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I like being able to take my work anywhere with me, but sometimes my laptop is just too big to take with me. Battery life on tablets seem to be much better than laptops as well. Are there any tablets that would be good for writers and editors? Please explain any recommendations. (Any operating system is fine - Android, Windows Mobile, iPad, etc.)

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Related: Is the iPad a convenient medium for writing work? (Pointed out by Dori.) – Neil Fein Feb 29 '12 at 19:35
This is getting a little chatty, but it could also be a good reference; I'd guess that people are interested in writing on tablets quite often. I started a discussion in chat to anyone interested in joining in. – Neil Fein Mar 1 '12 at 18:14
In terms of small size/weight and long battery life, modern Netbooks are basically just as good as tablets. They can run good writing software like scrivener, have physical keyboards (make no mistake, this is much better than any on-screen touch keyboard) and can be significantly cheaper than an iPad. If you're cashed up and want the iPad for other reasons, at least get a flip-open case with built-in external keyboard. – MGOwen Mar 1 '12 at 22:26
I've used full keyboard smartphones for this purpose for the last 7 years or so, and I find them just perfect. True, the screen is a bit small on some models and battery life is nowhere near modern tablets, although if you kill all the wifi/data and turn down brightness it can take you a long while. The advantage of a smartphone is that you don't need an additional device, you would carry your phone with you anyway. Even if you didn't plan to write, you have it with you if the inspiration strikes. In any case, I recommend a physical keyboard (USB if on a tablet) over on-screen touch keyboard. – Tannalein Dec 5 '12 at 7:18
Just to add, I've done 3 years worth of NaNoWriMo using smartphones, that's 3x50000 words, and a whole lot of other writing as well. Windows Mobile Office is excellent. On PalmOS I used Office2Go, which is still alive I believe, and was also excellent. My current setup is Android + Iota text editor + Dropbox. Android also has some great Office apps, like Kingsoft office which is free, but I've found a simple text editor much less cluttered, and it has all I really need for first draft. I don't know about iPhone apps because, since it lacks a hardware keyboard, it was never interesting to me. – Tannalein Dec 5 '12 at 15:41

12 Answers 12

The iPad is pretty good, but I would suggest getting a USB keyboard as well. You can find some nice cases that have the keyboard built in so you can open them up and type. I usually get 10-12 hours on my iPad, though I don't use the blue tooth.

As for laptops, I have a netbook myself, and I can get six hours out of that without much trouble if I set the brightness to low and turn the wi-fi off. You can also get a bigger battery that can take you to ten hours.

The netbook is a good size to travel with, easy enough to stick into a small bag. Same with the iPad, in fact I usually keep both with me when I fly.

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I'd prefer something that has a decent onscreen keyboard. If I wanted to lug around a USB keyboard, I might as well just take my laptop with me. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 18 '11 at 4:11
Airport security won't make you take out the keyboard. – JeffO Mar 18 '11 at 18:54
I use an iPad as well. The onscreen keyboard is not perfect, but as a tech afficcionado (sp?), I am pickier than some. I haven't seen any better on other touchscreens though. I think it's just a limitation of the medium, honestly. Wait for the iPad 3, though. I'm sure it'll be worth the few weeks or so wait given Apple's history. :) – Gabe Willard Feb 29 '12 at 20:22
@RalphGallagher: If you haven't used an on-screen keyboard for long periods, it's likely that you're severely underestimating the benefit of good tactile feedback that a proper keyboard provides, even a crap one, and even if you can't touch type. – naught101 Jul 27 '12 at 5:35
One simple conclusion: whatever you pick, an on-screen keyboard is a no-no for any serious writing. Even something like a Psion PDA ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_Revo ) is be better than the best on-screen keyboard. (and yes, I did some writing with that antique found in some garage sale. No, I'm not recommending it, just giving you a clue of the size of the gap - how bad is still better than on-screen.) – SF. Dec 7 '12 at 22:17

Not a tablet, but a mini notebook sounds like it meets your size and battery life requirements. I have a Toshiba NB 205. 10" screen, less than 3 pounds with 7 hour battery life. Windows 7. Powerful enough to run Office, but I choose not to. I carry it in a backpack on the train daily.

