Recently, many people asked me if it’s better to buy a new Android tablet instead of a new laptop PC. My answer to almost all of them was: get a tablet. I firmly believe it can replace a PC and it’s a great solution for what most users usually need from a PC. Excluding some professional uses off-course. What I consider as ‘most users needs’ is: browsing the web, using social networks, watching movies, creating, editing and printing documents, sending emails, etc. All of those could be done easily on a tablet with the aid of a few apps which I’ll discuss in this post.
I recently got a new Asus Transformer tablet and I decided to work only with it for at least a month. This ‘tablet VS laptop’ post is based on my conclusions and I hope it will help you to easily move from a PC or laptop to tablet.
Before I start talking about the apps I use, I want to say that it’s important to have some kind of a physical keyboard and mouse. Even if the Android keyboard is great, when you have a lot of writings to do, typing on the tablet can be slow and annoying. There are a lot of Bluetooth keyboards and mice on the market, as far as I concern this keyboard and mouse works really great: Keyboard | Mouse.
Even though most large websites have their own apps on the Play store, like Facebook and YouTube, sometimes not all the functions of a website will work on the app. There are a few good web browsers for Android and I found myself using 3 of them mostly. You don’t have to limit yourself to only one of them, You can have a few browsers installed and the Android system will ask you which one to open whenever you click on a link. Try them and choose which one is better for you.
Google Chrome: Chrome is the browser I use the most. It has my bookmarks synced with my phone and PC and it’s a really fast browser.
Floating Browser: If you really miss the windows experience from the PC than this browser is for you. You can minimize and maximize its windows and it looks and feels just like browsing on the PC. You can also use it to view two web pages on two different windows, on the same time. Watching a YouTube video while reading news on other website for example.
Firefox: I’m using Firefox whenever I need to visit a website with a user and password login because Firefox securely syncs my passwords from my PC.
* There are some websites with mobile or tablet versions that makes them look different if you browse on a tablet. While I think that a mobile version is great for browsing with a phone, I want to use my tablet as a PC and I don’t want those tablet versions. My suggestion to solve this: All the above browsers have an option in the settings to request the regular desktop versions of websites.
Most Android tablets comes with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB. While 64GB might be enough for you, 16GB is definitely not enough if it’s aimed to replace the PC. Never the less, there are many cloud storage services you can use as your storage in addition to the built-in storage.
Both Google Drive and Dropbox are great cloud storage solutions. You can upload any file to the cloud and it will be synced to your phone and PC so you can access it whenever you want. You can even edit documents stored in the cloud straight from the app and without actually downloading the doc.
For my music files I use Google Play Music which lets you upload your entire music library to the cloud and save you a lot of space on the built in storage. You can listen to your music whenever you want by streaming it from the cloud. There is also an option to choose and download your music to your device, in case you won’t have a network connection where you go (on flights for example).
File Managers: As for the built-in storage, there are a lot of ‘files manager’ apps on the Play store. My favorite two are the free ES File Explorer and the new Solid Explorer which costs $2. While both of them do a great job, Solid Explorer has two independent panels for browsing your files which gives you a nice new file browsing experience for your tablet.
In addition, Both of them are also cloud storage clients for Dropbox and Google Drive so you can save photos, videos, and other files to your internet drives and share them with others.
Every Android tablet comes with a built-in video player, however, most of those built-in apps are very simple and lack of functions. Much better video players are available on the Play store but in my opinion Super Video, Floating & Popup is the best one for tablets use. It has a pop-up floating window that can show the video on the top of your screen. In other words, you can watch your video content while you work on other applications. You can re-size and move the windows, use two multi-windows play-back and it also supports subtitles.
There are a few ways to view and edit documents on your tablet: Using Google Drive which is my favorite or using other mobile office apps on the Play store such as OfficeSuite Pro (paid) and Kingsoft Office (free).
I already mentioned Google Drive as a storage solution but it also has the ability to edit any document stored on it and you can also upload any office file and than edit it. Furthermore, You can also share a doc with others and than work on it together.
There are a few file types though which Google Drive wont let you edit so you might want to try the Kingsoft Office in that case. You can also use it to edit docs on your Google Drive or Dropbox storage.
Printing from your tablet
There are a few options to print from your tablet, which is depends on the printer you have. You can print using ‘Google Cloud Print’ strait from Google Drive or by using an app such as Cloud Print (free) for printing files from your built-in storage. In order to do this you will need to configure your PC by following this guide: http://www.google.com/landing/cloudprint/. In case you have a Cloud Print ready printer (Epson, Kodak etc) or HP E-Print enabled printer you don’t even need your PC to be on, for other printers you’ll need a computer to be connected to the printer and the web. Unfortunately, this wasn’t good enough for me as my printer is a bit old, therefore I searched and found PrintHand and PrinterShare which solved all my print problems. Both of them have the options to print directly via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB without a PC. Furthermore, I can also print to Mac or Windows shared printers, Workgroup, Domain and Active Directory.
Other useful apps for tablets
Clipper – Clipboard Manager
With this app you won’t have to worry about losing your clipboard’s contents: Clipper automatically remembers everything that you’ve copied.
Usually you can paste only the last thing you copied but Clipper saves the last 20 things you copied to the clipboard and you can easily access them from the notification bar.
For me, A clipboard manager is a must have for my PC and I use it almost everyday so I was really happy to find this app when I started working on my tablet. I wrote more about Clipper here.
Splashtop 2 – Remote Desktop
If after reading this post you still feel you need your PC for some reason ;-) with this cool app you can remote control your Windows, Mac, or Ubuntu from your Android tablet, anywhere, anytime! You can access to ALL your applications and documents on your computer over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. It’s like having a computer on your Android tablet!
Do you have more tips for making it easier to move from a PC to tablet? Please share them below and I’ll add it to the post.