Thoughts from a tablet addict: What I own and why

Thoughts from a tablet addict: What I own and why

Summary: When you consider that I own four of them, you'd be justified calling me a tablet addict. Here's what I use and why they work for me.


Regular readers know I am addicted to mobile technology, and have been for years. If it's mobile and tech-related it has my attention. That addiction extends to tablets, as evidenced by the fact I curently own four slates. In my defense, if I didn't cover this stuff for a living I doubt I'd own so many tablets. Of course I wouldn't. Honest.

JK Tablets
Top - bottom: Kindle Fire HDX 7, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, iPad Air, Asus Transformer Book T100 (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I receive correspondence daily from those wanting to know what tablets I use and why. Many queries center around which brands I use, and even more about what size screen I prefer. The easiest way to deal with all of these questions is to detail what I own, and what makes them work for me.

Note that in addition to the tablets I own, I am regularly testing units for review. I currently have the Dell Venue 11 Pro, which is not included in this discussion of tablets I own.

The collection

It changes far too often, but currently I own four tablets. They each run one of the three major OSes — Windows, iOS, or Android/Fire OS. I am platform agnostic when it comes to mobile tech.

I use tablets for my writing work and have good keyboards for all but one. I like cases that protect the tablet while providing a solid typing experience. Not all tablet shoppers care about keyboards, but for those who do I will provide the make/model of my favorite.

The tablets I currently own, and the OS, screen size, and preferred keyboard of each (in no particular order):

Tablet Platform Screen size (inches) Preferred keyboard
Kindle Fire HDX 7  Android/Fire OS 7 None
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9  Android/Fire OS 8.9 Belkin QODE
iPad Air iOS 9.7  ZAGGkeys Folio
Asus Transformer Book T100  Windows 8.1 10.1 Asus proprietary (included)

In addition to different OSes, for the most part they all have different size displays. This is part of the screen size vs. mobility reality I touched upon recently. Having a choice of screen sizes available to me, that's often the main factor in deciding which one I grab to head out for the day.

Real work

I try to keep my mobile kit as small as possible, so quite often I grab the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. With the Belkin keyboard (review here) the 8.9 is a solid writing system that is highly portable. Just as I can with all four of my tablets, I can do everything I need to do with the bigger Kindle.

JK Tablet Keyboards
Front - Back: ZAGGkeys Folio, Asus T100 keyboard, Belkin QODE (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Some days I anticipate a need for heavy writing output, and on those days I take either the Asus Transformer Book T100 or the iPad Air. The keyboard dock (included with the tablet) turns the Asus into a decent small laptop, and the typing experience is very good.

The iPad Air with the ZAGG keyboard is almost as good, and extremely portable given its light weight and thin casing. The keyboard is nearly as good as the Asus laptop keyboard for writing, so I compromise nothing with either tablet.

When I anticipate a fair amount of working with Microsoft Office, the tablet is a clear winner. This will surprise a few but my preferred tablet for Office work is the iPad Air. Yes, I can run full Office on the Asus Windows tablet, but Office for iPad is so good it is by far my preferred method to use Office.

It handles all of the Excel spreadsheets I work with, and Word documents too. Microsoft has done a masterful job with the iPad version, and I love using it.

Fun stuff

That leaves the Kindle Fire HDX 7. I don't have a keyboard for it and don't want one. The display is just too small, and the same for any keyboard sized to fit the tablet. If I can't touch type with ease I won't use it.

For that reason the smaller Kindle Fire HDX is my main leisure tablet. I use it for reading ebooks while listening to music, surfing the web, and checking social media while out and about. It's the perfect size for that and fits in pockets when I want to head out without even a tiny gear bag.

For tablet use at home I grab any one of the four. Portability is not a factor when I'm sitting in a comfy chair at home. If I had to estimate, I'd say I grab the bigger Kindle Fire HDX most of the time. That 8.9-inch display is the perfect size to get a good window into my world while being easy to hold.

What it means

Hopefully, this glimpse into my tablet world will help those thinking about buying a tablet. If you have a favorite mobile OS, your choice is easier. If not, the field is wide open as I find the three platforms to be just about even for typical tablet functions.

As for screen size, get the smallest you can comfortably use if you plan to take it on the road. On the other hand, if you plan on just using it at home, get a big one. You'll appreciate the screen real estate.

Enterprises looking to deploy tablets in the office should get the biggest they can. It's almost certain you'll hand out keyboards for them at some point, and bigger is better for a lot of office tasks. Don't limit yourself up front, leave the door open for maximum production from workers using the equipment.

Reviews of equipment covered:

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Android, iPad, Tablets

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  • I missed something along the way...

    When did you switch from the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2?

    Ok 7" is too small for a keyboard - agree... what about 8.9" Kindle HDX???
    or is 9.7 as low as you would go with a keyboard?

    I have an ASUS TF300 10.1 tablet with ASUS kybd which I assume can't be much different from any other 10.1 ASUS keybd size wise (might be a difference in quality). I find the 10.1 kybt form factor to be too small for my taste.

    I'm keyboardless on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (original version) which I still think is quite nice... The native Android browser has gotten quite good on it with the updates and its still a peppy performer. I like using the PULSE news aggregator on it.

