To say that I've been a bit obsessed about personal computing devices lately is an understatement. After articulating the issues I've had picking a mini-tablet for daily use, a number of readers recommended a device I'd been eyeing for some time, the LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition. Sufficiently prompted, I bought one for myself, and while I probably won't write a formal review, I do think that this is the right device for me.
As with 28 Days Later: Thinking About Mini-Tablets, I want to be very clear and upfront about one important point: This is about meeting my own needs, not the general needs of readers, or users, or whatever. I separate my personal computing tasks across a variety of devices, and how I do so changes over time. I don't necessarily recommend this way of doing things to you. It's just the way I do it.
So—for now at least—I use the following personal computing devices daily or, at least pretty regularly:
Kindle Paperwhite (2013). For newspapers (The New York Times and The Boston Globe) and for most books, both through the Amazon Kindle ecosystem. The experience of reading pure text is superior on this device.
Some mini-tablet. This was the topic of 28 Days Later: Thinking About Mini-Tablets, but I use this device for magazine subscriptions and some graphic novels through Kindle, graphic novels through Dark Horse Comics, and basic productivity stuff (checking up on and triaging email, web browsing) from time to time. On the road, I use this device to rent movies and perhaps tool around in crossword puzzle/solitaire-type games. In other words, it's almost purely for content consumption.
PC. I sit in front of a tower PC every day. You can check my latest "What I Use" page—What I Use: December 2013—for the details, but this is all work/productivity related. It's where I write. On the road, I switch to an Ultrabook. Same deal.
Phone. I use a Windows Phone-based Nokia Lumia 1020. Love it. It's used for a variety of things, of course, but I have my Audible stuff on there, every photo I've taken since last July, a variety of useful and fun apps and games. As you'd expect.
OK, so you can see where the mini-tablet kind of fits into the mix. It's not about work. It's about play, or least what I think of as leisure time.
In that previous article, I expressed some of the issues I had with each of the devices I have available to me in this category, including an Apple iPad mini with Retina Display, Amazon Kindle HDX, Google Nexus 7, several Windows mini-tablets, including the Dell Venue 8 Pro, Lenovo Miix 2, and Lenovo ThinkPad 8. Each has its pros and cons. For my needs specifically and in general.
(By the way, I did test using the Nook software on Windows for magazine subscriptions. This works, and it could go a long way towards making a Windows tablet more palatable for my needs. Aside from the recent news that the Nook software is being discontinued—good timing there—this solution is still not ideal, though it has nothing to do with Nook and everything to do with Windows brightness controls and reading at night. It just doesn't do it for me.)
Ultimately, because of the immature nature of the Windows Modern ecosystem—the Amazon Kindle app sucks, Dark Horse Comics doesn't exist, and so on—I've had to look more closely at the non-Windows options. I really like the Nexus 7 I bought last July, but in using the 8-inch tablets more recently, I've come to prefer that screen size. I also would prefer some form of storage expansion or, at the very least, more built-in storage.
The Apple stuff is super-expensive. I have a 16 GB version of the iPad mini with Retina Display, and it's not enough, when you consider just adding a couple of movies and other content to enjoy when traveling. I don't want to micro-manage that stuff when I travel, I just want to load it up at home and go. But a 32 GB version is an incredible $500. I just can't justify that price, especially when I already own one and am frankly not too happy about the whole Apple thing. They just rub me the wrong way, always have.
I could get a 32 GB Nexus 7. That would only cost $270—about half that iPad mini, f@#$ing Apple—and I could pawn off my existing device to one of the kids without feeling bad about it. But it would still be saddled with the smaller screen. I really want an 8-inch screen for this device.
Enter the LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition. When it comes to Android, I really do prefer the Google Play stuff, though my understanding is that you could save about $50 by getting the "normal" version of this device. And that might matter, as this particular device is a bit expensive at $350. That's $120 more than a semi-equivalent Nexus 7 (but $150 less than an equivalent iPad).
But there are two advantages:
Screen. The screen is 8.3 inches, which I prefer. It's 1920 x 1200, like the Nexus 7. And it's beautiful to look at.
Storage expansion. The G Pad has a microSD slot, so you can add storage. It's possible that the Google Play version of Android won't let you do much with it, but even the ability to copy videos that I already ripped over to the device will be welcome. I will experiment with that.
Will this justify the additional expense? Maybe not for some. But I'm OK with it. And having already loaded up the handful of apps I want—plus a few Microsoft apps, too—I'm very happy with the way this has worked out already. I'll test the microSD expansion next.