Author Topic: Ian's Advice for Buying Tablets  (Read 149 times)

Spectere

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Ian's Advice for Buying Tablets
« on: October 08, 2017, 05:35:05 AM »
Disclaimer: This is very ranty and rambly (I probably shouldn't be up this late). Read at your own risk.

Since I'm currently in the process of dealing with an almost literal piece of shit right now, I figure I should throw out a few pointers on how to buy a decent tablet for both Android and iOS fans, based on my fairly extensive experience with both platforms.

Android

Thinking about getting a cheap throwaway tablet from your local grocery store? STOP. Keep walking. Save your money for a while and get something decent. See, when you go with something like that, you're not getting last year's technology. You're not even getting the year before's technology. You're getting something that makes the GameBoy Advance look like a cutting edge product (by 2017 standards). I saw one that has a resistive touchscreen. Imagine trying to use a modern tablet OS on something like that!

Have you saved up a few hundred dollaroos? Aiming to get a tablet from the likes of Samsung, HTC, or whoever's making Google's latest project? Woo! Go for it. You're probably in good shape. Wait, you are buying new, right? Looking at a refurb of last year's model?

Yeah, let me stop you right there. There are two issues that have been plaguing Android for a while now: chip manufacturers and OEMs. The former seem to like to discontinue support for their chips despite them being fairly new (hi, Qualcomm!). The latter make so many bloody changes to Android's UI that it takes them a year to even get on the newest version of the OS. Odds are you're going to get 1-2 years of solid software support if you buy new (Google guarantees 18 months). If you buy a refurb, especially from a previous generation model, you're directly affecting your support window. Now, Google has been in the process of moving more and more of the OS into the Play Story over the past few years, but that only does so much. Eventually there's going to be a core system update or a new kernel that needs to be dropped in. That's going to be something that's fundamental to the OS running and/or tied to the hardware, so that's probably not going to be easy to deal with.

Oh, well there'a always projects like LineageOS that can push you past what your tablet would otherwise support. True! However, there's some major, major caveats to that. First, you're going to have to do some pretty major research into the device you want. Are the hardware device blobs licensed in a way that allows them to be repackaged? No? Is your bootloader locked? Yes? Do you have something like Knox on there, trying its hardest to prevent you from unlocking it? Yes? Does said protection blow an eFuse that will permanently invalidate your hardware warranty (I can't say "fuck you" enough, Samsung) if you trip it? Yeah, this is getting a little scary. Maybe if it's a cheap refurb.

Alright, so you're getting a new device from a major manufacturer. Awesome! Hope you like it.

iOS

You want a new iDevice? Buy a new iDevice. It's going to be supported for a while.

You want a refurbished iDevice? Well, it's going to be supported for at least three years (usually more nowadays--iPad 2 and iPhone 5 had 5 years of updates; all 64-bit devices are still receiving updates). If you're covered for more time than you're not, why not?

Conclusion

I realize that this might be coming off as very fanboyish, but I actually do like Android as an OS. Hell, I bought a G1/HTC Dream when it was still a new thing.

What I dislike is Google's mismanagement of its OEMs and part manufacturers. They needed to keep this sort of shit on a tighter leash from the very beginning of the project. The problem was that their obsession with being in everyone's pocket (literally) drove them to licensing their platform to just about anyone. These cheap, barely functional slabs have the same level of access to the Play Store as a flagship device does. Why were these devices not vetted? They're clearly not fit for purpose. I've seen several people suckered into buying them and literally all of the ones that I've seen barely fucking work. They're too sluggish for any sort of serious use (consider how sluggish Chrome runs on a high-end Android device, then ponder how it would run on a device with about a hundredth of the performance) and they tend to shit themselves when you reboot it. Forget about updates, pleb. You don't need any critical security fixes. "Fuck you, we already have your money. When too many people catch on, we'll just start up a new company and run the same racket over and over and fucking over again."

Oh, and their battery life is worse than your average Wintel laptop. Just think about that for a moment.

And the chip manufacturers. Oh boy. I completely understand why Apple and Samsung took the ARM specification and freaking ran with it. The number of devices that were prematurely buried when support was abruptly pulled for the Snapdragon 800 is just shocking. That wasn't even the first time that happened! The Galaxy Nexus had some difficult times due to Texas Instruments pulling out the ARM design business. It made use of the TI OMAP 4460, and when that was pulled from the market the phone stopped receiving updates. Google supported the phone for its promised 18-month period, but within two years the phone was no longer receiving official updates. Considering at the time it was common for US phone contracts to demand two year commitments, that's frankly unacceptable.

But let's talk about the good for a few moments. What makes Android unique is that it's sort of like a playground for new technology. I'm certainly not advocating for OEMs to be kept on a tight leash (which is what Microsoft did with Windows Phone 7). What I want to see is the dude doing licensing for Google Play services looking at the devices and either saying, "p cool fam" or "this fucking sucks" and granting approval or denial based on that. I want to be able to tell people, "hey, you have an Android phone! Sure, grab an Android tablet!" I want consumers--my friends and family--to be able to comfortably walk into a store, buy an Android tablet, and be able to use it as a daily driver. I don't want it to end up on my lap in the midst of an inescapable boot loop that seems to happen every time they dare to use the damn thing (guess what prompted this rant!).