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Netbooks that are much lighter than that are pretty common too, although perhaps with a shorter battery life. – naught101 Jul 27 '12 at 5:37
Definitely netbooks, and unlike with tablets you can get expanded batteries for most models so battery life becomes non-issue. I can't imagine writing anything serious on a touchscreen. Meanwhile, I did a considerable amount of writing with a netbook while on a bus, on a park bench or just sitting on the grass somewhere out there. – SF. Dec 7 '12 at 22:07

The enTourage eDGe looks like an amazing tablet for writers and editors. It opens like a book and on the left is an ereader with an e-ink screen and on the right is an Android powered tablet. The EE can be folded completely back so that only one screen is visible. The e-ink reader side also lets you use a stylus to write on the document you have open.

My Editor-in-Chief has one and she says it's amazing for both writers and editors.

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Unfortunately, it's no longer made. :( Changed your URL to point at the Wikipedia article, since the eDGe site is now down. – Neil Fein Feb 29 '12 at 2:02
That is unfortunate. This product sounds incredible. – Standback Feb 29 '12 at 5:29

The iPad is fabulous. I have written a 120,000 word novel on one. Buy the little Apple keyboard. All highly portable. You can save your files on Dropbox and your writing is accessible anywhere, or email each chapter to yourself. I used the Apple programme Pages. It works well.

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Just writing, no bells, whistles, games, internet?

HP LX200 (it's a clamshell XT). Load it with WORD 5 for DOS or VDE editor, better yet with a few nifty editing Macros and you can beat the crap out of any Tablet (Mac or Android)... even though it's antiquated and superannuated.

Or go back to the PSION 5MX (but with a fixed up third party flat cable). Marvelous little clamshell.

Tablets are NOT for writers/editors. There's no DEL (or CANC). You can't create simple editing Macros.

I went to a Tablet store taking my 1992 HP LX200 - DOS!! with absurdly slow XT engine (the stone age!) and CHALLENGED them to do better / faster, promising them to pay twice the price on any modern handheld gizmo that could do better in terms of ease, speed on a simple paragraph translation.

Sure, no Angry Birds, no flying in formation with a friend in Singapore, no Internet... I'm talking just about writing / editing work. First draft stuff . WORK.

They stopped snickering when I beat the pants off them...

They got upset and figured I was a crank. But on the same text, they were still poking their fingers on the screen and highlight with their index fingers, while I used the rich editing features of old WORD 5 for DOS to do the same things at blazing speed. I shouted: "Done!" and they were still pecking and poking...

Sure, I have a tablet (HTC Flyer) and I love it to pieces, but when I'm in a hurry and I don't want to be chained to a real computer with a real and proper keyboard (still the fastest way to go), my ancient hardware / software is at least 8 times more productive than Ipad or Android.

This ticks me off, because I'd love to bury the old machine... but there's nothing modern in the handheld - walking-and-typing that comes close...

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If you want a Windows option, HP and Dell both have great tablets. HP's tm2 (shopping link) and Dell's Inspiron duo (shopping link) are good, consumer-focused models.

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I'm thinking more for a real tablet, not a laptop that can fold into a tablet. (I actually have one of those, the HP tx 2000) – Ralph Gallagher Mar 18 '11 at 16:07
Then I would definitely go with an iPad. The Motorola Xoom looks promising, but Android 3.0 is nowhere near polished enough, nor will applications be ready to take advantage of it. – Tyler K. Mar 19 '11 at 2:32
I'm debating on the iPad. I don't like Apple's dictatorship over the programs you can use on it. I do like how the Android Market gives you a lot more apps to choose from. I'm hopeful for the new tablets that are coming out on Android. I'm also curious about the ones using Windows Mobile. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 19 '11 at 2:56
If money is no object, try jailbreaking. I did it to my (Android) phone, and although the performance suffered (older phone running 2.1 doesn't mix), the phone itself is much more usable. Just a thought. – Tyler K. Mar 19 '11 at 4:46
If you're brave, with Android the possibilities are endless. I have rooted (unlocked) all of my Android devices and swapped out the stock operating systems. You would be amazed at the performance boost you can get when you remove all the junk and optimize battery performance. – Steve the Maker Feb 28 '12 at 22:04

