So, I got rid of my Kindle DX, which I decided was unsuitable for technical manuals. And due to Amazon’s culling of the product I made a nice profit on it on ebay, and snagged myself a 9″ Nook HD+ (used) for £135. How have I found using it for the last few weeks?
My Use Case
Although I did once find myself jealous of iPad-wielding friends with their fancy games and apps, this soon passed. I wanted a device for reading programming books. One that could handle PDFs as well as ePubs, and one I could look up additional info on the web before returning to the book. In summary, the Nook HD+ is a superb device for this. In some ways, not having access to the Apple or Android app stores is a good thing. There are less distractions. As to value for money, even at it’s full price of £239, it is great value. A little used one on ebay is unbeatable.
- The ‘retina’ class screen resolution
- The large 9″ screen
- Magazine-page-ratio is pretty good for books
- Excellent PDF support, including table of contents
- Good web browser
- Locked down, so little temptation to tinker with it
- ‘Resume reading’ icon always available
- ArticleView on web pages is a nice touch
- Occasional browser bugs. Google Reader doesn’t always render well
- Locked down, so tinkering with it is just more of a challenge (must resist temptation to root it)!
- Most books show with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Usable screen is actually 8.2″ for many books
- (The best aspect ratio for programming books is probably 4:3 – an iPad)
- Pinch-zooming-in on a PDF doesn’t shrink those black bars. You instead immediately get a vertical scroll bar. A poor implementation of zoom
- The only icons I use on the home screens are ‘Library’ and ‘Web’. It would be nice to be able to show entire folder contents on a home screen to cut down on navigation taps
It’s a great experience. I’m reading more, which is the real benchmark of success. Being able to quickly flit back and forth between different book pages, and the web is making the learning stick. An e-ink reader is totally unsuited to this form of reading.
How long will I keep it? Unknown. The more suitable aspect ratio of the iPad is tempting, but I will never shell out £399 for a reader. A iPad mini could win me over, if the screen resolution were better. When the iPad mini with retina display comes out – as I’m sure it will – it could sway me to the dark side. The only problem then will be the temptation to use it for 1001 other things rather than catching up on all my nerdy reading.
Sleep appears to be an area of human ‘activity’ which we are still learning about. One observation of sleep is that we can rack up a sleep debt – where we can go a night or two with reduced sleep, and perhaps feel OK for those few days. Eventually the debt must be repaid, or we’ll start falling asleep at the wheel, getting irritable with others etc.
Well, I’ve long maintained that I build up sleep credit. My optimum sleep is likely 7 hours, maybe as low as 6. Mrs Woods seems to need at least 8. So we go to bed somewhere in between – which I suspect is doing neither of us any good. I wake up alert early, fail to get up because the bed is a nice place to be. So I fall back to sleep and the alarm then wakes me in some part of the sleep cycle which you probably shouldn’t be woken from. I feel OK, but not as good as I did when I first woke.
So after 2 weeks with no really late nights, I seem to build up sleep credit. Last night was one of those nights. In bed at midnight. By 1:15am, it was obvious I wasn’t getting to sleep, so I did the correct thing and got up. I started programming on a Windows Phone app I’ve been struggling to devote time to. I made the best progress in a long time. By 4am I wrapped it up and went to bed. I still wasn’t tired, but tossed and turned until 6am when I did get some sleep – though not much.
So in one night my sleep credit has turned into sleep debt. But as long as I don’t give in to the temptation of a post-work nap, or go to bed really early, I should sleep normally for the next week or two.
Maybe I should try polyphasic sleep – though I suspect we’d need separate beds for that!
Sleep is a complex thing. My little ‘sleep credit’ theory could be complete rubbish. Subconscious anxiety, too much caffeine (I admit my body can’t handle caffeine as well these days), a slightly disturbed sleep environment could all have contributed to last nights sleep deprivation. Though the sleepless nights do seem to follow a vague pattern.
