Tablet Computers Archive

Two-screen TV viewing a strong trend

Article

The Future Of TV Is Two Screens, One Held Firmly In Your Hands | Fast Company

My Comments

There is something that is becoming a reality with TV. It is where our TV-viewing sessions are involving two screens – one large screen carrying the main video and one smaller screen that we are holding in our hands.

This has been brought about by the popularity of the tablet, laptop and smartphone which are serving the second-screen role.

Some of us may think it is just for checking email or the activities of our Facebook Friends or Twitter followers. But a fair bit of this activity is to do with the content itself.

For example, one could be using GetGlue, Fango or other TV-related social networks to find out who is watching this show and what others have to say about it. Similarly, one could be checking the show’s Website and looking at other information and commentary that exists there. These are activities that may not work well on the big screen.

Similarly, most big-screen applications cannot support multiple concurrent logins for social-network or similar uses; and they are typically require “pick’n’choose” or “SMS-style” text entry.

In the case of news, a good quote for this is that “the revolution doesn’t have to be televised”. Here, one could be checking other news resources to verify the veracity of a news story, which can be very difficult during election time. This is augmented through comment feeds and Tweet feeds that are set up during news events like the one I participated in during the UK parliamentary inquire in to the News Corporation phone hacking scandal where I was dropping Tweets in to the feed from a Fujitsu laptop that I was reviewing. Similarly the scoreboard apps that I have mentioned about previously could simply work as an always-live scoreboard display during a sporting event and some sports like cricket or racing may benefit from these apps further by displaying supplementary scores like track position or bowling scores.

Of course, the commercials as we know them will be hamstrung by the two-screen viewing experience. This is more so as the traditional goal of eyeballs at the screen during ad breaks is reduced more. Here one could be following up information on the second screen while the ads play on; as well as visiting the kitchen or bathroom or stoking up the log fire. But the information that one could be following up on can relate to what was in the TV program; or it could be to follow up on something that was advertised during that ad break or a previous ad break.

As I have noticed and observed, this concept of two-screen TV is hard to adjust to for some people, especially the older generation who are more interested in focusing directly on the screen. It may be us simply glancing down at that smartphone or tablet so we can know further what is going on with some events.

I see this as becoming an interesting chain of events as we integrate in to an online and highly-interactive media-consumption life.

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Repost–USB Audio in Android Jelly Bean to mean more in the way of accessories

I am reposting this to make sure that the link to the product review is working properly for RSS, email and Facebook subscribers

Article

Gear4 speaker dock supports USB audio for Jelly Bean at Google I/O 2012 (hands-on video) — Engadget

My Comments

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled music system main unit

An iPod-enabled music system that can also benefit from Android’s new USB Audio interface

Apple iOS users have had the advantage of also having a USB single-wire or docking connection between their iOS device and accessory equipment, with the ability to channel the sound data, the control signals and power to their device using the same connection. This has built up the iPod / iPhone accessory market very strongly with the accessories allowing the user to start and stop the music or move between tracks and folders on their iPod or iPhone using the control surface that the accessory provides.

People who used Google Android devices were limited to an analogue or Bluetooth audio link between an amplification device and their smartphone or tablet with support for transport control if the phone was connected via Bluetooth. They typically had to run a separate USB cable if they wanted to supply power to the Android device from that accessory.

Now the latest iteration of the Android platform, known as “Jelly Bean” and version number 4.1, supports USB Audio. This is similar to how a USB speaker system or external sound card can work with most desktop operating systems. It can then allow a large manufacturer base to develop “Android-friendly” audio playback equipment like speakers, Internet radios and hi-fi amplifiers / receivers in a timeframe that allows the device to be “ready-to-market” quickly.

What could be looked at

Communications audio

There are some questions I have about this kind of setup. One is whether the USB Audio functionality in Android Jelly Bean can allow for communications audio as well as audio content from the media player program. This would be of importance with automotive applications where the USB Audio link could be used as an alternative to Bluetooth for hands-free telephony in the car.

