So many cheap #Android tablets to choose from but which one is right for you? Buying guide

With so many Android tablets for sale, and some very cheap indeed, it can seem confusing about how to compare them. This should help. One way to understand the difference is that if price is not a factor for you I recommend you get something from the top of the range, from a good manufacturer such as Samsung. If I were doing that I would choose one with an SPen (more about that later). If you want a cheap tablet, thought a top of the range tablet should have all of features currently available, a cheap tablet will only have some of them, or out of date ones – that is how they can produce them so cheaply. So if you know you will only use it for certain things you can save cash by getting one that is perfect for you without paying for features that are unimportant to you. The problem for this sort of buyer is knowing what the different features are and how they fit with the buyer’s needs.

First we look at features. If you want to buy a cheap tablet will have to choose from some of the following. A cheap one will not have all:

High resolution screen – often referred to as HD (High Definition). This means the dots (properly called pixels) that make up the picture will be extremely fine which is great if you want to use it for watching TV or movies. Many cheap tablets have inferior screens, but not a problem if you are only going to check Facebook, do a bit of internet browsing, write documents and check emails.

Screen size. 7 inch has become a popular size. Too large and, though it may suit you, many find the larger size more a bit of luggage to carry about than a compact tool. The 7 inch is good to hold for long periods if you are using yours as an ereader. Many android tablets have 10 inch screens. Before choosing you need to have an idea what you will use your tablet for.

Internal memory. This is so you can load lots of applications, or ‘apps’. If you intend to use your tablet for very few things you may get away (at time of writing this) with a memory of 8GB but it would struggle to work with many apps and not many of the up to date ones. At time of writing 16GB is an okay minimum.

Memory expansion. This is the ability to add a memory card such as the small micro SD. Some people want this as they can load on even more apps (as many of them can work from an SD card instead of loading them onto the tablet’s memory), and can store lots of music and photos. Some people are not too bothered if they have most of their stuff in the ‘cloud’.

Webcam. This is a camera that faces you as you look at the screen. This is so you can talk to people and see them at the same time when using Google Hangouts or Skype. If you know you don’t need it you can save by getting tablet without one. The Nook HD is without one.

Camera. By this I mean a camera on the back. You will probably have seen people using their table or ipad as a camera. Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as a useless feature if you do not intend to use it that way, a camera is an important feature for business use at it allows the tablet to be used as a scanner to scan and either store, or email, documents. The Google Nexus doesn’t have this feature.

Charging socket. Yes they all have one, but is it a type unique to this manufacturer? Most use the micro USB format which is the same as most mobile phones. Good if you travel. It means you only need to take one charger, and is more likely to be compatible when you want to borrow a charger from a friend or charge in a car. This is worth checking on the specification list.

HDMI socket. This is so the tablet can by connected to a TV with an HDMI cable for listening to music, showing off your photos and videos, or watching movies you have downloaded. An HDMI connection also allows the tablet to be connected to a computer monitor, and with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard can be used as a desktop computer.

Bluetooth. A type of wireless connectivity so you can connect it to host of possible devices such as cordless headphones, computer or music keyboards, etc. 3G. Most tablets are for use with WiFi on your computer router at home or out and about at work or when you find a hotspot. Some tablets can also take a mobile phone SIM card which means you have mobile internet even without being near a WiFi point. Sounds good? It is for some people, but think about this before buying. You would need a SIM card in addition to the one in your phone, and you either end up paying for an additional contract or you get a pay as you go one which still costs you. If you already have a decent mobile phone with a data allowance on it you can wirelessly connect your tablet to your phone and get the same 3G feature that way. It is called ‘tethering’. My mobile provider called me the other day offering me a deal on an out of date, but cheap, tablet so they could sell me a second SIM to use in it. I would get a better deal paying the same price for a better quality tablet without 3G, add a greater data allowance to my phone SIM, and then tether the table to my phone. Your choice – it is all about knowing your lifestyle and how you would use your tablet.

Processor. This is the ‘brain’ of the tablet computer that does all the work. Some cheap tablets use old, slow processors. Some adverts even avoid telling you the speed of the processor in their specs. Top of the range processors are combinations of more than one. Dual-core means two processors are harnessed together, that work together at the same time, which increases the speed of everything such as when you move from one app to another. Quad-core is four processors working together such as on the Google Nexus. The speed of the processor is measured in a number of Ghz such as 1.3Ghz or 1.5Ghz. Before you buy a cheap tablet compare the Ghz number in the advert with what is currently in the top of the range tablets. At the time of writing I think 1Ghz single-core is probably going to work at its limit to cope with up to date apps.

Headphone socket. For when you want to want a movie or listen to music or an audio book, etc without disturbing other people.

Speakers. Many tablets, including top of the range ones, do not have great speakers. That is because they are intended to be used either with earphones or external speakers.

Removable battery. A well used battery can start to lose a few hours of its staying power after a while. If you travel a lot you may like to carry a spare battery to swap over when needed. Many tablets have sealed backs preventing access to the battery. If your tablet has a removable/replaceable battery it is advisable to buy your spares before it becomes obsolete. Put the model and battery details into Ebay and see what you can find.

Exceptions Nearly all Android tablets can get their apps from the Google store. A huge number of them are available and many of them are free of charge. However there are exceptions on some tablets.

  • Amazon tablet. Like Apple, they want you to use only what you can get from their store, so their tablet has limitations. If you want to use a tablet like a colour Kindle you can add the Kindle app to an ordinary Android tablet from the Google store. I am not sure why anyone would like to live with limitations of the Amazon tablet.
  • Nook by the huge USA book shop, Barnes and Noble. These tablets were a little like the Amazon one in that they were tailored to what the store provided and with similar restrictions This has now changes as the Nook can now install the Google Store app which gives access installing all the ordinary Android apps.
  • Unbranded Chinese tablets. Some, but very few of these, which are available to buy on the internet do not have access to the Google store. I wouldn’t bother with any that can not access the Google store.

