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Touch Tablet Shootout: The Porch and Sunlight Test

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It’s the 4th of July here in the US and I’m getting ready to head to the great hot, muggy  outdoors for the rest of the day. Actually, I’ve been in the great, hot, muggy outdoors most of the morning as I’ve been on my porch enjoying both the morning and playing around with the iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the HP TouchPad.

It may sound crazy to some, but how the screens read when I’m out on my porch in daylight  is a big consideration for me. My schedule is hectic enough and I don’t get much time to be on the porch, so when I do, I basically live there. So, being able to view the screen in various daylight conditions is a key factor in my enjoyment.

As you can see, (as well as a photograph can show) the screens all offer different levels of viewing. To be honest, the iPad 2 has never been a real problem for me out on the porch. The HP TouchPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 pale a bit in comparison. but when I’m holding those devices instead of having them propped up, the TouchPad comes in second place and the Galaxy Tab a distant third. Keep in mind, that none of these Tablet screens are really designed for outdoor viewing, which I find odd, given how the hype suggests we lug them around everywhere.

A part of the reason the Galaxy Tab comes in last is dark color scheme for what’s displayed at the bottom of the screen. The soft touch control buttons, (Home, back, etc…) and the notifications just don’t read at all when you’re in any kind of outdoor lighting. (It’s a hazy not bright day here today.) Everything is dark gray on black. And that just doesn’t work in bright or even overcast light. Sure, you can adjust screen brightness, but all three Tablets come with auto sensing for screen brightness, and I don’t make an adjustment, preferring to let the OS do the work. The TouchPad is easier to read, although its dark screens cause problems as well, especially the virtual keyboard. But all in all, the TouchPad is easier to manipulate in these conditions.

This to me is a design and usability issue. I know basic black is always cool, but if it inhibits readability, that’s taking cool a bit too far. Do the Google designers ever go outdoors? I have to say here that the iPad’s screen outshines the other two hands down, and it appears that some thought actually went into that consideration.

Other posts in this series:

 

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

15 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    07/04/2011 at 10:45 pm

    Wait until you try the Panasonic Toughbook Android tablet and see what real outdoor viewing is all about.

  2. Anonymous

    07/05/2011 at 1:23 am

    Interesting little article, Warner.
    You see far too little real-world testing on most of the blogs these days.
    A ‘review’ seems to basically constitute a reading of the specs typically.

    Any chance we are going to get to see the lovely Thomasin’s take on a compare/contrast with these three?
    I always enjoy her geek-less take on things.
    Interesting stuff to see it through the eyes of somebody not too enamored with the tech for its own sake.

    • Anonymous

      07/05/2011 at 3:01 am

      alsosavagemike,

      I’m not sure. She’s away most of the summer with a great acting contract. We only see each other about every two weeks until later in the summer. If we can we’ll try to get one going. A Thomasin review that is.

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  5. Anonymous

    07/05/2011 at 6:58 am

    I have an iPad 1 and I don’t find it useable outdoors even in overcast conditions. Anybody know of a good anti-glare screen protector? I have a Power Support Anti-Glare screen protector on my iPhone 4 and that works quite well but they are a bit expensive, though the iPhone, I believe has better outdoor viewing to start with.

  6. Anonymous

    07/05/2011 at 8:43 pm

    thanks for the post – you’re not crazy… that info is important to know about a tablet…. and I agree that the design SHOULD include the idea of reading outside….

  7. Jerry Harper

    07/30/2011 at 4:14 pm

    Outdoor screen performance is definitely a key factor that is commonly overlooked. My son is about to start college in Flagstaff, AZ and intends to spend much of his study time outdoors where he can enjoy the beautiful university campus. I currently have an iPad 2 and a Motorola Xoom that I am testing for work, and I have to agree that the iPad far outperforms the Xoom in bright sunlight. Actually, the Xoom is virtually useless outdoors. Although I would prefer an Android OS tablet for my son, I’m currently leaning toward the iPad 2 simply so he doesn’t feel imprisoned to his dorm room. It’s rare to find teenagers that enjoy the outdoors these days, so I don’t want to jinx my fortune of having an outdoors “kid”.

  8. Zeolite

    02/10/2012 at 1:22 pm

    I just got an android 7″ MID and it is beautiful in low light conditions, but becomes completely washed out in the daylight sun, can’t see a thing. Have you found a good outdoor usable model to show others text documents or a filter to put on it that cuts the glare? Thanks!

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