Device control

The other issue to look at is exposing the accessory device’s control surface as a control point for the Android device’s communications and media-playback functions. This situation would be of importance for accessory devices which have other audio or video sources like broadcast tuners, optical-disc players or USB Mass-Storage device connection. In the automotive context, it also extends to nearly all car infotainment setups that allow the user to make or take a call using the controls on the dashboard.

Here, it could be feasible for the accessory to control the media player or phone user interface using either the screen on the Android device or using the controls on the accessory. Here, it could allow for “basic” transport control and metadata display on the accessory device while advanced “search and play” can be performed on the Android device. Similarly, call-progress control can be managed using controls on the dashboard with the ability to, when the car is parked, commence a call on the Android device’s touchscreen.

Similarly, MirrorLink or similar techniques culd allow the accessory device to be configured or controlled in an advanced manner using the touchscreen on the Android device. It could come in handy with A/V equipment which may need specific configuration and setup procedures or Blu-Ray players that may expose “second-screen” interactivity functionality on the handset.

Conclusion

At least, Google have integrated commonly-accepted open standards to add functionality to Android in a manner as to rival the established Apple mobile-device platform and stimulate a healthy competitive design environment.

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Android now on par with Apple for tablets–what this could mean for printed-content delivery

Article

As tablet use grows, Android use on par with Apple, report says | Mobile – CNET News

My Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – a 10″ Android business tablet

Over the last year or so, there has been a lot of talk in the newspaper industry about heading to the digital-delivery path, with most newspaper publishers running the idea of offering their mastheads in a digital-delivery form. This has been lately augmented over the past few days of the Fairfax media group announcing their new direction and pushing the idea of a subscription-based digital-delivery arrangement for their two main mastheads, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

When I have heard this kind of talk, the tablet platform that is most often cited and supported for these applications is the Apple iPad. This is because it is seen as the most popular form of tablet computer for this application. But, from the CNET article, it is becoming so that the Android tablet platform is being placed on a par to Apple’s platform, mainly due to Amazon’s Kindle tablets.

I would also find that the Android tablet platform has yielded some capable products like the ASUS Transformer Prime; as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab series and the business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet that I just reviewed. These do appeal to users who “know what they are after”. Similarly, the Android platform has also yielded the 7” coat-pocket-size tablets like the Toshiba ATiSo that I reviewed recently.

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Toshiba Thrive At1So 7″ tablet

What I would like to see more for this platform is that the newspaper publishers work on integrated app-based newspaper readers for this platform rather than focusing the integrated experience to the iPad. Here, the 7” coat-pocket-size Android tablets could allow a user to have a few mastheads in their coat pocket to read on the train or the Transformer Prime could double as an electronic newspaper.

One platform that I am pleased with is the Zinio platform used for distributing magazines. Here, the effort was to deliver the magazine mastheads to a variety of devices ranging from the iPad through the Android tablets to the Windows and Mac desktop platforms, simply by working on a client program for each of the platforms.

Newspapers could look at developing a platform that allows the development of client apps for different device platforms and allow the user to subscribe to multiple mastheads without cluttering up their device with apps. It may either have to go for an app for each publisher or an app that is supported by multiple publishers and works as an online newsstand.

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Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet which is Lenovo’s effort in providing a tablet computer pitched at business users. Some of the design factors that Lenovo used for this unit include a durable housing, a stylus as an alternative to touch control and the supply of security and manageability software.

Lenovo have also taken advantage of Android’s competitive app-store ability to provide an app store of their own so businesses can purchase and control the apps that a tablet can be equipped with.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Price
– reviewed configuration
AUD$639
Screen 10” size LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb
extra-cost 32Gb
SDHC card, USB memory key as storage device
Operating environment Operating system Android 3.1 Honeycomb
Performance Quadrant Benchmark 1542
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Wireless Broadband 3G
Bluetooth 3.0
USB MicroUSB, Standard USB
Audio 3.5mm headset, digital output via mini-HDMI
Video Mini-HDMI

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Lenovo ThinkPad tablet feels heavier to use than most other tablets, more like the first-generation Apple iPad tablet and is similarly thick. But it has a rubberised back which really permits non-slip use, especially if you are likely to be cradling it around your business to show Websites, around home to watch videos personally or around the express train to read ebooks or play Angry Birds.

