I haz a new toy, Part 371…

I came to computers late in life, well into my 40s before I dipped my toe in the geekish waters.

Part of the reason is that, while I was still able to work, my company was busy computerising itself. But that was in the days of the horrendous MS-DOS, where each piece of software had its own codes/keystrokes for identical operations, which meant that you needed a phenomenal memory – or lots of overlays for the Function keys.

OK, I had a phenomenal memory – then. I carried a decade’s worth of information in my head – if my boss, in 1980, wanted to know how much we paid for an item in 1972, and where we got the best deal, I could tell him in seconds – but when it came to DOS my brain refused to co-operate. It completely put me off computers.

Then along came Windows, opening up computers to the masses by hiding all the complicated stuff behind little coloured images, but by then rejection had set in, and I’d decided that the last thing in the world I needed was a computer.

Then ME arrived, and my memory went to hell.

I tried leaving myself notes, which worked for a while, then I started finding notes I had no recollection of writing, and it might sound trivial, but that was just too scary. Then I thought – if there’s one thing computers do well, it’s remembering things. Another thing they did well in those days was crash a lot, but that’s another story.

Note re Comments: This is a blog, not a forum, so the relative merits of Windows or Microsoft, Apple or Linux, are not open to debate here.

For a year I read every computer magazine I could lay my hands on, and in 1992 I ordered my first PC. It had a 40MB hard drive, 4MB RAM (that cost an extra £100), and MS Works – and I was in geek heaven! I even loved Program Manager, and that might well make me unique. Windows might have been specifically designed to make me happy.

True, that first machine was very much Terra Incognita, but a copy of Windows 3.1 for Dummies soon set that right, and I never looked back. Then along came the Web and I was in heaven.

And the rest, as they say, is history – today I have a desktop PC with a 1TB HDD, 8GB memory, a similarly-specced laptop for backup, and a whole bunch of tablets and Kindles.

And now I have a new tablet!

It’s been my aim, for a couple of years, not to have to keep getting out of my chair in the evening, when I’m trying to watch TV and read, to answer emails** and check on Twitter which, because of the problems with my legs, has become increasingly difficult and terrifyingly painful (good news – I have an appointment with the surgeon who says he’d be willing to at least talk about taking my right leg off below the knee), which is why I have so many tablets (5 of the buggers, including an iPad 3, the world’s most expensive paperweight). None of them have been successful – either too heavy, too clunky, or ergonomically crap. Until now.

**Call me old-fashioned, but I see email as an instantaneous medium, and I try to answer them as soon as they arrive. Not to, in my book, is simply bad manners. OK, occasionally I’ll miss one. Or two – never said I was perfect – but most are answered promptly.

Anyway, a few days ago I bought an Asus MeMO Pad 8 (ME181C to its friends). A black one.

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The TV ad for these things annoys me far more than it should, pronouncing MeMO as Meemo. Yes, I know it’s correct but my brain still silently yells “Memmo” at the TV!

I actually set out to buy this one but it has pretty lousy reviews, so for an extra 50 quid I upgraded and I’m very glad I did – the ME181C is everything I’ve been looking for in a tablet. Decent size screen (8”), light weight (including their respective cases it’s a mere 44g more than my Samsung Tab 3 7”), but the icing on the cake is the OS, Android Kit-Kat 4.4.2 (which allows me, should I wish to appear unhinged, to talk to Google), and the quad-core Intel processor – this thing is as fast as my PC. And by coincidence, probably in a fit of jealousy, my Tab 3 is upgrading itself to Kit-Kat 4.4.2 as I type.

Three days in, now, and I can’t fault the Asus. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it, and done it instantaneously. OK, some apps haven’t yet caught up with Kit-Kat, but that’s not the fault of the tablet.

The bane of my life on other Android tabs, and my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, is the horribly inaccurate virtual keyboard. With the device held in portrait mode, they keys are too close together unless a stylus is used, and in landscape, while they’re better spaced I still find them inaccurate and slow. The iPad is fine in either mode, because of its size, but that also slows down my typing, and I just don’t get on with the horrible keyboard-cum-cover of my Surface RT.

The Asus, though, is perfect. In portrait the keys are well-spaced, so I can type quickly and accurately. In landscape they share the common problem – it’s slow. But it doesn’t matter as I don’t need landscape.

