Netbook, Phone or Tablet?

Comic-Con International is rapidly approaching, and you know what that means: it means I’m thinking about mobile computing again!

Right now, I’ve got a G1 Android-based phone, and Katie and I share a MacBook. The G1 is showing its age, and it would be nice to have a second computer to do things like manage photos with while traveling.

So. Options.

1. Upgrade the phone. I’d like to stick with T-Mobile, but unfortunately after being the first network to take a chance on Android, they kind of dropped the ball on high-end Android phones. It looks like they’ll be getting the Samsung Galaxy S as the Vibrant, which might solve that problem. (Downside: no camera flash, no physical keyboard, both of which are in the Galaxy S Pro — but I don’t know when or even whether it’ll show up on T-Mobile’s network!)

Also, this doesn’t solve the photo management problem…and if I get a touchscreen-only phone, it’ll really slow down typing until I get used to it.

That and the rumored launch date for the Vibrant is July 21: the day before Comic-Con! That’s not the best time to try to get used to a new device.

2. Get a tablet. As much as I love Apple’s laptops and think that tablet PCs are a great idea, I can’t get behind the iPad. I don’t like the walled-garden approach where Apple gets to choose what you’re allowed to install on your computer. As for other platforms, Windows and Android tablets don’t seem to be comparable just yet.

In short: not gonna happen this year.

3. Get a netbook. I keep coming back to this, don’t I? Last weekend I checked out the selection at Fry’s and Micro Center, and decided on several things:

  • Never, ever buy a netbook without trying out the keyboard first! I found one that was so bad that I’d rather type on my phone for an hour than this netbook.
  • Smaller is better (up to a point). There’s no point in getting a large netbook when I could get a more fully-functional small notebook.
  • A lot of netbooks have truly awful trackpads.
  • While I’d rather get one with Windows 7 than Windows XP, it’s not critical. (Vista, however, is right out. Not that I saw any Vista-based netbooks…)
  • I like the Splashtop instant-on mini-network OS. It’ll be sufficient for 90% of what I’d be doing with a netbook.
  • A big chunk of that other 10% would be photo management! Or at least pulling photos off the camera and uploading them. Managing stuff within Flickr should work.
  • Most netbooks are still above my personal “Oh, just buy it and get it over with” price point, which is $200. MicroCenter had two, one of which was the one with the horrible keyboard, and one of which had Windows XP, didn’t have SplashTop, and had a mediocre trackpad. I really had to think about whether it was worth it or not.

Even so, It’s going to be hard to justify a netbook and a newer phone, and if I have to pick one, it’s going to be the phone. At this rate, by the time I decide to go for it, a tablet may actually be more practical!

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4 thoughts on “Netbook, Phone or Tablet?

  1. brion

    My main note on netbooks is to consider the screen resolution as well as the keyboard, particularly for photo management. When I was using a Dell Mini 9 netbook for a while, I found the 1024×600 resolution to be a bit awkward for photo work… sometimes UI elements didn’t even fit on screen.

    Agreed on the cruddy trackpads… you may wish to invest in a portable mouse to go with it. (I’ve used one of these off and on; worked well enough as a mouse when you’ve got a surface available, and doubles as a clicker for presentations.)

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  2. Kelson Post author

    Hmm, good point. While I take it as given that netbook screens are small, I guess I hadn’t thought about whether they might be too small for what I want to do with them! I’m reminded of some of the times I’ve had to run a computer at low resolution temporarily and had to deal with the OK and Cancel buttons being off-screen.

    My “dither until other options are more viable” strategy is sounding better all the time!

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  3. ***Dave

    I guess it depends on what, precisely, you’re looking to do. I’m going to be at SDCC this year (after a several year gap), and expect I’ll keep up on things at the Con via (a) Twitter from my Android (HTC Incredible) and (b) photos + GMail to Flickr to Blog through my Android. For full-length posts … well, I might bring my notebook computer for evening catch-up.

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  4. Kelson Post author

    The main thing that I can’t do with the phone is transfer photos from my camera. The camera on the G1 is decent for a 2-year-old cell phone camera, but it’s nowhere near as good as my slightly-older Canon PowerShot. The only practical way to deal with that is to put a micro-SD card with an adapter into the camera, so that I can upload from the card. Then there’s the fact that we both have cameras, and I tend to take a lot of photos at Comic-Con!

    Secondary is the fact that Flickr’s management tools are very limited on the mobile interface, and the phone isn’t really up to handling the full interface.

    So that’s something that has to be done on the notebook, which means we need to work out a plan so that I don’t completely hog it every evening. What I’ll probably end up doing is rushing through the basics: tag everything for the convention and add it all to a set on the way up, upload it, then get the heck off the computer! I can always go back later and add titles, descriptions, and individual tags, and some of that I can even do on the phone.

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