Display

The touchscreen display is as expected for most of the 10” tablets including the Apple iPad 2, being easy to read in varying light and also very responsive. The only limitation that I would find with this is the glossy display which attracts the fingermarks too easily and is a common issue amongst products of this class.

Audio

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet USB host port

USB host port for connecting memory keys and input devices

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet performed very well with the sound especially when you use it with headphones. The internal speakers don’t yield enough volume for any use except if you are close to the tablet.

Connectivity and Expandability

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet bottom edge connections

ThinkPad dock connection as well as micro-USB, mini-HDMI video output and headset jack

Lenovo has made a desktop dock and a keyboard folio that connects to a special connection port as optional accessories. But this Android-powered ThinkPad Tablet does allow you to connect to a larger variety of devices using industry-standard connectors.

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet SD card and SIM card slot

Slot for SD card slot alongside 3G modem’s SIM card slot

Here, you have a standard USB host port so you can plug in USB memory keys; as well as a standard SD card slot for those camera cards when you want to preview your pictures. External power from its supplied charger, a car charger or an external battery pack is supplied using a micro-USB connector that is commonly used for Android smartphones.

If you needed to use external audio-video equipment, you have a headphone socket and a mini-HDMI socket for this purpose.

Performance

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet was very responsive in many ways. For example the graphics performance lived up to the Tegra norm and it was able to run multiple tasks concurrently without slowing to a crawl.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet with stylus

The ThinkPad Tablet can be controlled with a supplied stylus

I even noticed how the battery performed after watching an episode of “Spiral” (“Engrenages” – a new French crime-drama series that I like watching) through SBS’s on-demand-video Website, then playing a few rounds of the supplied Solitaire game. Here, the battery was half-empty after this run of intense multimedia activity.

Other factors

As expected for business computing equipment, Lenovo have supplied the ThinkPad Tablet with security and manageability software for larger business setups where this tablet is part of a fleet of company-owned tablets. It also comes with remote-desktop software for Citrix-based remote computing environments which would be used in this class of computing environment.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would personally like to see Lenovo provide security, manageability and remote-computing software for the small business owner. This could be in the form of a remote-desktop client that works with the RDP (Windows) protocol as well as low cost remote-servicing tools for IT contractors and business-grade security that is positioned for this class of user.

As well, Lenovo could target the ThinkPad Tablet effectively at the small-business users through their marketing.

Technically, this tablet could be equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 technology so that it can work with sensor devices that use this low-power technology, which could appeal to medical professionals, technicians and similar user classes.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet as a durable “open-frame” tablet-based solution for small businesses, especially anyone who repairs or installs anything.  Here, they could keep PDFs of product / parts catalogues, service manuals, price lists and similar documentation “on hand” and ready to show to the customer; as well as an read-and-quick-reply terminal for email, a camera to take example photos to show the customer amongst other things/

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Product Review–Toshiba AT1S0 7” tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing Toshiba’s Thrive AT1S0 7″ Android tablet, which is also known as an AT150 tablet. This unit is pitched as a “coat-pocket” or “e-book” tablet rather than the the “cradle-around” tablet that the iPad and similar 10″ products are, essentially offering higher performance and capability than a typical “e-book” reader or similar device.

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Price AUD$399
Screen 7” widescreen(1280×800) LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb Micro-SDHC
Operating environment Android 3.02 Honeycomb
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Bluetooth  2.1 + EDR
USB Mini-USB 2.0,
Proprietary Apple-style docking connector
Audio 3.5mm headset jack,
Digital audio via Micro-HDMI
Video Micro-HDMI
Cameras Front 2Mp on short edge
Rear  5Mp

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Toshiba AT1So 7″ tablet is a well-built thick unit with a black-plastic ribbed back, in a similar vein to most of the good-quality 7″ Androiod tablets. It can easily fit in to a coat pocket which improves on this device’s portability credentials.

