In The Desert
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New, Larger, GPS
After a lot of investigation into these tablets with the invaluable help of two people from the Internet, Perry Marchant, who got us thinking about them in the first place and gave us some links to look into, and James Seto who has, and still does, use them for off-road adventures and races in the desert. James owns 5 tablets and 3 smart phones so he has a lot of experience with them and has helped us immensely with photos, information and links. All of which you might want to read and view yourself. It is certainly interesting if you are going to buy or already own a Tablet.
One year ago we wouldn't have given this a second thought, but technology advances at a very rapid rate. These tablets may end up as the downfall of the GPS unit as we know it today. People have been using their phones for GPS's but let's face it phone screens aren't any bigger than the GPS units, But now we have tablets. The wonderful world of electronics.
We had a lot of questions when we started to look into this, here's what we found. The current systems are great, get a tablet with Wi-Fi and a GPS chip to download maps, and all the other things you can do with a tablet that you can't do with a GPS. So if they come out with new tablets, great, that's the time to get a deal on the last generation of tablet. Android version 4 Jelly Bean works great. Okay which tablet do you want, or need?
We've only slightly limited our choice by not considering an Apple product. Why, because a lot of the Map Apps are not available for them, typical Mac. But you do have a lot of choices with an Android product. Here's a partial list.
Google Nexus - 7 & 10 inch tablets, wtih 16 or 32 gigs of memory (not upgradable)
Samsung tablets 7 & 10 inch Galaxy Tab 2 (upgradable, up to 32 gigs more memory)
Motorola Xoom10 inch (upgradable memory, yes)
Asus infinity TF700 with a higher resolution screen (upgradable memory, yes)
Besides the above tablet manufacturers you'll find a lot more made in China tablets on the market, some are inexpensive and work fine, others will not be accepted by the Google Play Store which is a deal breaker, more on this below. Also you must make sure that the unit you buy has a GPS chip to work with the maps. The above listed tablets do.
There are a few things we found out about the manufacturers. Google has the most complete set of Apps in their Play Store and they have the best support and upgrades for the tablets. However at this point you cannot add memory to a Nexus tablet, which might just be a deal breaker if you plan on using this tablet for a lot of different things, at least get a Nexus with 32 gigs of memory. Next would be the Samsung, which is highly recommended because you can add an SD card to upgrade memory. All these units have dual and quad core processors that run in the 1 GHz range and I doubt if you could tell the difference when using them. Screen resolution is another factor, The Apple iPad has a retina display (high resolution) but the Asus listed above has an even higher resolution, if that's what you're looking for. The choice is yours.
So why not get a GPS with a bigger screen? For one thing, cost, not all but some of the big screen GPS units are very expensive and with an Android device you can have a 10 inch (diagonal) screen with all kinds of maps available and you can still upload and download .gpx tracks to the unit and you can access the Internet, Email, and more with the Wi-Fi. Most race drivers are still using the Lowrance GlobalMap Baja 540 C because it uses buttons and not a touch screen, which could play havock with a navigator on a race course. But just for off-road use if you want a really big screen get a tablet. And the cost can be as inexpensive as $200. Unless you're a race car driver a tablet may be just the thing. Of course there are always optional accessories. At least these are inexpensive too. We have a page for accessories with links, but here's one that any off-roader will find very useful. Anti-glare matt covers.
Using a tablet in direct sunlight is not going to work, but then that doesn't work with a GPS either. But with a tablet you do have an easy helpful fix that's also very inexpensive. Just one of the many accessories we've looked at and listed here for your convenience. HERE is a link James supplied for a anti-glare matte cover for a Nexus 7 or search Ebay using the key words "anti glare matte" and the brand of the tablet.
An example of what an anti-glare cover will do for glare. Screen on the left has the cover, right one does not, Photo courtesy of James Seto.
Accessories - Here's one example of a a stick on cover that might be an accessory you'll need in the desert..
Left - Tablet indoors.
Photos below courtesy of James Seto.
Right - Tablet outdoors in direct sunlight.
Google's Nexus 7 tablet
All LCD screens are hard to see in the direct sunlight. It's a good thing we're using our tablets in a vehicle. The Anti-glare matte covers will help make them more visible in a vehicle. Thanks James for the examples.
Accessories Ones you may need?
Maps Which one is right for you?