Touch Tablet Shootout: The Porch and Sunlight Test

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.

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