which tablet do I want, which tablet do I need.
February 9, 2019 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I need a tablet for school and I'm not sure which one will work best for my needs.

I guess I'm basically trying to choose between the new ipad (NOT ipad pro, just the regular 6th gen) and some sort of kindle fire, probably the Fire HD 10.

Here's what I ABSOLUTELY need to be able to do:

- access all aspects of MS Office 360 through my school email & download content in all office formats for local storage
- access all my textbooks on amazon kindle app
- access the horrors of blackboard & download content for local storage
- access various academic databases
- install language & dictionary apps
- generally save things locally as a wide variety of file formats, pdf and word doc specifically
- have all local storage able to easily backup on a laptop running windows 10

- can run acrobat X or XI (not pdf reader, actual acrobat pro)
- maybe connect to a wireless keyboard
- watch youtube videos through browser or app

I don't really need to be able to watch all my amazon prime content directly, and I don't need to it interface with other apple/alexa devices in my home bc there are none.

I currently have a 2nd gen ipad (from 2011) which can't be updated past ios 9.3.5, so I can't get my kindle books on it, it freaks the fuck out when I load my school email, and it refuses to even acknowledge the existence of office 360. If I could upgrade it to the latest ios I would do so immediately because I've been happy with all its capabilities in the past.

While the kindle fire is significantly cheaper ($200 for the 64gb fire vs $330 for the 128gb ipad), I can afford either one without significant hardship. I do like that you can increase the storage on the fire for relatively little cost, but overall storage capacity is not vital.

I would like to use it for other things besides the school aspects but it's not a priority. I'm aware that there are cheaper tablets than either of the two I've listed but I'm only interested in focusing on these two. I'm sure you'll all give me a dozen other options anyway. No one will even read this far. I like bees. Mention bees in your answer to be valid.
posted by poffin boffin to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have an IPad that’s newer than yours, but older than what you’re considering getting and it served me very well at SFState doing 90% of what you need it to do- the blackboard thing isn’t something I know about. As far as the saving things to local storage- the Microsoft onedrive app was really good at getting things from iPad to computer. I would assume that the newer iPad would have more bees, and features, not less, so it might be worth it to go to an apiary- or rather the Apple store and put your questions to a person there. That is of course a nightmare- good luck, but my vote is for iPad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:23 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

According to this review, Microsoft office apps aren't available for the Fire HD 10 or for other Amazon tablets. Sounds like the iPad is a better fit! Also, I don't know if you want to use a stylus or not, but the Apple Pencil got a design overhaul and is better than the original. Bees are adorable.
posted by Mouse Army at 3:30 PM on February 9

I had a whole very long post written out going point by point, with the conclusion that modern Android and iOS tablets would be totally equivalent for your needs.

But actually, I didn't realize that the Kindle Fire is like weird off-brand Android, and requires you to go through the Amazon app store, which is not the same as the standard Google Play Store on a normal Android device. Particularly troubling is that, searching through it, they don't seem to have any Microsoft Office apps.

Theoretically the Kindle Fire is still running a version of Android, so if you want to follow these instructions from someone named Ixmeta on the XDA Developer's Forum, you can sideload the normal Google Play Store and some background services and then be able to install normal Android apps, probably. Or if you can get access to the MS Office .apk files, you could load them directly. Obviously, don't bother, though.

A new iPad, on the other hand, has great versions of all the MS Office apps, and newer iOS versions now have a file manager so you can save documents (including saving from Microsoft Word app in .docx or .pdf format) and copy them around. You can easily make backups just using iTunes on a Windows 10 laptop.

