transformer, more than meets the eye

While I was in Portland, C went computer shopping and bought the thing that I’m typing on now: it’s an Eee Pad Transformer with the keyboard attachment — and gave it to me! I’ve been dithering about buying a netbook for years, and about replacing the Macbook since it died earlier this year. (Some sort of battery issue, which maybe I could have resolved, and might yet, since I still have the damn thing.) And this turns out to be just what I needed.

It’s an Android device that’s about the size and shape of a netbook when the keyboard is attached, and a nice-sized tablet when it’s not. I’m a ferocious typist, which is why I’ve always been skeptical about tablets, and why I bought a phone with a keyboard. When I got the phone and started reading ebooks on it, I realized that I would like something a little bigger to read on, so I mused about kindles and whatnot for a while, too. This hits that sweet spot, although not with e-ink, which means it probably won’t be terribly readable in the summertime outdoors. Plus the whole thing just barely fits into my main purse/bag, so I don’t have to carry around a big laptop bag or a sleeve or anything.

I’ve found applications to do most of what I’d want to do with a netbook: I’m experimenting with a couple of different word processors, Epistle so far being the winner for drafting; I have a code-highlighting text editor or two, though I haven’t used them much; Seesmic works well; Aldiko and Overdrive are pretty much the same, and the Dolphin browser is pretty nice. I’m seriously considering ponying up for LastPass Premium, as I discover how many sites I’ve saved in LastPass on Windows computers; either that or I need to get a multicomputer setup with KeyPass (?) — without using Dropbox. (Long story.)

I’m terribly annoyed with device/browser detection: most of the time, the “mobile” sites are harder to read than the normal would’ve been — way too wide — and often features that work in a desktop browser just fall down flailing. The WordPress browser interface goes all goofy, at least in Dolphin (and the built-in, IIRC; Opera Mini does a hair bit better), which is a bummer; at least the WP app works pretty well. Also: no in-browser spell-checker for some damn reason. The Android auto-correct (which is much gentler than iPhone’s; mostly just capitalizes “i” and adds apostrophes) is present erratically, although that’s true on the phone as well. I wonder if there’s some API that has to be specifically included to get that feature.

Google’s own apps have been somewhat uneven. Gmail is really nice, not too much different from on Windows browsers. (In fact, what I’ve seen of the new Gmail reminds me somewhat of tablet Gmail.) Google Reader is a pleasure to use, although I’m hesitant to upgrade, since the browser version has changed so much. Google Docs, on the other hand, is horrible, completely unusable…which is the main reason why I even needed to look at other word processors!

I’m surprised by how much I like navigating with the touchscreen, even if it gets smudged, when I’m in netbook mode. Most of the time I’m leaving the keyboard’s touchpad turned off, because I don’t need it, and it’s a bit oversensitive when I’m typing. The only thing that’s really irksome on that front is difficulties copying & pasting text, which seems to take more finesse/technique than I have so far. The direct action is strikingly intuitive and easier on my hands at that, I think partially because I can use my (dominant) left hand. I’m also considering getting a stylus to use drawing apps, since drawing with the tip of my finger is even harder than drawing with a mouse!

What I find myself using it for the most: journal writing (I’m not working on any fiction right now), Seesmic, Google Reader, Aldiko, solitaire, and looking up knitting patterns. Seriously: Ravelry is the only site I’ve bookmarked in Dolphin; I also like that I can take pictures of my projects and yarn and upload them all on the same machine.

So a success, definitely; this is the netbook I was waiting for! Is it something you’d like? I suppose if you have the same computing preferences/idiosyncracies that I do. 🙂