Welcome to Printing Industry News Digest (PIND) issue 117, providing a summary of major news items from the printing, publishing, packaging, digital, and communications technology sectors. PIND incorporates brief summaries and links to the week’s key news stories so that you can look up that all important detail, digging deeper behind the headline.
This week we break away from the normal format of PIND and offer an extended version of Tablet Talk which has been created to offer a comparison of two leading seven-inch tablets: the Google Nexus 7 (right in picture) and the Ainol Novo 7 Fire (left of shot). The low-cost Chinese product from Ainol arrived during this last couple of weeks and, with an £8.45 export tax bill paid, we were able to slice open the box to see what had arrived for our £100 investment (plus £7.50 for extra-fast postage).
The stats: The Ainol impressed us with its numbers. Running Android 4.0.4 (or Ice Cream Sandwich / ICS, as its more commonly referred to), the machine runs a nippy dual core 1.5GHz processor backed by 1Gb of DDR3 RAM and a spacious 16Gb flash memory as standard. The 1280 x 800 resolution screen is the same as the Nexus, and is considerably better than Amazon’s similarly named Fire unit. The Ainol is well equipped camera-wise, sporting a 2.0 mega pixel front and 5.0 mega pixel rear camera. The Chinese unit really whacks the opposition though when it comes to ports: an HDMI port; a mini USB port, which is both useable as an interface port and a charging socket; and a slot for a micro SD card, which therefore means a ready made memory expansion slot giving an extra 64Gb of space. Both products are equipped with Bluetooth allowing for the addition of a wireless keyboard, wireless headphones, or any other Bluetooth enabled kit. Both, of course, have the standard wired headphone hole.
Google’s Nexus 7 currently comes in two flavours, as has previously been mentioned here: 8Gb and 16Gb. The processor is a quad core 1.4GHz engine with 1Gb of RAM to get things moving. It runs Android 4.1.2 software (or Jelly Bean), which does give some added smoothness above and beyond ICS. Camera kit is limited to a 1.2 mega pixel front snapper, adequate for Skype. A little jiggery-pokery is needed, but the mini-USB port can be tweaked to become a useable port, as well as a charging point: this means that it can therefore interface, via an adaptor, to any USB stick for an effective memory expansion. No other specific ports are provided, though a special dock facility is incorporated in the build to facilitate connection with hardware specifically made to interface with the Nexus. Battery life on the Nexus is supposed to extend to some 8 hours v. only 4 to 5 hours for the Ainol. In reality, I have found little difference in actual usable time, which I am estimating at about 6 to 6.5 for both units [very dependant on what you use it for of course!].
Real world usability: If I had to choose between these two machines for real world use, the Nexus would win every time. Build quality and Android interface just seem better quality and more professional. Don’t get me wrong, the Ainol is good, but despite both units having the same screen resolution, everything on the Chinese unit is just that bit smaller on screen, making it just that bit more fiddly to operate. Whilst both units interface very successfully with the Google Play store, both also exhibit strange problems. The Nexus had issues with the BBC iPlayer for some reason (which can be overcome), whilst the Ainol refused point blank to work with Google’s Chrome browser (quite simply the best browser for Android IMHO). Both issues can be overcome by downloading the APK file for the software, but that is not the sort of task for every would-be user.
Set-up: for the purposes of comparison we have aimed to set up the two units in a similar way. Both sport the Nova Launcher, as we believe that this provides a beneficial extension to standard ICS functionality, including better icon layout and screen management. Our home screen set-up incorporates 8 icons in the dock bar, which will stay the same for every screen, and our choice of 12 regularly used apps in the lower two rows of screen real-estate. A clock widget provides a clear time indication and, working up the screen, we include a set of 6 browser short-cuts for Chrome that will take us immediately to our chosen web page with one touch of the screen. At the top of the page we use an easy to navigate interface to Evernote, our preferred notes, to-do-list, reminder, do-anything app (for those unfamiliar with this software, it syncs with every other bit of hardware that we use: iMac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Galaxy tab, etc, etc). To the right of the Evernote widget is a battery charge indicator to clearly show the amount of power left.
Additional screens on each machine offer a number of apps, including Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive, all of which offer a wealth of access to files from other areas of the Genesis system. Then there are the usual personal preferences, which in my case include Skype, Twitter, sports results services, OfficeSuite, TV, books and radio apps. On the subject of books, we must make mention of the Kindle app, providing the Amazon reading resource on all platforms. Other important syncing apps for us include both Pocket and Instapaper for referencing web pages for future reading.
Value for money: Both the 8Gb Nexus, at £159 (including £15 of Play store vouchers when we bought the machine), and the 16Gb Ainol at what totalled up to be £116, have to represent excellent value for money. Both are very slick, very useable, and very stable seven-inch tablet products running very recent and high-quality versions of the Android operating system. Both, out of the box, are limited to wi-fi. Using BT’s wi-fi product and associated app enables this to be extended beyond the normal office environment, but it certainly is not as flexible as a 3G connection. The use of a 3G dongle would aid less inhibited use of the product perhaps. To compare apples with apples, the Nexus 16Gb typically retails at £199 – almost twice the price of the Ainol. But wait: Nexus pricing will shift again shortly (before Christmas probably), a 32Gb version is coming, and then there is the Apple iPad Mini . . . oh it all gets horribly complicated again!
Keeping it simple: one simple but very real winner for us comes down to physical size. The Nexus measures 120mm. It will slip comfortably into a standard inside chest pocket of a standard British suit jacket. The Ainol, at 126mm, will squeeze into the space as well with a jiggle. The Apple is likely to ship with a 7.85 inch screen, meaning that it cannot possibly fit in a standard jacket pocket. We think that makes a big difference . . . do you?
Keep your finger on the pulse: grab an RSS feed of PIND (copy this link into your feed reader); click here for the GenesisNews #Print Daily to get the latest daily stories; or click here for regular Tech & Comms updates in blog or RSS form. You can also connect to a free subscription of the Print Daily for an update on print, publishing, packaging and associated technology delivered straight to your in-box every day!
For details on Genesis Marketing – publishers of PIND – click here.
Issue 115: newspaper turmoil
Issue 114: Digital packaging printing
Issue 113: Alderson Brothers admin