Are tablets making us better? Yes and no.

IdeaPad vs. Kindle Fire vs. iPad

This is my last post about my Lenovo Tablet nightmare experience. Six months ago (check the original post here) I made a wish list of all the wonderful things I wanted to get done with my brand new Tablet. Here’s the update:

What did I plan to achieve with my new toy?

1. Read more eBooks with­out burn­ing my legs while try­ing to fall asleep.
Accomplished. Not only do I not have to deal with the heat and weight of my MacBook Pro, but since I can’t type as fast on the Tablet, I don’t spend much time checking and replying to emails or working on other things. I effectively have doubled my annual reading average.

2. Update this blog from any cof­fee shop, read while com­mut­ing, work on a plane.
50/50. The Tablet is not comfortable for typing long articles like this one, and the apps are relatively slow. But reading on planes (or buses, or the subway) is absolutely wonderful. By the way, seven inches is the PERFECT size for a Tablet—big enough to read, small and light enough to hold it with only one hand.

3. Watch more movies, and use Google Music.
Accomplished. The movie quality is not great but it does the trick, especially while waiting for a delayed plane at the airport. You can set Google Music to download selected songs so you don’t need to be online to enjoy the app. Awesome.

4. Use sev­eral film­mak­ing tools includ­ing a Director’s Viewfinder, and Slate.
Not accomplished. Bright sunlight is like kryptonite to the Tablet. Plus, both cameras on the IdeaPad A1 are SO bad that compared to my two-year old HTC cell phone (add link to serendipity search results) it is like a medium format back compared to a point and shoot.



Lenovo sucks.

Some of you may remember our hugely popular post “7 reasons not to buy the Kindle Fire” where we listed all the things we wanted to achieve with a new Lenovo tablet. Well, it’s been six months and it seems like a good time to review what has happened.

First things first. Lenovo sucks. That’s the nicest way I can start this article before I get R-rated. What started off as a little experiment turned into one of the most frustrating and time consuming purchasing experiences I’ve ever had. Since I received the Lenovo Ideapad A1 the GPS didn’t work and the Micro SD card became disconnected every so often. Sometimes I would lose Wi-Fi connectivity, and every now and then the tablet would restart magically—but overall it was working.

Two months ago the Micro SD card died. Since it was the brand new Amazon brand, I thought it could be a defective card. Getting a replacement from Amazon was a breeze. The tablet was able to read the card again and I assumed the problem was over. It was, for about two weeks.

After wasting more time than I should admit formatting the card and trying every trick in the book, I called Lenovo. After almost one hour of speaking with different tech support employees in India and being transferred several times to even more clueless and helpless agents (a process that became the standard), I was given a repair ticket.

I was to send the tablet to Texas (I had to pay one-way shipping) and they would fix it in approximately seven days. The problem? The only app that was working was the Kindle Reader, and I was reading like never before (read my recent post about how I’m reading almost twice as many books now). I was hooked.

It was the perfect catch-22. One great app was working, I was still able to check email and news, but all the other apps that I needed to work like Evernote, Google Docs, PDF Reader, and Dropbox required an SD Card. I called again. Would a firmware update fix the issue? “Maybe,” I was told an hour later. Would they keep all the apps I had purchased and installed? “We don’t know.” was the very helpful answer.

Lenovo Repair sucks

Then I ran into another problem. The tablet would not update its own firmware. I tried everything: changing the tablet’s settings, connecting to my MacBook Pro, installing the firmware tethered to a Windows XP tower, connecting a laptop running Windows Vista, nothing.

So, I gave up and sent it in for repair. Two weeks later, I followed up. They had received it, but they were waiting for some parts. An hour later I was told that the parts would arrive in approximately SIX WEEKS. So let me get this straight. I get a lemon, send it in for repair, have to pay for shipping and have to wait two months? I’ll make the rest of the story short. I was finally able to escalate my case to someone at “Customer Advocate/Customer Complaint Resolutions/Customer Satisfaction Programs” (I am dead serious, this is her title). After three or four phone calls and nine emails she finally gave up and sent me a new Tablet, which I received last week. How long before it breaks? I’ll keep you posted.


7 reasons not to buy the Kindle Fire.

I bought a Tablet yesterday. I did NOT buy an Apple iPad, like most of my friends would have expected, or a Barnes and Noble Nook Color, which seems to have great features, or even a Kindle Fire, which I have been seriously considering for the past two weeks.

My new toy is a Lenovo Ideapad A1.
Apple iPad 2 vs Amazon Kindle Fire vs Lenovo Ideapad A1
I have been against the “tablet” idea since the iPad was announced. I don’t want to carry more stuff, more weight, more cables. I don’t want to worry about syncing all my devices. If I want to travel light, I always have my HTC Incredible with me (when the battery doesn’t die). If I need to do real work, I take my loyal MacBook Pro. I couldn’t think of any reason to change that peaceful balance. That was until I had to fly over 230,000 miles this year alone, tried unsuccessfully to work on a red-eye flight, took my laptop to endless meetings where a notepad could have been enough, had to return countless unread books to the library because I didn’t have time for them, and got really tired of burning my legs with a MacBook Pro while trying to read in bed.

A tablet suddenly seemed like a good compromise; fast enough for most daily tasks, small, ultra light, and at last at an affordable price. My budget was $250. Both the Ideapad A1 and the Kindle Fire cost $199, and the Nook goes for $249. The iPad 2 is completely out of my price range starting at $500, but I included it on the comparison as a reference.