Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Kinde Basic vs Tolino Page: which is best?

I am a fan of the budget e-reader. They are excellent value devices and, despite the low resolution, are far better for reading than the highest resolution tablet screen. Kobo released the Kobo Touch 2.0 (late 2015) as a budget e-reader, with a 167 PPI E-Ink Pearl screen, but dropped the device later. Another choice is the Tolino Page but Tolino’s e-readers are restricted to a few countries. Nevertheless, it is possible to import the Tolino Page from an online retailer based in Germany. In this post I will compare the Tolino Page (a device I previously reviewed here) with the Kindle Basic. Below are my impressions on both devices and why I prefer the Kindle Basic:
  • Online content management, in comparison to Amazon, is one area that Tolino is superior. Register for the Tolino Cloud and you can then read online in the browser, organise collections and upload books. The user interface is intuitive, and it is possible to view and change book covers. Amazon does allow online content management, but it is like a file browser in which the user can delete documents, add documents to collections and download documents. The Kindle Cloud Reader is not integrated into content management and needs access through an external website. The Kindle Cloud Reader also only allows access to documents bought from the Kindle Store.
  • The Kindle Basic's software is superior to the Tolino Page. I have posted about Amazon’s software before, so this is a quick summary. Amazon offers a uniform software experience on all the current batch of e-readers (also, the earlier generation of the Kindle Basic, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis all run the latest firmware). In Amazon’s firmware it is possible, for example, to bold text, look-up Wikipedia, translate words, utilise a vocabulary builder of dictionary look-ups and export notes in a notebook format. PDF support, in Amazon's firmware, is refined - it is possible to double tap to zoom, highlight/annotate, increase text contrast, decrease margins, and change orientation. In other words, it is a fully functional PDF reader. Tolino does support basic e-reading functionality but without many of the advanced features you get with the Kindle Basic. Tolino Page's PDF functionality, like Kobo, is restricted to supporting a basic viewer and with no way to interact with the text.
  • The Kindle Basic is zippier in comparison to the Tolino Page. The Tolino Page's performance is adequate, but you notice the difference when you put the two devices side by side. Both devices have the same resolution and despite the Tolino Page's E-Ink Carta screen the text is darker on the Kindle Basic (see picture below for a comparison between the Kindle Basic and Tolino Page). This may seem odd, though less sharp, and blocky, I found the text on the Kindle Basic darker than the high-end Kindle Oasis (I will dedicate a post with further reflections on the Kindle Oasis. My review was positive but after prolonged use there are some issues I will flag). 
Text contrast comparison between the Kindle Basic and Tolino Page (click on image to enlarge)
  • Another plus is the relative lightweight of the Kindle Basic. The device weighs 161 grams. The Tolino Page is light too at 170 grams. The Kindle Paperwhite is significantly heavier than both devices at 205 grams. The lightweight makes the Kindle Basic a good companion when travelling or commuting.      
Overall, the Kindle Basic is hands-down the best entry-level e-reader from an established vendor. The device makes a great gift, an e-reader for children or something light to carry when travelling. Yet a qualification needs mentioning: there is hardly any choice, now, in the basic e-reader category. It is also not clear if the Kindle Basic will be phased out. With the Voyage gradually being dropped it is possible an updated Paperwhite will come at a lower price and this means the Kindle Basic might no longer be a choice. Of course, this is speculation.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Surface Go hands-on

Acer Chromebook Tab 10 Review

Below is Chrome Unboxed's review of Acer's Chromebook Tab 10. It is the first Chrome OS tablet that is targeted for use in the classroom. The stand-out I got from this review is the relatively weak processor (Rockchip OP1). The processor works well for tablet tasks, e.g., content consumption and basic productivity (e.g., note taking), but is not powerful enough to support desktop environment tasks.

Acer gets it wrong with the processor, in my view, as it is a tablet that runs Chrome OS. Due to the operating system, the Tab 10 is more comparable to a desktop two-in-one device, e.g. the recently released Surface Go or the HP Chromebook X2. Both the Surface Go and HP Chromebook X2 run more powerful Intel processors that can do more within the desktop environment. At the price ($329), considering this is being marketed as an 'educational tablet', it might be better to choose an Apple iPad. Overall, in the classroom, a laptop Chromebook is the cost effective solution.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Amazon devices & quality control

I've had negative quality control issues with Amazon devices in the past. Recently I’ve had issues with the Kindle Oasis and the Fire HD 8.

The Kindle Oasis is the premium Kindle, so I was surprised with the problems I've experienced. When I first received the Oasis there was a permanent dark spot located at the centre of the screen. Amazon sent a replacement with no issues but recently the replacement also developed a dark spot! Again, I was sent another replacement. Unfortunately, the replacement device had a pin sized bright spot and was also registered to another user (light tears and bright spots are common with front-lit E-Ink screens <1>)! I speculate the replacement was a returned device from another customer due to the screen blemish. Amazon then sent a further replacement – this replacement was near perfect but had a barely noticeable permanent dark speck mark at the top of the screen. Thankfully the speck doesn’t affect the reading space, so I kept the device.

I also had a recent issue with an Amazon Fire HD 8 – but this is expected considering the entry-level pricing and cheaper screen. The screen developed a pressure mark – a common occurrence with LCD screens – and was swiftly replaced.

These are only two recent examples of quality control issues I’ve personally experienced with Amazon devices. I am not alone and similar blemishes are reported by other customers in their reviews on Amazon websites. Maybe it would be less wasteful and more cost effective if Amazon paid more attention to quality control.

The positive, from my personal experience, is that Amazon respect their warranty cover and do not impose unnecessary measures to test the legitimacy of claims.

<1>  I’ve had the same issue with the Kobo Aura One. Kobo sent a replacement but I had to first post the original device to Germany from the UK (Kobo, when I contacted their support, stated they don’t provide prepaid return labels). The Aura One replacement was brand new; to contrast, Amazon tend to send refurbished devices to replace defective ones. To be fair, the refurbished replacements I’ve received were in near perfect cosmetic condition; the only issues I’ve experienced were screen blemishes.