Basically, get the iPad, or else another non-Fire Android tablet.

posted by vogon_poet at 3:32 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

(iPad also has a perfectly fine version of Amazon Kindle, works fine for textbooks.)
posted by vogon_poet at 3:35 PM on February 9

I also like bees. In general, I agree with others that the iPad should be fine. I haven't used the Blackboard app in awhile because we changed systems, but the Desire2Learn app remains a nightmare, so I'm sure Blackboard still is, too. It sounds like you do have a real laptop, but I'll still give my standard professor's warning that you may find trying to do any actual work on your tablet to be more trouble than it's worth, even with a good bluetooth keyboard. But for mostly just reading, which it sounds like is your main purpose, an iPad really is a good tool that will do everything you want easily and really it can be a pleasure to read on compared to reading from a laptop screen. The only one I'm not sure about is the current status of the full version of Acrobat.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:55 PM on February 9

How quickly do you need to decide? There is probably going to be a new iPad released next month, and you might want to wait and see what those specs look like versus the current generation's. All that said, I don't even normally like Apple peripherals, and I'd still suggest if it's going to be a thing you're using constantly that you'd probably prefer the iPad to the Kindle. Even having gone through the effort to get the sideloading set up on my Kindle Fire HD 8, it is super cheap feeling, takes longer to charge than I'd expected, you have to pay extra to not have it advertise to you constantly, and the whole UI is clearly set up to push you into the Amazon options for everything. I think you'll find that Apple products are better supported for most non-entertainment use, even if not the Pro version, because they're more widely used by professionals for professional purposes. My next tablet is not going to be a Kindle.

Bees, on the whole, don't run any of the apps you'll need but might still be preferable user experience to the Fire tablet, is what I'm saying.
posted by Sequence at 6:47 PM on February 9

My bees vote for your getting an iPad. This Logitech Bluetooth keyboard works perfectly and makes the iPad look like a very compact laptop. It's also good protection and fits in my Pawtec protective sleeve when installed on my iPad.
posted by Joleta at 7:39 PM on February 9

ideally i need something asap as i (stupidly and with great hubris) neglected the part of my physical therapy that would have helped me relearn how to hold a writing implement and write with it now that my hands are capable of doing so once again. the notes i'm taking in class are either illegible or worthless due to the amount of time it takes me to laboriously produce something i can read; i'll be finishing up on sentence 1 and the lecture has reached sentence 50 and i'm lost. but i still can type as fast as i always could. technically i could take notes on my phone but one of my professors flipped the fuck out and told me to stop texting, and i'm not interested in asking her for disability exceptions because of how poorly she handled me trying to explain.

i won't be able to afford a new release ipad though, but i might wait and see if the older ones go on sale.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:47 PM on February 9

The refurbished ones are a good deal because they're covered by the warrenty. With Applecare, you are good to be clumsy as hell and you don't have to buy applecare immediately, i think it's within the first year of purchase.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:11 PM on February 9

I say this as someone whose MacBook was literally held together by duct tape and my current phone by washi tape and gaffer tape. Bees could be living in my appliances there are so many cracks.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:15 PM on February 9

This is not strictly part of your question but consider the app "Notability", which lets you record audio while taking notes and syncs what you type or handwrite with that time in the recording.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:28 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Consider a surface go as well. Around $400 new, but less used or refurbished. I've had a surface for 4 years now and they really are much better than just a tablet.
posted by fshgrl at 11:00 PM on February 9

the Kindle Fire is like weird off-brand Android, and requires you to go through the Amazon app store, which is not the same as the standard Google Play Store on a normal Android device. Particularly troubling is that, searching through it, they don't seem to have any Microsoft Office apps.

There's a pretty easy route to getting the Google Play store on the Kindle Fire tablets (and talk tech support into removing those ads). If you really want to regain control over the Kindle Fire, you can root and unlock it to install custom software, to extend the utility of one of the cheapest quality tablets out there (you can also get cheap Chinese tablets, but MeFites have shared their experiences, and they're mixed).

My (limited, now dated) experience with a blutooth keyboard on the Kindle Fire was less than inspiring -- not all keystrokes were recognized, which is frustrating if you're not reading what you type and just touch-typing. But if your concern is taking notes in a class, you can often get official support from your school and have someone take notes for you. I know this was offered at my college some years back, for either temporary or long-term limits in abilities.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on February 10

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