Help me choose the right tablet
December 10, 2012 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I know this is well trodden ground, but I have a question about tablets. I want a tablet that will mainly be for reading/annotating pdfs (academic papers). My main worries are eye strain and stylus integration. What's my best bet?

The Galaxy Note 10.1 seems like it has what I want, except the resolution isn't up to the quality of other tablets at that price point. I hate reading for long periods of time on my computer monitors, so I'm worried the lower-res screen might have the same effect.

The iPad and Nexus 10 both have great resolution, but from the online reviews I hear mixed things about how various apps work with 3rd party stylus (for example not being able to rest your hand on the tablet surface while writing). I'm also a lefty for bonus difficulty.

I'm pretty sure I want the larger size screen, so the 7" tablets are out.

Do you have any experience with any of these tablets -- or others -- using them for long periods of reading/note-taking? I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!
posted by no regrets, coyote to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I longed for years for the perfect solution for this.

It is a retina iPad with GoodNote and a stylus. It has changed my relationship to editing and grading papers Nothing else comes close. My colleagues who have other solutions are jealous.

Trust me. Worth it. Best $600 I ever spent on a productivity tool.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

PS -- I read book manuscripts, doctoral dissertations, student papers, and a million other things on my iPad. I speak as someone who reads and edits for a good part of my living. Don't waste time on anything else.
posted by spitbull at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2012

I love my iOS devices (iPads and iPod Touch, two Retinas and one not) but I'm getting migraines after reading for very long periods. I'm far-sighted with astigmatism but I have new prescription lenses. If others report this it might be a consideration. I thought I wanted a larger screen, too, but I'd reconsider for the portability and convenience. I'm reading books on my touch and, apart from the headaches, find the screen resolution to be just fine. This might not be the case without the Retina enhancement, though.
posted by R2WeTwo at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2012

For what it's worth, I got headaches from reading on an iTouch. I do not get them from the iPad. In fact, I find I can read much more comfortably for much longer than I can on my 13" laptop. The ability to zoom in and out is useful. As is reading with good room lighting and a relatively low screen brightness, I find.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on December 10, 2012

(Although I am sure a similarly equipped Nexus with the same screen resolution, or better, as a retina display would be fine too. But you would never get my iPad from me in trade for anything else. It has been a productivity revelation.
posted by spitbull at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: I read on my iPad with no problem. Used it for Kindle books before getting a Kindle.

Notability is the bomb. Can import PDFs and has a ton of notes-focused features.
posted by supercres at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have an old-school lenovo tablet. It weighs too much and isn't easy for other people to use (so I end up printing out papers to share with collaborators). It is absolutely perfect for writing though-- like paper. Yay for Wacom-enabled setups. I write lots of tiny marginalia with mathematical formulae so this feature is key. If it weren't so heavy, and if I didn't have to share work with collaborators, i'd think this was the right solution.

I was hoping that an iPad might work, for portability and ease of use for others. I got the Pogo Connect pen, and I finally got to try it out on a friend's iPad. It's pressure sensitive, but completely inadequate to my needs. Just completely and totally inadequate. Capacitative touch screens require a stylus with a large point, and so I cannot get sufficient accuracy to write tiny formulae. The apps I tried also have terrible palm rejection.

I'm keeping the pen for now, although i'd happily give it to someone who will actually use it and could tell me if it became more workable in the future (I'd be happy to buy another one later if I thought it had gotten better). But right now, either the apps available or the pen technology itself is just not good enough for writing tiny notes. Not even close.

And the reviews on the Note 10.1 are pretty crappy (although the stylus part is supposedly awesome, it seems both the OS and the apps available just won't do).
posted by nat at 3:01 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: Putting in a vote for the iPad. You can, in fact, rest your hand on the screen - if you use Notability or GoodReader there's a 'wrist protection' feature such that you write in a little box and the rest of the screen you can just rest away!

I've found the retina display great for reading; text is sharper and easier to read than previous generations of the iPad. I read emails, academic papers, lecture notes and the like. As for styli, I use the Jot Pro, which doesn't really play well with my matte screen protector, so YMMV. Otherwise it does the job and has a fine point.
posted by undue influence at 3:14 PM on December 10, 2012

I got an iPad for this a couple of months ago when my semester started. It has been great, have hardly printed anything out and am able to bring all of my class materials everywhere without having stacks of paper to lug around. I use iannotate to mark things up - the app basically has evey way of marking things up that you could possibly wish for - highlighting, note taking, sending an email to yourself that summarizes what you have highlighted or written . . .

The screen is also adjustable so you don't have to look at a blaring bright screen all the time.

And, you can use the tablet to go on meta filter and write hopefully useful answers to people's inquiries.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 3:34 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: Oh yeah, I meant to say Notability, not GoodNote. I use iAnnotatePDF and GoodNote sometimes for various reasons (too many things, separate libraries help me separate the work) but Notability is the best.
posted by spitbull at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: I use Kensington styli. I tried a million different ones, but these are awesome, retractable tip, last a long time, very accurate. You need to learn to write with a more brushlike stroke than with a fine tipped pen, but I have not found it challenging.
posted by spitbull at 3:43 PM on December 10, 2012

Response by poster: Great answers, folks. Sounds like the iPad might be my best bet.

I'd still like to hear about peoples' experiences with Android tablets, if there's any of you out there. My inclination is to avoid buying Apple, but I will if it's head and shoulders above the rest.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:14 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: I have a Nexus 7 and Mr T just got a 10, and he is really happy with it. According to the specs, the 10 has better screen resolution than the iPad retina displays, and it looks wonderful. The 7 is pretty great, but the 10 is like another dimension altogether. He hasn't used a stylus with it yet, though, so I can't speak to that aspect. But it is gorgeous, and the pricing is very competitive.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:25 PM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: I use an iPad2 with GoodReader and the Jot Pro. A decent stylus (that one is about $30) made a huge difference to me. I've can grade for about six hours before I start to get eye fatigue.
posted by Cuke at 4:43 PM on December 10, 2012

One more thing about the iPad: ecosystem. So many options to extend its productivity.
posted by spitbull at 1:53 AM on December 11, 2012

Response by poster: I thought long and hard about the Nexus 10 but ended up opting for the iPad.

So far it's working great. Really a nifty little machine. A combination of GoodNote, Dropbox and Zotero looks like the winning combination for academic productivity.

And it's obvious already that the iPad display is much better on my eyes than the other LCD displays I use. Even comparing the retina display to the iPad 2 you can see a really noticeable difference.

Thanks everyone!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2013

Response by poster: Further addendum for anyone who happens by this:

Notability works better with Dropbox than GoodNotes does. Worth paying for.

I also bought a Bamboo stylus which works pretty well. All in all a success, I'd say.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:56 PM on January 16, 2013

A REAL pressure sensitive stylus blows anything else out of the water...just got the note2 and it is the best 'device' of any kind I have ever used...the handwriting recognition is awesome, and what mistakes it does make are becoming less frequent the more I use it...its available off contract at for 625...look about on the web for an extra 25 off...go into a phone store to see if its big enough first. Or...if you can hold off, they just announced the galaxy note 8" to be released 'soon' with more details at next months MWC...But likely the same resolution as the 10.1...higher density though...
posted by sexyrobot at 2:30 AM on January 27, 2013

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