylus, and there's a button on the stylus. The button performs the function of the right mouse button if a mouse is plugged in. It's uncomfortable to use the stylus for the kinds of things I'm used to using a mouse for, though.

Using a finger is even worse. My tablet runs Win 7 Professional, and Windows just isn't designed for fingers. Too many of the click zones are too small and are packed too closely together for my big ol' fingertips. Even using my pinky I have trouble.

The reason Microsoft did their drastic GUI redesign in Win 8 is that the desktop metaphor doesn't work well on a tablet, and there's no real way to slightly modify it to make it work.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:32 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, so we're not very surprised to hear that the Android device may not be the best choice for her needs. The qualities that made it look good are that it's very small and lightweight, and not terribly expensive. We weren't aware of the Zenbook line; the lower-end models there look like good possibilities.
posted by jon1270 at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2012

Oh, and thanks very much to everyone. We'll appreciate other suggestions, but I think the Android aspect of the question is probably settled.
posted by jon1270 at 3:53 PM on September 22, 2012

Just to add that I own an Asus Transformer and keyboard. I bought it hoping it could take over from my (large) work laptop for a lot of activities. It hasn't that much. I'm writing this on my laptop now. It's just more pleasant. Not that I don't like it for on demand viewing, some browsing etc.

Note that the issue isn't so much Android, my wife has an iPad. It's more tablet (i.e. mobile OS) rather than real laptop. A colleague has the same set up, it was he that convinced me to get it, but he still updates his blog from his laptop rather than his tablet.
posted by NailsTheCat at 7:50 PM on September 22, 2012

It might be worth mentioning that Google recently bought Quickoffice.
posted by devnull at 12:47 AM on September 24, 2012

I just run Ubuntu as a dual boot on my transformer. It's like work and play modes, and when Linux doesn't do the DRM/games/commercial stuff I stop word processing and reboot.
posted by jaduncan at 11:27 PM on October 24, 2012

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