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1) The Web On A Tablet: Is It Better?

Tablet Browsers

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CNN Website on an Android Tablet

Those who have not tried a tablet may wonder how the web reading experience is, when compared to their computer. Usually, tablet browsers are slightly different than the ones available on PCs or Mac. Also, on tablets, the default mobile browser is usually more limited in terms of speed and plug-ins. However, it gives access to websites’ full desktop versions.

My favorite tablet browser is the Android 3.x (Chrome-based) version because unlike many other tablet browsers, it offers tabs that make viewing  multiple websites faster. Browsers without tabs force you to click/tap more often to switch from one website to the other.

The latest multi-core tablet systems on a chip (SoCs) with integrated graphics processor (GPU), have made web browsing very efficient on tablet computers, thus delivering highly responsive zooming / scrolling and fast loading of web pages.

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Tabs in Android 3.x Chrome-based browser

News Websites Feature Rich Media

Most news websites that used to deliver information in the form of text and still pictures only, now offer a broad choice of videos as well. Newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, which traditionally was reluctant to even display pictures in its printed edition, displays videos on its online version.

The power of the most recent tablet SoCs enables fluid video streaming and opens the possibility for a good HD video playback experience over the Internet, even more so with 4G connectivity. Additionally, tablet displays are perfect in size and resolution for watching video (at least in their 7” to 10” form).

When Flash is supported, as in Android 3.x or QNX OS, consuming news from a tablet browser is even better: some websites (as of today) cannot display video without Flash since they do not offer HTML5 support yet. Some sites, such as wechoosethemoon.org  have Flash animations that cannot be seen in a tablet that does not support Flash (see picture below).

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wechoosethemoon.org: on the Android tablet on the left, flash is supported, on the tablet on the right, it is not

Tablets Are Made For Content Consumption

Reading is the number one activity on the Web when users sit in front of their desktop or laptop computers, and today, most people get their news from the Internet across multiple sources: traditional media, new media (blogs), news portals, search engines, Twitter, and from their friends on their favorite social networking sites. Additionally, being able to access dictionaries or online encyclopedias while reading news makes the experience more powerful on the Web than doing so from printed papers or regular e-readers.

Tablets, in terms of size (7-inch to 10-inch), high quality display and light weight, make it very convenient to consume content wherever you are: in various places inside the home (desk, couch, bed, on the floor, bathtub, kitchen…) or on-the-go. One can argue that smartphones deliver that kind of experience as well, but the small screen makes it less fun: that’s basic human ergonomics.

The most noticeable fact about the tablet user experience is the ability to use tablets in a wide variety of positions: lying down, sitting, standing, walking… just like a book. That’s why tablets appeal so much to children.

Some people use their tablets to take notes during meetings or as a replacement of their Netbook, but in my opinion, tablets are really optimized for content consumption whether it is reading, or watching video and movies.

2) What Is It Like To Read E-Books On Tablets?

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e-Books apps on Android devices: Kindle, Nook, google Books, Kobo, WattPad

As I stated earlier, tablets are comparable to books in the way they can be used. People who read a lot might prefer e-Ink displays which are non-reflective and produce crisp, high-contrast letters, making them easier on the eyes than LCDs, particularly in direct sunlight. However, many people are fine with reading on LCDs, and they prefer tablets, because a tablet allows them to access many other features in addition to reading, while e-readers to be one-trick ponies.

There is a large number of applications that can access e-book stores, the most popular ones on Android being Kindle by Amazon, Nook by Barnes and Noble, Google Books, and Kobo. All four applications feature a selection of hundreds of thousands of books and offer well designed user interfaces to read e-books that were purchased online or downloaded for free. They are also available on various mobile operating systems, which makes consumers more comfortable to buy e-books knowing that they can easily access their personal library from different devices.

Another cool e-books application worth mentioning is Wattpad, the “World’s most popular e-books community”. Wattpad connects readers to writers, who share their work for free on there. It’s like a YouTube for books!

The most popular e-readers, such as the Kindle or the Nook, are tied to one bookstore and do not offer access to other applications distributing paid or free e-books. In some cases it’s possible to import e-books bought elsewhere if their digital rights management (DRM) scheme allows it, but frankly, it requires a lot more work than just connecting to an app from your tablet home screen.

3) What Is It Like to Download And Read PDFs On Android Tablets?

Test: reading a large PDF on an Android Tablet

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PDf download from the web on Android 3.x

Prior to downloading and opening PDFs directly from the web browser in Android 3.x, you will have to download the free Acrobat Reader app from the Android market. On some Android tablets you will get pre-installed applications such as Quickoffice that can also read PDF files.

Once the download is done, you can access the PDF from an icon at the right bottom corner of the display. When you click on it, the pop-up menu gives you the choice to read it either with Quickoffice or Acrobat Reader (and more if you download other PDF-compatible applications).

We tested the feature with a complex PDF file full of graphics, Quickoffice offers a fast and fluid reading and browsing experience compared to Acrobat Reader.

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PDF in Quickoffice for Android 3.x

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Zooming in the PDF file – Quickoffice for Android 3.x

Reading PDFs on e-readers: a slower experience

Large or graphically complex PDF files are typically difficult to read on e-book readers, due to the lack of computational power of their processors: flipping through pages and images is very slow.
10-inch tablets are better suited to reading PDFs than any other mobile device,  as the screen size is great and the chips are powerful enough to offer a fluid reading experience (with the right application) even for complex and large files (remember that most PDF files are designed to be printed in letter/A4 format).

Have you tried to read on a tablet? Do you like the experience? Have you discovered interesting reading applications? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

Filed in Featured >Tablets. Read more about android 3.0, android 3.1, android tablet, digital reader, e-reader, ebook reader, Samsung and Tablet.

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