On this recent weekend trip up to Penang, I carried with me 2 very important piece of equipment to stay connected to the internet – one was the Google Nexus 7, graciously loaned to me by the good folk of Google to test run on my trip, as well as the Wi-Ho!, a portable wi-fi device that I had tested in Singapore earlier but not overseas.
Here are some thoughts on how good these devices are for travellers. Don’t expect super technical blahblah because I am just not that sort of person, but more thoughts of a general layperson using these gadgets on her own travels.
GOOGLE NEXUS 7
Compact for travel ease, but big enough to delight
I’d road tested the Microsoft Surface RT last year and loved the compact size and ease of portability, and quite frankly was prepared not to like the ‘odd sized’ 7″ Google tablet which seemed to me neither big enough as a tablet nor compact enough as a phone, but I have to say it’s a surprisingly good size for travelling, and I might be a new convert.
The width is easy for me to hold one handed quite comfortably, yet not too heavy that I need to put it down because my wrist aches. It’s slim and takes up less space than larger tablets, fitting quite comfortably into my smaller sling bags without adding too much weight and it was easy to fish out when I needed.
I especially love being able to see everything much more clearly – I’d gotten use to the small screen of my iPhone 5s, so suddenly being able to see my instagram photos on this 1920×1200px screen in such clarity was a bit of a revelation. Everything looked very sharp on the screen, which made everything from watching videos, surfing websites and just posting on social media a much better experience.
Android OS is surprisingly easy to adapt to
I’m generally an apple user, with a Macbook Pro and iPhone 5s, and I’ve used PCs and Microsoft at various points in my life, but I’ve never quite been a Google person other than with my email, so I was a little worried about whether I could adapt to using this new interface.
Naturally, you need a Google login to start off the entire set-up, and after that it was fairly easy to navigate. I’m not sure how much I like that there’s no visible home button because now it’s impossible for me to figure out up from down, but I guess you won’t face the problem of it spoiling like Apple’s tend to. I do however like that there’s an easy button to access and close all the open apps, and a universal back button to make switching between windows easier.
I also liked that besides being able to display apps, you had the choice to display widgets, and I had the clock displayed quite prominently on mine. I also had the widgets that I used quite frequently, like Evernote and my various mailboxes. The size definitely was a bit more encouraging for writing on the go, as is the keyboard where you can ‘type’ out common words by dragging your finger through the various keys (sue me, I’m easily impressed!)
One thing I also found was that when it comes to detecting wireless networks, Apple is really quite dismal. Standing at the same spot, the Android could show up to 10+ networks within range while the Apple showed… 2.
The camera is so-so, nothing particularly impressive. I personally don’t like carrying around such a large device to snap quick shots as it’s obtrusive and not something you can do easily, but this review did a comparison with Apple and the previous Nexus 7 edition and well… the camera doesn’t seem very great!
Definitely a contender in my current decision to get a more travel-friendly device that I can use on the go, that’s easy to port around for travels yet large enough to use comfortably! Also useful in everyday life if you’re one of those who likes to work on the go.
Find our more about the Google Nexus specs here.
Thanks to the Hoffman PR folk and Google for loan of the Nexus 7 for review.
Wi-ho! Portable Wi-fi Device
Convenient, speedy and easy to use
But all this wouldn’t have been able to be accomplished without the Wi-Ho! Device as I was using the 16GB wi-fi version of the Nexus. And the Wi-Ho! was an absolute godsend on this trip as the guesthouse’s wi-fi was on the fritz on one of the days during the trip, and we used the device plugged in as A had work emails to attend to and I cleared some blogging and email stuff. It’s nice not having to think about whether we were using up too much data, as you are wont to with limited data plans!
For Malaysia, the Wi-Ho! was connected on DiGi network, and the speeds were pretty decent between the two of us and 3 tethered devices.I don’t usually need to be connected full-time, but I hadn’t done much research this trip, so being able to stay connected without having to find a cafe/hotel to steal some bandwidth off was pretty useful. We used it mostly for quick social media breaks when chilling out during meals or when we needed a map to pinpoint where exactly we were. It’s pretty small and slim, about palm sized so it’s easy to slip into a bag.
Picking up the Wi-Ho! device was also easy – I departed from T2, and only had to make a quick detour down to the Changi Recommends booth on the Arrival floor, sign off on my rental and I was ready to go.No real set-up needed, just selecting the network and connecting via the password printed on the device and we were ready to go!
(Updated Sep 2014: Airport pick up no longer available unfortunately! More on their website)
One thing I noted was that the Wi-Ho! tended to really heat up when in use. I would be carrying it in the side pocket of my bag and I could feel it burning hot inside!
Worked pretty well on the go. It’s convenient, especially with multiple devices and multiple people. Read my original review here.
So, if you’re interested in renting a Wi-Ho!, check out their website here. Here’s a detailed article that I did about what are the best ways to connect to the internet while travelling.
Thanks to Telecom Square Singapore for loan of the Wi-Ho for review