A comparison of the Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and 8.9″ HD, the Nook HD and HD+
I had high hopes for the Kindle DX. A 9.7″ screen e-reader with PDF support. Ideal for reading technical manuals. The battery life measured in weeks not hours. Readable outside with an easy on the eyes passive e-ink screen. After owning one for over a year, a summary of my thoughts are:
- Being able to show a full page of PDF without reflowing or zooming is great
- I rarely read outside (blame the British summer)
- Incredibly annoying “screensaver” is not good when you may be referring to the same page for days at a time
- Table of Contents doesn’t work for PDFs
- Flicking back and forth between pages is frustratingly slow
So I’ve come to the conclusion – a little later than Amazon who recently canned the Kindle DX – that a LCD screen tablet would be better for my purposes. But which one? For technical books with diagrams, tables and formatted code listings it is important to be able to view the content of PDFs as they were originally intended. So the most important qualities are the combination of screen resolution and screen size. PDFs viewed on my laptop’s 1280 x 800 16:10 ratio screen look good when I rotate the screen to portrait mode, so I’m looking for this resolution and higher. Even at this resolution, I’m not convinced that viewing a full page on a 7″ device will be comfortable without turning into landscape mode and doing a lot more scrolling. I also found whilst playing with a variety of tablets in HMV a year ago, that an (overpriced at the time) 8.9″ Samsung tablet seemed the sweet spot for size. My final criteria is price. I won’t pay £400 for a tablet, half of that is more reasonable.
How do the current crop of tablets compare to my criteria? (sorted by screen size)
|Google Nexus 7||1280 x 800||16:10||7″||16Gb||£159|
|Kindle Fire HD||1280 x 800||16:10||7″||16Gb||£159|
|Nook HD||1440 x 900||16:10||7″||8Gb, microSD||£159|
|iPad Mini||1024 x 768||4:3||7.9″||16Gb||£269|
|Kindle Fire HD 8.9||1920 x 1200||16:10||8.9″||16Gb||£239*|
|Nook HD+||1920 x 1280||3:2||8.9″||16Gb, microSD||£229|
|LENOVO IdeaTab A2109||1280 x 800||16:10||9″||32Gb||£199|
|iPad (retina)||2048 x 1536||4:3||9.7″||16Gb||£399|
|Google Nexus 10||2560 x 1600||16:10||10″||16Gb||£319|
|Microsoft Surface RT||1366 x 768||16:9||10.6″||32Gb||£399|
* Aspect ratio is calculated by dividing the pixels high by pixels wide and comparing to the ratios for 16:9 (1.78), 16:10 (1.6) 4:3 (1.33). The measurable screen aspect ratio may differ if non-square pixels are used. However, for my usage of mainly reading, I am only interested in the aspect ratio in terms of pixels – where 4:3 and 16:10 are better for most books, and provide better experienceswitching between landscape and portrait than a 16:9 device, which is comically wide for these tasks.
* Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ not available in the UK (yet). Price is estimated by converting the USD price to GBP at current exchange rates, and adding VAT at 20%. This calculation is accurate for the UK released Fire HD
* Storage capacity comparisons not entirely fair, since the operating system takes a variable chunk of this.
For my use case, which primarily reading PDFs and web sites…
- All except the ipad mini and Microsoft Surface meet my minimum resolution of 1280 x 800
- However, I need to look at the iPad mini in person, preferably with some techy PDFs
- A larger screen is better
- Being able to run all the apps from Google Play is not important
- Lots of customisation options is not a priority – I do not need more gadgets to tinker with
- Low price is important
- A 3G option would be nice, but tethering to my Windows Phone is very easy
- microSD is nice, but lack of it is not a deal breaker
- Although I have a Kindle DX already, most of my purchased content is fiction, which will look just fine on a new 6″ Kindle. So I have no strong vested interest in the Amazon ecosystem
- No matter how much I like the Windows 8 UI, the screen resolution and aspect ratio make the Surface RT a non-starter, and the price is simply a joke
The Nook HD+
The Lenovo looked good on paper, but CNET slated the dull display – which is my main criteria.
So, the Nook HD+ is (currently) the winner, with the unreleased in the UK Kindle Fire HD 8.9 close behind. It has my favourite screen size, awesome resolution, reading-centric aspect ratio, and is extremely well priced. The downside? I’m tied to the Barnes and Noble ecosystem, which may not survive alongside Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft – and this will affect my ebay resale price in a year’s time.
Of course, between now and me parting with cash, we could see the UK release of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, or who knows, maybe even a Google Nexus 9. Either of these events could sway me.
Now, does anyone want to buy a used Kindle DX?
This bug is now 5 1/2 years old!