The thing is, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading lately. Much of my reading has been concerned with going through RSS feeds looking for articles on subjects that interest me, or that I might cover for TeleRead. And while I’ve been able to do that on my Nexus 6 smartphone on account of having it in my pocket most places, lately I haven’t been out to that many places on account of keeping expenses down while I look for a new job. And I find it’s simplest to do a lot of that reading in bed.
So my choice for bedtime RSS reading has been—the Teclast Kindow hybrid Android/Windows tablet I reviewed for TeleRead a few weeks back. I honestly didn’t expect that—it runs an older version of Android, after all, and its battery life is crazy short. But the Android RSS app I use, Press, runs just fine on it, and I only need it for short periods at a time—the rest of the time I can plug it back in and let it charge up for the next time.
I think the main reason I prefer to use it for bedtime reading tasks rather than my Nexus 7 or Fire tablet comes down to the screen shape. Most small name-brand Android tablets and phones these days are optimized for viewing video media, which generally means 1.78:1 widescreen. Hence, when reading in portrait mode, the screen is downright skinny. Not that this hampers legibility—we’ve been reading narrow columns in magazines for decades, after all—but I think that when you’re used to a wider page shape, the narrower one just has a feeling of wrongness on a subconscious level.
Of course, for wider screen shape, I could go with my iPad Mini 2 instead—it’s got almost exactly the same size and shape as the Kindow, better battery life, and a higher-resolution Retina Display to boot. But the Kindow’s screen looks good enough to me, and the iPad doesn’t have the Android apps I prefer to use; even the new iteration of Reeder, the RSS reader I used to use back in my iPod Touch days, feels awkward and unwieldy after having gotten used to Press on Android. And if I should decide I want to check my email or dash off a quick message to someone in Hangouts while I’m reading, the differences in how the apps work and the problems I have with Apple’s on-screen keyboards make that annoying. (I wonder what it would be like using a Pixel C in bed, though?) Another important factor for reading in bed is that Android devices run the blue-light-reducing app Twilight, which is a lot more adjustable than iOS’s “Night Shift” mode.
But what about reading e-books? Off and on, I’ve been trying to work my way through a Kindle e-book about the history of the Internet, and have largely been doing that on my Kindle Paperwhite because it has a great screen for reading and fewer distractions.
But I could see using either the Kindow or the iPad for reading on a larger display, with a wide-page form factor. I’ve never had the sort of eyestrain troubles with LCD some readers find, and the Kindle e-reading app is available to sync my reading location across all three. And for reading generic EPUB, they’ve all got good enough displays and good enough e-reading applications that I could be comfortable on any of them—Marvin for iOS, Freda for the Kindow’s seldom-used Windows 10 partition, and Google Play Books, eReader Prestigio, or a whole host of others for Android.
Before using the Kindow and iPad, I honestly wouldn’t have expected my e-reader preference would come down to screen size and shape. If you’d asked me, I would have pooh-poohed the idea that a phone or tablet with the narrow-portrait form factor might not be as good an e-reader. Words wrap, don’t they?
My Nexus 6 has the highest-resolution screen of any device, mobile or desktop, that I own, so you’d think it would be my best overall choice. But resolution isn’t everything. After using these wider tablets for a while, I’m simply struck by how much more natural it feels to read a page in this shape—whether that’s of an RSS feed and news articles, or an e-book.
What about you? If given the choice between different devices, would screen form factor be a major issue in your decision? And have you had experience reading from those different form factors to help you make up your mind?