Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PART 3 The Sequel

Earlier this year, as my GTab 2 7 was nearing its first anniversary, I started to look for a proper replacement.

At the time the news were filled with the announcement of the Note 8.0, the Asus Fonepad and the GTab 3. To be honest, my first instinct was to go with the Fonepad as I am quite stingy with my purchases, and the $300 price tag seemed too good to be true. But then I noticed that it has the same old GPU that my GTab 2 has, SGX540, albeit presumably overclocked. Even so, the step up to the HD screen alone should well worth the small investment.

The problem was, Asus was and still is, having problems with the local authorities in getting the Fonepad out of the ports and to the hands of consumers. They have started a pre-order program in March this year, promising that the tablet will hit the stores in April. Then they changed it to May, May turned to June and so on. I’m not going to theorize as to how the situation came to be, but a quick visit to the Transparency International site left me little reason to not blame the government for the kerfuffle.

So I switched my attention to the presumably next best thing, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. Back then I was not aware that Samsung was planning to launch 3 GTab 3s. All I read was that the new 7 inch Galaxy Tab will have almost the exact same spec as the old one, safe for a little trip down the memory lane courtesy of the Gingerbread physical button scheme.
At that point, I came to realize that the only worthy option for me to upgrade to would be the Galaxy Note 8.0.

I waited a few weeks until Samsung launched the tablet here. To my surprise, the G Note 8.0 was offered almost $200 cheaper than the similarly spec’ed Galaxy Note 2. That’s just too much for my bang for the buck instincts to resist so I made the jump the first week it came on sale.

In the previous installment we talked about how the switch to using tablets as my only phone has allowed me to cut my usage of the PC. Whether it be browsing, reading, or watching videos, I did them mostly on the Galaxy Tab 2 instead of the PC, and my bad back was happy for that.

While the GTab 2 was perfectly okay for quick editing pre-made documents on Google Drive or Polaris Office, the experience of working on longer documents however, left much to be desired.

As big as the 7 inch “phone” is, the screen is still a tad too small to allow me to work on A4 or letter sized documents for extended periods of time.  Zooming and panning as you try to produce pages, after pages of paragraphs, is just not something I enjoy doing. Apart from that, when dealing with large documents containing pictures and charts, the performance of the trusty old OMAP 4 tells me that I needed something with more horsepower. Scrolling between such pages were jittery, at best.

The 8 inch screen on the Note 8, on the other hand, is big enough to allow me to work on print sized documents comfortably for extended periods of time. While the quad core Exynos chip has enough oomph to render any documents I can throw at it smoothly.

You can see it in action in this picture,

With that said, we still have not touched on two of what I regard as the most important features of the Note 8.0. The Spen and multi window split screen.
I can understand those who have used the Note 2 and think that these features are merely seldom-used gimmicks. But the 8 inch screen on the Note 8.0 improved the experience by a considerable margin. So much that the two features has become a permanent part of my work flow.

While the Note 1 and 2 were only sufficient for making the kind of quick notes we used to make on pocket sized notebooks, the Note 8 has a screen big enough to allow it to replace my paper lecture notes. You can see the size comparison to the notebook that I used to bring to seminars ,and similar events, in the following pictures.

Note 8.0 v real note book,

The GTab2 7 v real note book,

Furthermore when I use the multi window feature in portrait mode, with 50-50 split, the size of the screen area available for each half of the screen is bigger than a GS4’s whole screen. That allows apps like Lecture Notes to really shine. As shown in the following pictures.

This is me trying to figure out the bill of materials for various Galaxy Note models,

This one shows how the hand written notes I made with Lecture Notes can be share and integrated to Evernote to be retrieved in the future. No more having paper note weighing my bag down and no more lost notes, forever! Well at least that is what the company behind the app claimed.

Another app that really shines on the Note 8 is a PDF annotation app called qPDF. This app has transformed the way I study books. No longer do I need highlighting pens and paper note books to help me mark important parts of a page and jot them down for future reference.

Here is another example of how I take advantage of the Note 8.0’s multi window feature and the Spen as I researched for the pros and cons of the Asus Fonepad. Yes, I have the official Fonepad video, from Asus, playing on a floating window while doing it just because I can.

I have also found the Note 8.0 to be very effective for watching video lectures. Again, the combo of the SPen and the multi window really shines in this regard. The tablet has allowed me to follow lectures and make notes on the same device.

If you happen to be in the market for a portable tablet device to boost your productivity, look no further, the Note 8.0 will give you the best bang for your buck.

Thanks for reading this, and stay tuned for the next part in which I will talk about downsides of using a tablet as a phone.