    I had to give up on the iPad2 since the iOS7 upgrade sucked up all the memory, app performance is too slow and it wont even run 3DMark any more, (I consider it virtually bricked) even right after a reboot. 3DMark says there is not enough memory to run ... close some apps. :-) I have never seen a kybd I was happy with on the Pad.

    For the past six months the Surface2 has been my main tablet and I find it to be an very good performer and good overall compromise in size... very good kybd and integration. Here's hoping the Surface3 will be a little thinner and lighter and perform even better to keep it fresh. Assuming they stick with the Tegra line... the Tegra 5 should increase performance nicely
    Personally I like to see them increase the display to 16:10 with only a few mm increase in width & height while making it thinner and lighter and cutting down the bezel a smidge.
  • It's in the article about the 8.9.

    I do use a with a keyboard.
    • DARG... skipped right over that :-)

  • And yet you couldn't try a Windows phone.

    Really strange.
    • Not everyone's into the monoculture thing

      they way you are. Some of us like to mix and match tech.
  • So, do you keep the Asus purely for redundancy?

    Hi James: from reading this, it looks like there is a bit of "redundancy" between the iPad Air and the Asus Transformer. Same size/weight/ease of writing, but the Ipad Air is better for Office work. Then, it would seem the Asus is there purely as a backup?
    • No

      I like it and Windows 8.1.
    • So, what you REALLY want/need is a notebook computer form-factor, so ...

      ... you could have invested in a Surface 2 for about the same money as the iPad. Not sure why you want an iPad when the Asus T100 gives you the same abilities + Windows 8.1.
      M Wagner
      • Did you read the article?

        He explains what the iPad does for him.... namely a better version of Microsoft Office than any of the other platforms.
    • No, the iPad air is NOT better for office work!

      Since most office work depends upon desktop Windows, the Asus T100 is the better device.
      M Wagner
      • That's a personal opinion

        and not the view expressed by the author, who more or less called it a draw.
      • That used to be the case

        Office for iPad is enough for most people, though.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • As a "True Defender of the Faith", I understand your disbelief

        that MS Office for iPad (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) can provide a superior mobile Office experience.

        I understand, 'M', that the odds of you purchasing an iPad Air are slim to none but Microsoft did finally release a highly credible touch centric Office solution and, even though you might not have extensive experience using Office on an iPad Air platform, others have and their opinions are universally in praise of this hardware/software combo.
        • Office on ipad is considered great because

          The alternatives were rubbish on ipad.
          Expectations were set low and largely measured by how good the app looks.
          I use spreadsheets a fair bit for price list data and such and standard desktop functionality like conditional formatting is not definable on iPad Office. It's useless to people who need it for simple data work with pricelists for example. Pivot tables? Hah, no chance.
          Kingsoft/WPS office on Android kills it for functionality. Handles conditional formatting. Pivot tables works.
          And then there is Hancom Office for Android. Oh My God, my jaw dropped when I first used it on a Note 10.1. This is THE best tablet office suite by a long way.
          Hancom Office on Android is more compatible with MS Office than MS Office on ipad!
          And it's FREE with Samsung Note 10 & Note Pro 12.
          Just go and buy the tablet for this app alone, that's how good it is!
          Hancom Office is way out in front for tablet Office Suites. Daylight second. Kingsoft 3rd. Every other Office app is just pretend toy Office for light usage. MS Office for ipad is in this rabble class.
          The ipad doesn't have a good Office suite. Sorry, but that's the harsh truth.
  • Why type?? Why carry multiple devices?

    I have a Samsung Galaxy GT-P6800 international tablet/phone. One device that does it all. I have a large Bluetooth keyboard that I never use..
    I have the Super Keyboard app on the device and when I need to type, I enable it so I have LARGE keys and even have arrow keys to move the cursor around.
    Easily 90% of the time I just talk to it and the text appears.. That is why that relatively expensive keyboard is never used.
    Best of all, I have something that fits in a cargo pants pocket and has a case that is also my wallet and I only need one charger.
    • I don't carry multiple devices

      Just one at a time.
  • I went with one - the Asus Vivo Note 8 ...

    Some of us aren't rich, powerful or connected enough to have four tablets to choose from. After a lot of research, I decided to go with the Vivo Note 8, because it presented the best compromise to fit my needs (I already have a "hybrid" device, the XPS12, that meets my main office computing needs and a DIY PC at home to meet my main home needs). The Note 8 would be even better if it had two USB ports (so it could be charged AND used with a USB docking station at the same time) but alas...
  • Amazon is not Android

    You basically skipped over Android altogether being that Amazon really isn't Android. Have you tried the Asus Transformer series with Android? Form factor is much like your T100. My Tf701T gets ridiculously long battery life due to the extra battery in the keyboard dock and the multi-tasking is better than in iOS. So for me, my daily driver is my Note 3, when I need a larger screen but not planning to do heavy work I'll use the TF701T, and then my Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus for heavy duty mobile work with a lot of multi-tasking. The home desktop with three screens is for when I'm settled down with 30+ windows open.
  • Interesting

    I also own several ones as well in addition to a Led Lampen
  • Interestin

    I also own several ones as well in addition to a Led Lampen