If you're only concerned about the writing and battery life and not other tablety stuff, and you don't mind hacking it a bit, some folks on XDA Developers recently got a Nook Touch to support a USB keyboard. I plan on investing in one of these myself soon, since the eInk screen should be easier on my eyes than a regular monitor.

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I'm a big fan of the Asus line of devices. Touch typing is getting much better and their accessories are right on par with Apple devices in my opinion -except cheaper. The iPad still probably sets the bar as far as user experience goes, but the ASUS Transformer Prime is a very strong competitor -that would be my current recommendation.

Here's a CNet review: http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/asus-eee-pad-transformer/4505-3126_7-35089447.html

As with all consumer electronics, the longer you wait, the better your device will be for your money. That said, this might be a good time to wait a bit longer. Quad-core devices with a ton of upgrade potential should be hitting the market soon. Additionally, if you decide you really want to go Apple but price is an issue, wait for the iPad 3 and grab a used iPad 2 while people are in upgrade mode.

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I own a 64 GB Transformer Prime and I love it! I'll never own a laptop again. It's an excellent device for screen typing and it is the fastest Android device that I've used. It is a bit expensive, but the investment to productivity and portability is well worth it for me. The number of alternative keyboards available is also a big plus. I prefer Swype personally, but there are many to choose from.

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As per the question, please explain your recommendation - particularly how it relates to writing and editing. Thanks! – Standback Feb 28 '12 at 22:32
Is that satisfactory? – fireBreathingTroll Feb 28 '12 at 22:39
Great :) Thanks! – Standback Feb 28 '12 at 22:41
Do you use Swype for writing emails or novels? I have it on my Android, and it's great for short notes but find that a keyboard is far better for anything longer. – Neil Fein Feb 29 '12 at 2:00

I found that the iPad was not really a good tool for writing, or getting ideas out...at first. While I know this thread is fairly old, due to sheer use, i found myself using the iPad with an iPad keyboard case more and more for writing. I think that the more you use something, the better off you are with it. Furthermore, I feel that with Secunia for the iPad and this case, I have been able to pump out some of my best ideas....fast..

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I moved to a Macbook Air. I know it's not a tablet, but for lots of writing, I didn't like the iPad and if I'm carrying the keyboard as well, why not the Air? It's about the same size as my iPad 1, and there are some great writing apps for OSX. I also use DropBox and Evernote to sync notes/drafts back with a home computer to keep a second copy in case I have issues on the road.

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I would vote up other votes instead of writing my own answer, but since I'm still new to this site, I can't do that yet. I vouch for the Asus line as well. I'm currently writing this post using my Asus Transformer Tablet. The Prime is the newer model and has some better specs. (I have the older model).

When you look at getting the tablet with the keyboard dock (definitely recommended), it still comes out cheaper than the iPad and other tablets on the market. I find it's easy to carry around and has a very good battery life. With the keyboard dock, it is advertised to have 16 hrs of battery. About 8 hours without the keyboard dock. I've taken this tablet with me on trips and used it to write storires and brainstorm ideas.

Now I'm just looking for apps that will help with that as well. It runs Android Ice Cream sandwich, which is the newest OS for Android. The flexibility of a touchscreen and keyboard brings a new experience altogether. Rather than relying on a mouse/touchpad, I can just tap the screen if I want to edit a specific paragraph. Or scrolling up to read what I wrote before, I can just use finger gestures.

I still personally would prefer a laptop for heavy duty writing, but for being out and about, I would recommend the Asus Transformer line.

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