Thoughts from a tablet addict: What I own and why

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

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:

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