One of the most important benefits Android OS offers is independence. There’s no need to ever plug your device in to a computer, and it can perform most tasks typically carried out on a PC. Android tablets are convenient, portable and very easy to work with. But can a Honeycomb device replace a PC? This is one of the most discussed topics of the year, and it’s difficult to come to a conclusion. The fact is: everyone uses their devices to perform different tasks.
It’s obvious that engineers, programmers, architects, designers and other such users will need a computer. But can a regular John Doe skip a good ol’ PC and just get a tablet? To test this, I went without a personal computer for two weeks. Let’s see how things turned out.
This is one of the most important aspects at hand. The form factor of the device is very different, especially if you’re used to a desktop PC or one of the bigger laptop computers. The most important difference (as you may have guessed) is the lack of a physical keyboard. Most Android tablets tend to lack this handy part, so I used an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock to compensate.
The only other remaining main issue with a tablet is its size. Current Android tablets do not get bigger than the typical 10 inches. This can be both good and bad. Portability was great, and the tablet (attached to the keyboard) can be carried around in most bags without an issue. But the tablet and keyboard dock were quite heavy compared to netbooks of similar size.
As always, it depends on your preference. Users with larger computers will love the portability, while small laptop and netbook users might find it a bit heavy and uncomfortable. The weight might also be due to the build quality and extra battery (which are actually great to have). Also, being able to pull out the screen and use the tablet is something PC users never experience (mostly). This feature may seem like a luxury to many, but it’s convenient to have.
When it comes to performance, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer’s specs are enough to make the tablet very snappy, but not as fast as a computer in the same price range. Though rare, the tablet does have more hiccups than a computer. Videos recorded at higher definition can have some issues from time to time on a tablet, while they play butter smooth on most PCs, for example.
Typing works great for everything... except the browser.Edgar Cervantes
Typing was another hiccup. This was one of the most annoying things I encountered during the experiment. Typing works great for everything… except the browser. Since tablet-optimized apps are currently scarce, you must rely heavily on the browser. You may not notice the lag as much when typing with the on-screen keyboard, but once words are flying out of your fingers on a physical keyboard, the browser seems remarkably slow.
Aside from those issues (and your regular force closes), the tablet’s performance is not bad at all. That Tegra 2 processor takes good care of most things, but we do wish it was faster. We must remember that computer processors are clocked way higher, and the PC operating systems are known to be much more stable than Android. For now, that is.
Compatibility is definitely among the biggest issues when trying to replace a computer with a tablet. Both hardware and software are no issue with a PC (especially with Windows and Mac), while Android still needs to mature more in that area.
The tablet’s keyboard dock comes with two USB ports and a full-sized SD card slot. These are convenient, especially for storage, but not everything works with them. None of my two mice actually worked with it, and it’s still not possible to connect a printer to it (though you can use wireless printing). Personally, I was only able to use those USB ports for storage (external hard drives and flash drives). The tablet also lacks a CD ROM, which may not be completely necessary, but at times it makes life much easier.
Not only is hardware an issue, but most programs are not compatible with Android yet. There are some apps that may replace your software, but they will never be as complex as a full-on computer program. If you need programs like Premier, Maya or Dreamweaver, you will not find something comparable. Even MS Paint works better than all photo editing Android apps. Media files can be an issue as well, since Android does not support all media formats.
Entertainment / Media
Aside from the media compatibility issues, the tablet is a great entertainment device. This is not surprising, since that’s what tablets are made for. Social networking, music, videos, images, e-books and similar activities are a breeze with a tablet. Everything is intuitive, due to the touchscreen factor, and it really feels like you’re interacting with content at a higher level.
As a media and entertainment device, a Honeycomb tablet is a very fun gadget to have. Whether you’re reading Pride and Prejudice or throwing some birds at green pigs, a tablet will definitely be more fun than a good ol’ PC.Edgar Cervantes
Apps and widgets make a huge difference, giving you access to everything you may need –from multiple email accounts to YouTube videos and e-books.
As a media and entertainment device, a Honeycomb tablet is a very fun gadget to have. Whether you’re reading Pride and Prejudice or throwing some birds at green pigs, a tablet will definitely be more fun than a good ol’ PC. Unless you want to play games like Crysis. But better processors and graphics chips are coming, so this may soon change.
