Both a Tablet and a Laptop.
The first question might very well be: Why? Why buy an expensive device that will poorly perform the functions of two cheaper devices? For me the answer is (A) convenience and (B) the “cool” factor.
Convenience is pretty simple to explain. Whenever I want to sit in bed and use my TF700 as an e-reader, I just pop it out of the keyboard dock. If I’m on a plane, the tray-tables are down, and I want to type an email, I can can pull out the dock rather than peck awkwardly at the cold lifeless virtual keyboard. Generally speaking, you’d be amazed at how nice it is to have a keyboard with a tablet. Pre-TF700 I don’t think I realized how much I’d come to dread simple log-ins for apps. The mere act of inputting a username and password was stressful. With the TF700 every text based interaction becomes (or returns to) a familiar and easy experience. Unlike bluetooth keyboards for iPads, the TF700 dock is solidly connected, and linked by physical connection rather than unreliable wireless. And, with the dock, I get extra battery life, a full-size SD card-reader, and a touch pad (that I inevitably switch off in favor of touching the screen).
The “cool” factor is not so much the relishable look of amazement I get from peers when I casually brake my pretty netbook into two halves while sitting in class (although that’s fun and hard to resist). What I really mean by “cool” factor is the feeling I get while using it. Legal research and writing can be really boring (you are shocked); tablets are, I think, inherently fun. By bringing a little tablet to my otherwise humdrum computing tasks, I can feel a bit of joy and excitement filter into the otherwise soul-eating experience. Also, and this is an unintended consequence, tablet apps are full screen and uncluttered. Nothing helps you focus on the work in front of you better than having (A) no visual distractions — no menu buttons, blinking notifications, terrifyingly happy talking paperclips — and (B) the extra additional cost to switch tasks. If I have to switch full screen apps to chat with my friend, I’m probably not going to do it as often as when there’s a window floating off to the side of my work.
I bought it; let me break it.
The biggest selling point for Android is that it’s open source. There is a veritable army of people fastidiously modifying and improving every Android release that comes out of Google HQ. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend about how annoying it is to get a somewhat less than mainstream, early-release Android device; it can take weeks, even months (!?), before someone has rooted it and made custom ROMs (customized Android versions). I’ve come to be obscenely spoiled in this regard. I buy a new tablet or phone and instantly ask: Why aren’t people working without pay faster to give my lazy ass more free stuff!?
Anyway, if you don’t have experience with Android, here’s the deal: These forums exist, like xda-developers, where an array of people, whose motives and abilities I only partially comprehend, post the latest and greatest versions of android, complete with their own useful customizations. There is a learning curve to rooting your device, and probably some risk (although I’ve never permanently broken anything I own) but the end result is almost always a faster and smoother experience.
Currently I’m running Cyanogenmod 10.1 (probably the largest and most popular of customized roms). It’s based off of Android 4.2, Jellybean. The official version of Jellybean hasn’t even been released by ASUS for the TF700 but here I am enjoying the crap out of it. Peer-production rocks (and has fascinating legal/economic implications , see . . . the rest of this website or, better, anything written by Clay Shirky or Yochai Benkler).
Apps Apps Apps
But, of course, the real question with regard to tablets and daily drivers is, “what can you do with ’em?” In my two years of Android exploration, a lot. A year ago I remember lamenting the shininess deficit that I noticed between my apps and the apps on my girlfriend’s iPad. That has changed. In many cases, Android tablet apps now equal their iPad cousins. Additionally, Google has cultivated a design aesthetic, Holo, that is actually cleaner and less unnecessarily skeuomorphic than the iPad alternative. In other words, most major android tablet apps are simple, clean, and useful.
My favorites for productivity are Evernote, Google Drive, and Repligo Reader. Between them I have, powerful cloud-based note-taking, document drafting, and .pdf annotation. To me this is the beginning and the end, the whole holy trinity of good scholarship (or at least the sacred minimum of actually doing work rather than merely playing with a new electronic toy).
I won’t lie, these apps will not satisfy someone dependent on old-style PC or Mac applications. Drive can’t do footnotes, so that exempts 95+% of legal writing. Repligo isn’t great at making pdf files — it’s no acrobat — and Evernote can be limiting (but how fancy do your notes really need to be?). What they do all offer is connectivity to the cloud. All my docs, notes and annotated reading assignments are now ubiquitously available. I can see them on my android phone in a pinch or download them onto any “real” laptop or desktop that I please.
So, should you take the plunge?
The answer is a qualified yes. If you are like me and:
- can and would enjoy rooting and then tinkering with the device
- want to keep all your data in the cloud
- enjoy being a little different than your peers
then you will love ditching the iPad for an Android. The TF700 remains (after a year, oddly) the top of the line when it comes to tablets that have removable keyboard docks (a must for productivity) but be on the look out, new hardware is coming fast.
The Wool Sleeve (just ask her to repeat the job she did for mine: Asus TF700 with Keyboard Dock)