In the meantime, I'll just keep saying what I've been saying: if you want Android, buy from a major manufacturer and buy it new. That'll give you the best odds for success.
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vladgd

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Re: Ian's Advice for Buying Tablets
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2017, 02:30:21 AM »
I got a cheap asus refurb tablet years ago, and I do agree with you. Shit can't even run youtube without going through spurts of frequently crashing with no way to fix the problem. It's still good for it's original purpose, being a larger screen to run the FAQr app so I have easy access to my FAQ's when playing vidya, but I'd prefer it as a bed youtube machine which it can't seem to even do that. Besides being a larger screen for my digital paper, I personally do not have much use for a tablet, nor can I think of much that I would get out of it besides games I don't play?

I don't use apple products so I can't really comment...I go out of my way not to use apple products...

Recently though my gf got a samsung s8, and part of the deal she got a samsung k88 tablet that we both kinda play around with...sometimes...when we remember it exists. It's just a less powerful but bigger screened phone. Fine for video, but I got my phone with me at all times, so even in bed I prefer having my phone handle the bed youtubes. God bless you oneplus 3t, and that dash charging? Ninja you'll be topped off in 30 minutes! I'll be a walking oneplus commercial if you let me continue son!

What do you use tablets for that would make you so frustrated if you don't mind me asking? Maybe it'll help me get use out of the devices I happen to have laying around the house.

Spectere

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Re: Ian's Advice for Buying Tablets
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2017, 10:20:56 AM »
The thing that triggered this rant was trying to coax my cousin's cheap Android tablet to boot. After wiping /data and /cache it literally took the damn thing 30 minutes to boot into the setup screen, and when I got there it was barely responsive enough for me to type on it.

I've also had years of experience dealing with people who would impulse buy tablets like that, then expect me to be able to get them working as smoothly as an iPad, so I'm pretty jaded.

As far as the Apple thing goes, I appreciate that their privacy policy is far friendlier than Google's and Microsoft's, probably because they really don't have much to gain by selling user information. I can understand collecting data to improve services (GPS traffic, some telemetrics, etc) but Google's level of data gathering passes into uncomfortable territory for me. Also, any company that tells the government to go pound sand when they're served a frighteningly broad warrant (despite the potential for sanctions and being made an example of) gets kudos in my book.

Also, despite appearances, iOS devices are also absolute beasts. Their CPUs/GPUs consistently destroy benchmark scores. At first blush, putting stupidly high end parts into a tablet doesn't seem to make much sense, but when you think about it, the less time the CPU spends doing work the more power efficient it can be. Also, if a part can achieve the same power draw at 2.2GHz as a similarly efficient competitor can at 1.6GHz, the 2.2GHz is inherently going to draw less power overall. The Surface Pro line has a perfect example: the version that uses the Core i5, rather than the i3, gets better battery life despite having a more powerful processor, simply because it can crunch through complex tasks much faster. Despite projected battery life staying about the same, my effective battery life on iOS devices has been steadily ticking up as they get more powerful.

As far as my personal use goes, I generally use tablets for media consumption, web browsing, and light gaming. When I had my Nexus 9 it fit the former two very nicely, but I'm invested enough into the iOS ecosystem that the latter wasn't so hot. A lot of the stuff that I wanted to play was available, but I didn't want to have to pay for it twice. It also makes for a great controller for my 3D printer (when using OctoPrint as a web UI) since it allows me to use the printer controls without having to zoom in like I would on my phone. I've also used it plenty as a games companion, most notably for Hyrule Warriors and Disgaea 5.

Tablets are also fantastic if you're sick, in my experience. I bought my first one just days before I caught a nasty flu and it was nice being able to have a bedside device that was easy to stow away if I started feeling dizzy.One thing that definitely helped is that its battery life, even in use, was way better than what my phone or laptop could manage (~12 hours doing the aforementioned tasks before the battery hit 20% charge). Considering how stupidly good power management on the new mobile chips has gotten, I think I only really have to charge my iPad once a month with the way I use it (the Nexus 9 wasn't quite that good, but I definitely wouldn't call it bad--with my normal usage patterns I'd have to charge it maybe once every 2-3 weeks).

As far as personal tablet frustrations go, Samsung actually delivered that in droves. When I was first looking to get back into and reevaluate Android, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. Considering it cost more than an iPad Mini, it sure ran like a piece of hot garbage (literally and figuratively). It couldn't even handle drawing the UI (both TouchWiz and the standard Android launcher via Cyanogenmod) smoothly, so you could imagine how Chrome ran on it. When I'd try to play Plague Inc (I bought it on iOS, Android, and Steam because I'm a filthy whore) the CPU temperature would skyrocket to 90C and the back of the tablet would get uncomfortably warm. Upon doing some research, I found out that those were common, widely accepted "shortcomings" with that tablet.*

The Nexus 9 didn't have those issues and was generally a very good tablet (though its screen had an excessive amount of light bleed considering its price tag). Buuuut, then you end up right back at the ecosystem issue. I ended up selling it, but unlike the Tab S it wasn't because I literally hated every ounce of it.

*If you think Apple fans are delusional, you should see the hardcore Samsung fanboys. Yikes. After denying any issue with the Note 7 despite its very explosive and largely inevitable failure modes, I saw posts from a surprising number of them begrudgingly admitting a problem, then proceeding to accuse Apple of sabotaging Samsung's battery lines. I'm dead fucking serious.

I have heard very good things about the OnePlus line, to the point that if I do decide to jump back to Android I'll probably end up riding that train (especially since HTC and Motorola, my two previous favorites, aren't doing so hot lately).
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