One issue I did find is that the Honeycomb browser does not behave like a PC browser. It’s due not only to speed and performance; things just usually work differently in general. I was not able to click on some links, and websites kept sending me to mobile sites. While Android is great for multi-tasking, it’s horrible at it compared to a PC. Videos usually stop buffering when switching between tabs, and it’s not possible to see multiple windows at one time. Sometimes RAM memory is not enough, and apps simply close out. (I lost multiple articles due to that).
This topic is also subjective; some people need more than others. If you’re looking to write essays, or even make spreadsheets, and simply email them, this would be an ideal device. As mentioned before, though, a tablet will not help anyone who needs complex programs for work or school.
Most of the work I did on this device was for Android and Me. With a computer, I usually work with the browser, Google Talk, Photoshop and Gmail. Since the browser was very laggy and the WordPress app is not as mature, I had to write my articles with an Office application.
Using an Office app was no issue. The real issue was working with images. This part of my job was highly complicated without the use of Photoshop (or any PC image editing software), even after using multiple image editing apps. Not only that, but the browser did not allow me to click certain links. For example, I was not able to click the link that allowed me to put the featured image on a post, nor was I able to even upload an image to WordPress. For these tasks, I relied heavily on help from the Android and Me team. Without them, these two weeks would have been impossible.
One more issue was copying and pasting text. Trying to copy text from the browser is buggy, and much of the text in a tablet (whether it be in apps, the browser or other text) is not even selectable. Highlighting any text and using “CTRL + C/V” was the most amazing feeling once I had my computer back.
All this brings us back to the initial question: can you replace a computer with a tablet? The answer is simply, no. At least not yet. You may only use a computer for the simplest tasks, in which case you’d assume it would be possible to do so. But the fact is, at some point, you’ll run into something that will require you to use a PC.
I cannot express how frustrating things became at times. After I was done with work, everything was great; I could browse the web, do my social networking, chat with my friends, watch movies, etc. But those working mornings were about the most frustrating thing I have ever gone through. It would usually take me twice the time to finish an article, and I would still need my co-workers to finish up those things the tablet would not let me do. I literally pulled my hair at times.
It would usually take me twice the time to finish an article, and I would still need my co-workers to finish up those things the tablet would not let me do. I literally pulled my hair at times.Edgar Cervantes
A tablet will not have the flexibility and complexity a computer has anytime soon. It is meant to be a supporting “side” device (or a luxury), to perform simpler tasks in a more intuitive manner. They are also great for portability, entertainment and games. But if your work revolves around a computer, you need a desktop or laptop PC.
On a side note, the keyboard on a tablet is actually very convenient. You could definitely use it at school to take notes and for other simple tasks of that nature. Maybe a good alternative would be to have a desktop computer in your living room and use it only when necessary. Battery life was quite impressive, since both the tablet and the keyboard had a battery. I would usually manage to get over 24 hours of battery life on one charge. That’s one of the biggest advantages a tablet has over a laptop computer: battery life is way better on most tablets.
As for me, I will continue to use my laptop for a long time. While tablets are exciting, everything is simply much smoother with a PC. And many times it becomes necessary. Plus if you really want portability, you could also go for a smaller laptop or even a good netbook. Honeycomb is still young, though, and we will see it grow with time. Hopefully the browser will behave more like a PC’s soon; that was the biggest frustration I encountered.
Technology is definitely moving fast, especially with regards to the Android platform. In just a few years, Android went from being a small competitor to the most popular smartphone OS in the world. Now that Android is in the process of making its transition into mobile computing, it might be able to replace a computer in the near future.
Quad-core processors are coming soon, as well as processors clocked at higher speeds. While current tablets have specs similar to a lower-end netbook, eventually they will reach the level of most laptops. There are also rumors about the possibility of Honeycomb tablets getting a Chrome browser, which would definitely change the picture.
Once these tablets are stronger and more popular, software developers should start getting more involved in the Android platform. Can you imagine a full version of Photoshop in the form of an Android app? It would be a very large app, but it will definitely be possible at some point. If major computer programs are compatible with Android and the performance is comparable, it would definitely be possible to get rid of good ol’ Windows/Mac/Linux. Do you guys think this will happen any time soon, though? If so, when? Will a tablet ever be able to replace a PC at all? Have you tried to do it? Please do tell us your experiences/opinions on this topic.