Saturday, October 10, 2015

review for Amazon of what I had to buy because of my eye problems

This review is from: Samsung Galaxy Tab A SM-T550NZAAXAR 9.7-Inch Tablet (16 GB, SMOKY Titanium) (Personal Computers)
The Galaxy Tab A has many uses, but I bought it yesterday because I need it for one use: to read documents like scientific papers, textbooks, contracts or magazine articles that I used to read on paper. Yes, I could read some things on the computer screen, but I used to flood my huge office with many big piles, folders and shelves of hard copy paper and books, because I could read the fine print well and organize it all very well, better than I could from the regular computer screen. If you eyes are not as strong as mine used to be, or if you want to go more paperless, the Galaxy Tab is your best bet for reading, studying and organizing all kinds of things.

I still swear by the kindle paperwhite reader for books like science fiction, where it’s no problem to choose a large font size on a small screen, because you want to read from beginning to end and you only need to see a couple of sentences at a time. That one is great for reading either in bright sun or in the dark, with no need to recharge it more than once a month if you mainly keep it in airplane mode. But if you need to see the structure and jump around in what you read, it’s too small.

After I retired and had a cataract operation – my first thought was to buy a kindle DX, like the paperwhite but bigger. But that was discontinued, and the operating system on the paperwhite is not good for keeping track of a hierarchy of pdf as well as books. DX had only three main competitors – Sony (much more expensive, and probably without the font size flexibility I need), Onyx (falling apart) and Hanvon (not available in US). Perhaps when Hanvon C920 hits the US. It will instantly take over a part of the market – or not; not available anyway.

I was impressed, then, when my wife showed me the phone-sized, inexpensive Galaxy Tab she just bought for my son. Using the android touch screen, it was ever so easy to move text around and resize it at will, and the display was ever so readable and convenient to the hand. She instantly downloaded a paper I am interested in from the web, in pdf , and I could dig into it much better than I could on my desktop computer. I did think of trying to live a life chained to the desktop – but if I can read much better, and study better, on a tablet, and do it anywhere in the house, why not? Why not double my productivity in a big part of my life? (I also wonder how many students could benefit a lot!)

But to start a new life on a tablet, which tablet? I did read lots of reviews on my desktop. It sounded as if there were four really serious options – Samsung, kindle HDX, Microsoft Surface and Mac Air tablet. I didn’t really look at SURFACE, because it is MUCH more expensive (overkill for me) and because Windows 8 is not my ideal for simplicity and convenience. Kindle HDX reminded me a bit of my old kindle fire, which I mainly use to play solitaire now, and which requires recharging every day --- which wasn’t as easy on the eyes, and didn’t have the kind of operating system that would make it convenient to manage lots of pdf documents as well as books. Between Mac Air and Galaxy Tab, maybe I should have spent serious time in the store playing with the Mac alternative – but I didn’t expect a Mac product to be as inexpensive, and I am not familiar with iOS. I DID know that android is getting wide use, that it has some flexibility, and that the small Galaxy Tab was very easy on my eyes. Reviews said that battery life is an annoyance for all of the tablets, to about the same extent, but the greyscale and powersaving modes in the Galaxy Tab substantially reduce the problem.

Even with Galaxy Tab, there is a choice of models. Choosing 9.7 inches was a no-brainer for what I need most, to replace my use of books and printed articles, where I need a large format but a light 9.7 inch tablet is easier to handle than a book. I chose Galaxy Tab A for $289 rather than the new S2 model for $417, because it already has what I need; so far, the only lack that I notice is the lack of fingerprint login. The power saving options were easy to find. It was easy to link into our home wifi system, to download the kindle reading app, and get access to all the books I have had on kindle – though it was a bit like seeing a sprawl of books dumped on the floor. I was able to download one of them quickly and easily enough, and I see that I can organize them in collections on the tablet (not on the cloud). I also downloaded the Mobi pdf.epub reader and acrobat reader, free on the web, and am beginning to be able to use them. It was a bit tricky downloading a scientific pdf from the web using Chrome; so that I can read at my leisure in airplane mode; I had to go to “my files” and “downloads,” but other routes exist. It’s nice to be using a powerful, flexible computer which gives me choices of how to move things around, and an easy way to set up and use folders. I was surprised at how easy it was to synch with my gmail and gdrive, and delighted to see an option to upload 100 gig of photos to OneDrive at no cost. Lots of other capabilities – but again, reading was enough to justify the purchase for me.

Maybe I will buy the $27 keyboard cover/carrier someday, but the touch screen has been good enough for me so far (unlike the small screens on phones).


Downsides? (Not in the review).

The Tab A comes with various app links. The google ones are reasonably straightforward, but for its extra goodies Samsung starts from a tutorial in very small print. I guess I won't have access to those apps for awhile. The Acrobat pdf reader tries to force people to rely totally on the cloud, which doesn't work for me (in airplane mode, preserving battery life, and sometimes on travel without wifi). Some Galaxy reviewers blamed that on the machine, but it's Adobe's fault, and can be bypassed. But it would be nice if bypass would be easier, and if Chrome for android made it easier to just move a pdf from the web (or my desktop?) to a folder of my choice which I set up on the Tab.  


In truth, I am still "between eyes." Having had some painful eyestrain ... I have resolved not to do straining reading until after the final operation on October 22. I expect that my new left eye will take over the lead role in reading then, as it was before the first operation, and do not want to overburden the right eye with a role which will be temporary. Will I even need big print after that, as the new left lens will be more powerful in near focus than the new right lens? Will I need to hold the galaxy, like a book, two feet from my face, no closer? Ah, but even if I will have crystal clear focus at that distance from BOTH eyes... it will still help to be able to enlarge the print, especially for equations with tricky little subscripts in them. There is so much small print around me now...

Two more pieces of evidence that this is a good thing: (1) in many, many eye tests over the past few weeks, I have seen very strongly how coordination of the two eyes is SO much more powerful than one eye alone, even with an old weak left eye, and certainly for reading; (2) as part of major revision of a new paper on quantum computing and physics, we saw how some of the reviewers had serious problems reading key equations, and how it helped simply to make them bigger, much bigger than what most journals actually print.    

Oh, yes -- I ALSO bought a set of three reading glasses from Costco for $19 a couple of weeks ago. I have used them, but no way do they bring me back to where I was.

In fact -- over the last few weeks, it seemed clear that most of my life is one big intensive eye exam, even if I never quite noticed it that way. What I do to relax is more eye-intensive than what I do to "work." Taking a couple of long walks, and watching TV, was the most relaxing thing for my eyes, good for my "far" (intermediate) new right eye -- but even TV for me is mainly watching news, with small print streaming feeds ...

No comments:

Post a Comment