Display

The LCD display is an easy–to–view unit that has highly responsive graphics. The only letdown about the display here is that it is very glossy and can attract fingerprints easily.

Audio and Video

The AT1S0’s AV subsystem does perform properly even as I was watching video-on-demand content from the SBS Website. As typical for portable devices, the speaker quality leaves a lot to be desired due to the requirement for allowable size in these devices’ design. But, once used with headphones, the Toshiba tablet just performed very well with the audio reproduction.

This tablet, like most of its similarly-priced Android-powered peers, has two cameras – one on the front and one on the back. But if you do want to use Skype or other Android video-conferencing software, you have ot have it in the portrait arrangement for it to work properly.

Connectivity and Expandability

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet connections

Connectivity and expansion options - micro-HDMI socket, mini-USB 2.0 socket, microSDHC card slot

With most Android tablets, there is the ability to expand on these tablets’ function very easily.

There is a microSDHC slot so you can increase useable memory up to 32Gb or use the microSD cards as swappable media. There is a miniUSB socket so you can connect the unit to a computer or transfer data between other devices; or you can use the Toshiba “docking” connector for this same purpose. As well, you can connect the tablet to an external display using a micro-HDMI connector for that big-screen view. These are hidden undar a rubberised plastic strip on the same side of the unit as the volume and on-off buttons.

Performance

It still performs very snappily for most Android devices and has been able to work with online photos and videos very quickly. Even activities like browsing between screens is very quick and smooth.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Toshiba could use the standard micro-USB connector for power and data in addition to the Apple-style docking connectorm so you don’t have to worry about having to use or not lose a special cable for this unit. The docking connector that Toshiba implemented here could be licensed out to all Android and Windows Phone 7 devices as a standard “data/digital-audio/power” connection with docking stations and accessories. This is especially if they have to compete with Apple’s iPad platform when it comes to allowing others to design docking stations and similar accessories for these devices.

They could also deliver this unit with Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” as the standard operating environment, which could take advantage of what this platform has to offer.

Conclusion

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" Tablet I would recommend this tablet more as a highly-portable coat-pocket-sized solution for most tablet-based activities like reference material, video playback while on crowded trains and similar activities.

It could also work with apps that that utilise the screen as a remote control or a remote camera viewfinder if you place emphasis on that 7″ coat-pocket-size form factor.

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The next-generation Apple iPad–how I see it

Articles

Apple’s new iPad: Hands-on | CNet

Apple’s next-gen iPad: New battlefields emerge | ZDNet

Apple unveils new iPad, Apple TV | Digital Life – The Age (Australia)

Apple unveils new iPad with high-definition screen | BBC Technology (UK)

My Comments

Over these last few days, Apple had warmed up the hype machine over their just-released iteration of the iPad. It is to implement a 9.5” very-high-definition “retina” display which allows it to show more detail; as well as the use of the A5X quad-core RISC processor, allowing, for example, the Angry Birds to throw those stones faster and harder at the pigs. This iPad will also be the first Apple iOS product to work with the 4G LTE wireless-broadband networks.

Similarly, Apple had driven down the price of their current-generation iPad 2 range in order to snap at the low-cost tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire. But this price attack is unrealistic due to the Kindle Fire and others offering the 7” screens and pocketable size whereas the iPad is more the larger 10” “satchel-size” variety.

But I see it more as being part of a highly-competitive touchscreen tablet computer marketplace with some powerful Android tablets on the marketplace such as the Asus Transformer Prime; as well as the upcoming appearance of Windows 8 this year with its support for tablet computers.

It will be like the late 80s where there have been three or more GUI-equipped computer platforms appearing on the consumer and business marketplace, offering their different capabilities. In some cases, this included implementing technologies that were considered “cutting edge” for that time. It is also like the way the smartphone market has become with two major competitors appealing to consumers and a few more competitors appealing to business users.