The SPen All tablets are designed to be used by swiping or touching with a finger. There are pens available quite cheaply that have a fat, soft, tip that can be used for handwriting. I don’t know why, but I tend to see ipad users with them?! Some of the top of the range Samsung tablets come with a pen that slides into a slot when not in use. They call it an SPen and has a fine point so it can be used with great accuracy. It has a button on the side of it that, when pressed, gives the pen extra powers. It is the same SPen that comes with their Galaxy Note mobile phone. Some apps are designed to work best with an SPen.

In my opinion, if you have the dosh, a tablet with an SPen is the finest option, and the Samsung 8 with quad-core is currently the winner.

How to adjust line spacing in Evernote is easy when you know how

It seems this is something that has annoyed many people and a question many people have been asking on the web.

The problem is that you can paste some text in and all seems okay but at another time you add another bit of text, again by pasting, and this time it all goes in at 1.5 line spacing!


Highlight the portion of text you want to change then press BOTH TOGETHER the control key and the 1 key. It will all revert that portion to single line spacing.

A cheerful story of a Roberts radio and Blackwell & Denton in York

It was a lovely looking retro style red Roberts radio. I got it at a boot sale for a bargain price. It served me well but it developed a fault. It started to go silent after being on for a while. Panel was still lit up but no sound!

As they are expensive – and wonderful, I decided it would be worth finding out if it could be repaired. But where to go? I have always found the service at Blackwell & Denton in the centre of York to be excellent so off I went.

David, the friendly chap at B&D announced that Roberts were an excellent company with a great customer service and they would sort my radio for a set repair fee. He showed me one that had just been returned from them. Roberts had replaced the whole top of the radio that had been damaged.

I delivered my treasure and waited.

David called me on Saturday to tell me that Roberts had decided not to repair my radio. They had decided to replace my radio with a brand new one. It was even the more recent model! The photo has given it a purple tinge, it is not, it is deep red.

I already loved Roberts radios but now… well… what can I say?

A big thank you to Roberts and to Blackwell & Denton.

Lightweight folded plastic tricycle camper with bath and shower included. Extreme large scale #origami

The tiny tricycle mounted house is the creation of the people at

It is made from lightweight plastic that has been cut with a CNC router, scored, folded and welded into shape. The polypropylene plastic bodywork can expand like an accordion to create more space, and connect to other houses. The translucent plastic allows the interior to be lit by the sun during the day or street lamps at night.

Camper van or festival luxury? Inside the panels fold out to create a cosy place with two bunks and a little bath.

I like this. Perhaps I should suggest one to my wife as the next holiday solution. Perhaps not! See the YouTube for more:

Mega is great. 50gb of FREE cloud storage without the USA snooping in all my stuff

Not that I have anything to hide, because I don’t, I just don’t like the invasion of privacy.

On their website MEGA quotes Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference.”

Lifted from the MEGA website:

We are a dedicated group of technologists who were given the time, opportunity and Internet access to build an awesome cloud storage service that will help protect your privacy. We have programmed this Internet service from scratch in Auckland, New Zealand. Unlike most of our competitors, we use a state of the art browser based encryption technology where you, not us, control the keys.

MEGA is Cloud Storage with Powerful Always-On Privacy
MEGA provides robust cloud storage with convenient and powerful always-on privacy. MEGA believes in your right to privacy and provides you with the technology tools to protect it. We call it User Controlled Encryption, or UCE, and it happens automatically.

For MEGA, privacy does not mean flouting copyright law:

“We respect the copyright of others and require that users of our services comply with the laws of copyright. You are strictly prohibited from using our services to infringe copyright. You may not upload, download, store, share, display, stream, distribute, e-mail, link to, transmit or otherwise make available any files, data, or content that infringes any copyright or other proprietary rights of any person or entity…”

Bitcasa were recently promoting unlimited cloud storage but I found their web interface very slow – and they are not cheap!

For the extreme geek, read the explanation of their encryption.

gscan2pdf paper geometry on Fujitsu S1500 in Linux

I have been in the process of going paperless now that I have a bulk scanner, a Fujitsu S1500 (a great Ebay bargain). What a difference it has been making to my life. I have got rid of lots of paper archives and uploaded to the cloud. One document of 90 pages went through in a flash and is now uploaded to my Evernote. An old book of prayers (out of copyright) was pulled apart and is now uploaded.

I am very pleased with the Fujitsu S1500. I did download the Windows software to use on a Windows machine I have access to but as I usually work in Ubuntu I have ended up just using it in my favourite operating system. It performs very well in Linux using the gscan2pdf interface which is already part of the Ubuntu repository.

A simple problem I had was telling the scanner what paper size I was using when in gscan2pdf. I looked for answers on the web but found nothing very clear so I figured it out myself. This is my offering for anyone else who had been puzzled and is still looking for the answer.

In the picture below I have entered the numbers for an A4 sheet. Whatever odd size you want to scan, you simply measure it in millimetres and add those measurements to the bottom two fields where it says page width and page height.

You then need to add a second lot of measurements that will be only slightly less than the page width and page height. Bottom-right x is the width and bottom-right y is the height.  An easy way is to put in something in less, then using the up arrow the correct number will be chosen for you. For the example below, with a page width of 209.97 (width of an A4 page) you put in the ‘bottom-right x’ field the number 209.00 then click on the up arrow (which is to the right of the field) and the maximum number available will be chosen automatically. You then do something similar with the ‘bottom-right y’ field