The battery is good for a day’s use (but it’s new and I’m hoping that it’ll improve when it’s been discharged/recharged a few times), and when it’s time to recharge it has a couple of bonus points. It recharges rapidly, even while I continue to use it, and the micro USB port is in the top edge, as is the audio socket, both nicely out of the way while in use (my Kindle Paperwhite 3G has its charging port in the bottom edge which, frankly, is a bloody nuisance as the screen lacks the auto-rotate function that the first version had).

For something that’s sold as a “value” device, it’s pretty damn amazing. If only it had a fully functional USB port I’d be even happier but, like most tabs, it doesn’t.

My Surface RT does, and so does my first-ever tab, a cheap 7” GoTab, a full-size, fully-functional one, but the current model has taken the micro route so has probably lost that advantage – still great value at around £40 though – try Misco), all the rest have micro USB ports and the iPad doesn’t have one at all, which is so perverse it beggars belief, especially as iOS7 killed off the adapter I’d bought.

I’d convinced myself that I’d read that the Asus had a finger-mark resistant screen, but that must have been something else I was looking at. However, while it does mark, in use the marks are invisible, and I’ve found the best thing for quickly cleaning a screen is a piece of polar fleece, and if the screen covers the whole front (i.e. on top of the bezel, not under it), then a dab of Windolene is good too – the clear version, not the slightly abrasive pink job. I’ve been working on a bottle for about 5 years now, and haven’t used a quarter of it yet – you really don’t need much!

If no fleece then a piece of a very old, very soft, 100% cotton T-shirt is the next best thing.

Whatever you use, store it in a plastic bag so it doesn’t pick up grit, and wash it regularly.

Tip: If your tab has a plastic screen do NOT use kitchen paper to clean it – some brands contain tiny fragments of wood that can scratch a screen – plastic glasses lenses, too.

But I digress – it’s not entirely unknown – so back to the Asus.

Unless you’re an Apple fan, and like to flash your electronic bling, you’ll do the sensible thing and buy a robust case. For phones I swear by the PDair range – try Mobile Funbut for tabs it’s an entirely different market, with ergonomics coming a very close second to protection (look, you’ve just spent – possibly – a lot of money, so protection should always come first).

I prefer a simple, book-style case that’s a few millimetres bigger all round than the tab (so no matter how it hits the ground, the case hits, not the tab**), has either a magnetic or stud closure – so it doesn’t flap open when you drop it as so many do – and will fold into a simple stand (avoid anything too complicated), so I got one of these. It has a magnetic closure which also puts the tab to sleep when closed and wakes it when opened. It comes with a combined pen/stylus, but it’s located perfectly to obstruct the buttons so it’s been consigned to oblivion. I don’t use a stylus anyway.

**Of course, if you drop it while the case is folded open, its fate is in the lap of the gods, and they can be evil buggers! Having said that, I’ve dropped my Galaxy S3 a lot, mostly while in hospital and not at my best, and apart from two lightly scraped corners (revealing that the frame everyone including me had assumed was plastic is actually metal with a resin coating), it’s fine.

And that’s about it – it’s cheap (from Amazon anyway), oh, and it will take a 64GB micro SDXC card rather than the more usual 32GB micro SDHC. I ordered one from Amazon. Should have been delivered yesterday, but they lost it.

They lost one two months ago as well. I suppose, given how much I buy from Amazon, that two lost orders in 14 years isn’t too bad, However, two lost orders in a matter of weeks actually is bad – evidence that something is badly wrong at Amazon, and the name of that something, as I’ve said so many times before, is Amazon Logistics.

They suck.

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2 thoughts on “I haz a new toy, Part 371…

  1. Thanks Ron for the info, I’m not a computer geek so need plain simple speak and you’ve done it. I have been interested for a while in getting a TAB and was wondering what sort to get but you speak so highly of this one I might give it a closer look? Thanks again….

    • Well, this is how I started out – writing about computers for people who knew little or nothing about them in the ME Association magazine. That led me to create a website as an overflow space where I could write what I liked without a constant battle for page space, which sprouted a blog after a couple of years and which, in turn, led here to WordPress and a proper blog.

      The odd thing is, as I said, my Samsung Tab 3 has also updated to Kit-Kat 4.4.2 but even now they run the same OS the Asus is still very much better, and I think most of the “better” is down to the processor, and the sheer speed of the thing.

      I’ve got 4 Android tablets, an iPad 3, and a Microsoft Surface RT, and the Asus is the only one I’ve been really happy with straight out of the box.

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