I would see the rest of this year as being a keen-edged time period for tablets and tablet-based apps as the competition heats up and the value factor for these products increases. It would also include whether these tablets will displace the regular computer from its place as one’s primary personal or business computing device as Steve Jobs wished for the Apple iPad platform or simply work as an auxiliary computing device. This includes the ability for these tablets to please the “core” gamers as a gaming system or a screen-equipped controller; or just be useful for casual ad-hoc gaming sessions.

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The idea of the convertible ultrabook becomes real with ASUS

Articles

Asustek to showcase swivel-screen notebook at 2012 Computex | DigiTimes

Un ultrabook convertible chez Asus ? | Le Journal Du Geek (France – French language)

My Comments

A question that many people will be pondering nowadays when they consider a secondary computing device is whether to get a small laptop computer like a netbook or Ultrabook or a tablet computer like the iPad along with an accessory keyboard. There will be the tradeoffs of each platform such as software availability and user-interface requirements.

This will become more so when Windows 8 with its Metro touch user interface being part of the operating system and becoming another full-bore competition to the Apple iOS platform.

But ASUS have answered with an Ultrabook that can bridge between the notebook / laptop and tablet form factors in the cost-effective and power-efficient way that has been required of the Ultrabook. This machine will be the first “convertible” Ultrabook that has the “swivel-head” screen design like what I have experienced with the Fujitsu TH550M convertible notebook.

This will work tightly with the integrated touchscreen interface that Windows 8 provides rather than the previous practice where the manufacturers fabricated their own touch-optimised shell for these computers.

The ASUS convertible Ultrabook could offer a tablet-style user interface for casual computing needs yet have the full proper keyboard that would appeal to us when working on emails or documents; yet it will have the benefits that tablets like the iPad offer like quick start-up and long battery runtimes.

The main question is that whether other manufacturers would make the convertible Ultrabook form factor and make these computers cost-effective and widely available or will they be taken in by just supplying tablets as a distinct touchscreen product class?

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We can sell the Samsung Android tablets in Australia–for now

Article

Samsung tablet ban lifted | The Age IT (Australia)

My Comments

This latest development is part of the patent war taking place concerning mobile devices, with this round of legal action by Apple against Samsung being more of a “patent on style”. Here, the goal of the Apple lawsuit was to prevent the sale of the Samsung Galaxy tablets and smartphones because they were seen as valid competition to the iPhone and iPad and it has been known that Apple aren’t keen on licensing their patent portfolio to others.

Now the Full Federal Court in Australia overturned an injunction prohibiting the sale of the Galaxy Tab series of tablet devices in in that country; as long as the sales were accounted for. But Apple intends to go to the High Court to maintain an injunction against further sale of these devices

While the initial Federal Court injunction was in place, there were attempts to parallel-import the devices in to Australia but these were met with threatening letters from Apple’s legal team. This is even though it was feasible for people to buy or have others buy the Galaxy Tab devices in other countries that don’t have an injunction in place against them, then bringing them in or having them posted or shipped in to Australia.

This case may have the soundings of similar action that Apple took concerning GUIs and the Macintosh, with it being resolved in a more competitive manner thus allowing for a level playing field.

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At last the iPad has a Facebook client app

Articles

The iPad gets a Facebook app, finally | Engadget

The Official Facebook App for iPad Is Finally Here | Gizmodo

Facebook Finally Launches Its Own IPad Application | AllFacebook.com

Facebook unveils iPad app, new mobile platform for developers | SmartCompany (Australia)

From the horse’s mouth

Introducing Facebook For iPad

Download link

iTunes App Store

My Comments

Previously, I posted an article on the idea of creating and implementing desktop and tablet-computer client programs for popular social-network services. Here I raised issues of optimisation for the host’s user interface, integration with local hardware and software resources as well as system performance issues; compared to software-maintenance and interlinking with service-based advertising as drawbacks.

Now Facebook have released an official client for the Apple iPad tablet computer. This client demonstrates the advantages of a client-side app for the iPad; with functionality like an always-visible presence list, proper response to the touch gestures, “to-the-edge” full-screen photo viewing as well as a multi-column view.

