Monday, December 1, 2014

Further Computer Notes

A recent addition to my computer arsenal here is a new iRulu 7" tablet. 

I must preface by telling you that I had grown quite addicted to our 2nd generation Kindle reader that was increasingly showing its age and finally, with the help of one of our kitties, bit the dust. 
It was charging on the dresser and someone of our menagerie decided to see if it would bounce. The screen did not survive. For so many of these devices, a broken screen means the thing is toast. To replace the screen on one of these older Kindles is about tantamount to buying a new one, so I was looking for alternatives. I do use the Kindle app on my iPhone quite often, and I do like it a lot. However, the small screen can be tiring at times. I wanted another option.

Being on a budget, and admittedly a cheapskate, I went looking. A new paper- white Kindle, comparable to the dead one, runs about $70. Used ones were only a little cheaper on Craigslist and elsewhere. That would have been adequate, but I was really pining for a Kindle Fire, with its color display and ability to watch movies, et. Those run for roughly twice as much. I looked around for a similarly sized tablet computer and found on Ebay an iRulu 7" Android tablet for about $35. I saw a reasonably good review on iTunes about it and decided to order two so my lady could have one as well. You can see what I got in the above picture. The tablet came with a handy keyboard/cover as well which I thought made it well worth the price. Especially since I was getting two tablets for the price of one basic Kindle.

The tablet accepts a micro SD card to add storage, so I immediately ordered a 32 gb card for it. It only has 8 gb out of the box. I also ordered a different adapter cable. As you can see in the first pic above, it came with a white adapter cable to attach the keyboard that sticks out at an awkward right angle from the tablet. I found a different black one online for a couple of bucks that attaches along the top and looks much better. 
I like the looks much better now. 

I like the iRulu tablet. It's a fun little device. There are drawbacks. This is my first Android device, so I immediately loaded it up with free apps from the Google store. Some of the apps have the capability of being moved to the micro SD card which saves onboard storage, however, the more apps you have the slower everything operates. The tablet can be pretty slow at times. I pared back the apps until things started running better. 

I decided to not use the tablet for social media like Facebook, etc. It was pretty slow on those things and my iPhone is much faster and usually more handy. After some frustration I decided to reserve the tablet for mainly what I got it for, reading ebooks and the occasional movie. With some strategies it works quite well for that. 

One of the apps I got quite soon was Clean Master. It clears out junk files and other clutter that compromises storage and memory on the device. It has a one-touch optimizing function that does a quick job of clearing the memory cache and other things. Each time I use the tablet I run the Clean Master, make sure other apps aren't engaged, and I'm good to go. Otherwise, the Kindle app takes a very long time to load and videos will not play. 

I'm not adverse to devices taking a bit to get going, but one thing that needs improvement is a better indicator that the tablet is updating itself. I've learned to turn it on well in advance of when I want to use it so that it has time to do whatever updates it needs before I need it. Obviously those things need to be done, but it really gives you  little notice of what it is doing. A statement of "updating device" and perhaps a status bar would be helpful. Basically it just starts off slow and eventually gets faster. I use the wifi to sync and read online, but put it in airplane mode to read offline. The battery lasts a bit longer that way, and takes a bit of load off my wifi setup at home.

Battery life isn't great. I can't watch a full movie without recharging, but sometimes running a movie with the charger plugged in gives rise to heating problems. It's a balancing act. I can get about two evenings of reading done before a recharge, but I basically tend to recharge each morning.

The screen becomes fairly illegible in direct light, such as outside in the sun. This is common for backlit screens and a point in the favor of the standard Kindles with their e-ink screens. However, the majority of my reading is done indoors, and in fact late at night in bed, so the ability to see the screen without a separate reading light is a big plus for me, and less likely to disturb my partner. The same can be said, of course for reading on the iPhone, but the increased tablet screen size is much better.

The onboard speaker is fairly bad. Much like the old transistor radios of the '60's. I have earphones, or a separate bullet speaker that works quite well with it.  The keyboard/cover works well. I sometimes have to unplug and replug the adapter for the tablet to recognize that it is attached. I suspect a delicate adapter plug on the tablet.

The second tablet? My lady Cat Dancing finds it much too slow in starting and has decided she prefers reading on her iPhone. It is much more convenient for the reading she does anyway.

What's the summary? If you don't mind a few minor annoyances it's a good buy. Don't plan on doing any major computing on it, but it really isn't intended for that anyway. For email, ebooks and online reading, and minimal surfing it's not bad at all. I do miss the 3G capability the old Kindle had. I'm glad I got it, though the second unit was perhaps a waste. I might dedicate it to videos and the first strictly to reading, if that streamlines things.

Have a Happy!

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