They have also answered a call from people who play FarmVille and similar games by offering the ability to play these games on the iPad using this platform’s Facebook client.

Of course time would tell when a port for this client is made available for the other popular tablet platforms like Android Honeycomb or Blackberry Playbook. But I often wonder whether Facebook will even issue a client application for the Windows or Macintosh desktop-computing platforms.

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Tablets–another screen for the TV viewing area

Article

The tablet will be the center of the connected lifestyle — Online Video News

My comments

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerThis article is affirming the idea of using a tablet computer like the Apple iPad or the Acer Iconia Tab in the lounge room as you watch TV. Some people may object to this because of the “too many screens” argument. But of course, you will still look at the big screen for the video content.

Small personal TV

One of the most common TV-related apps for the iPad and tablets of its ilk is as a personal screen for viewing content. This could be in the form of downloading or streaming the content to the tablet device and has been subjected to various legal strangleholds with Hollywood.

But it also has been taken further with broadcast-LAN tuner adaptors which tune in and stream TV content to these tablets once controlled via a special app. As well, the use of DLNA media player software can allow you to view video content held on your home network through these devices.

Remote control for large screen

Another application of interest is for the tablet to work as a remote control for the large-screen TV. Here, this would work with apps delivered by TV and set-top-box manufacturers to the various app stores for the tablet platforms.

It would work hand in glove with programming your PVR, use of interactive-TV applications or even using the interactive functions of a Blu-Ray disc; as well as navigating an increasing array of TV channels.

Of course, I have a doubt about this when it comes to activities where you need instant response. I would like to be sure that you tap MUTE on the tablet and you are sure that the racecaller voice that is part of that commercial isn’t heard the moment you press it for example.

As well some manufacturers may limit this function to their tablets, especially if the tablet is the same brand as the TV in question; usually as a way to reinforce brand loyalty.

Show downloaded content on large screen

In a similar way to the previous “small personal TV” application, a tablet computer can be used to show content on the large television or video projector. This can be through a direct connection from the tablet’s miniHDMI socket or AV-out jack to the TV or by pushing the content to an Apple TV or DLNA network media player.

But wait there’s more:

Internet browsing concurrent with TV viewing

A very common application that I have noticed with smartphones and tablets is to engage in Internet use while watching TV. Examples of this include researching a TV programme on IMDB or a concept that was used in the TV program; using the tablet as a persistent scoreboard during a sports game or updating the Social Web during a TV show. I have expanded on the “persistent scoreboard” application in this site by mentioning an increasing number of “scoreboard apps” that are available for most sports codes and leagues and the role of these apps in enjoying your favourite sports fixtures.

The persistent scoreboard could be an app in itself or simply an always-refreshed Web page; and could remind you of where the players stand in that match you are watching. In some cases, the apps provide access to player / team information as well as on-demand video replays or interactive progress maps. Of course, you could head over to other commentary sources for comments other than what the TV commentators are barking about.

As I have seen, a lot of TV shows are integrating the Social Web very tightly in to their programming fabric. This can be typified with selected Twitter and Facebook comments being read out by the compere or a ticker with Twitter comments crawling across the bottom of the screen. Even news and public-affairs events will have official or unofficial tickers running on Twitter or Facebook as people post up comments on these events using the Social Web.

The tablet computer may work better than the “smart TV” Social-Web apps because the TV usually works with one account at a time and you won’t see the show’s video occupying the screen as you post your comment. One or more tablets (or small computers) can perform this function in an individual manner for individual viewers,

Setup requirements

In most cases, a Wi-Fi connection to the home network and broadband connection is all that is needed if the tablet is just being used at home; and would be necessary for network-media-adaptor use. This could allow you to buy a Wi-Fi-only model if it is to stay primarily at home or not be used with an external wireless-broadband router on the road.

Conclusinon

As I have said, the tablet is now working as a supplementary screen in the TV lounge area rather than just as an ebook reader and email terminal.

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