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I’m off on holiday today, and intend to do a bit of reading. This is all very well, especially when it comes to my handful of print books that I want to catch up with.

The problem comes in the shape of my digital media. I’ve a fair few titles in Kindle, which I can read across a number of devices. But which one is the most comfortable for reading?

Up for contention for space in my suitcase are my iPad (first generation) and my Acer Iconia W700 Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Slimline, sleek, sexy and silver - but you can’t have everything. The Acer Iconia W7 is a Windows 8 tablet priced between $799 and $999 (depending on the chosen model) that looks as though it... Read More . Although I can read on my Windows Phone (a Nokia Lumia 920 Nokia Lumia 920 Review & Giveaway Nokia Lumia 920 Review & Giveaway A couple of weeks ago, Nokia introduced two new devices to the world: the Nokia Lumia 925 and the Nokia Lumia 928. The top notch of Windows Phone 8 devices, these two smartphones will only... Read More ) it isn’t ideal for long periods of sitting in sunshine (rather, it is better for quickly catching up in queues or on the bus).

The two devices are both similar and different. Most importantly, both are tablets.

Each features an operating system that is the first real attempt by the respective developers to offer a touch-focussed experience beyond the confines of a smartphone. On the other hand, the Core i3 processor of the Acer massively outranks the 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8, while the newer device’s 11.6-inch Full HD 1920 x 1080 display with 16:9 aspect ratio is clearly a different animal to the iPad’s 10 inch, 1024 × 768 px with 4:3 aspect ratio.

While both devices are Wi-Fi (and so rely on an Internet connection from my phone) the iPad is 680 g while the Windows 8 tablet is 950 g, almost a third heavier. Could this prove crucial for long periods of reading?

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However, specs don’t come into it when you want to read. All that matters is: will it let me read the material I want comfortably?

What I Want to Read, and How

When it comes to reading eBooks, I’ve heavily bought into the Amazon way of doing things. For this reason I have Kindle apps on my phone, my Acer Iconia W7 Windows tablet and my iPad tablet.

Additionally, I have a few PDF eBooks (including some of our very own MakeUseOf Guides) stored in my Dropbox account, which again I can access from either device.

Finally, I have a handful of comics I want to read. Some of these are in PDF format, while others have been downloaded through the Comixology website and app.

Although I am considering a Windows 8 tablet for this task, I don’t want to have to plug in a mouse. This should be a completely touch-based experience from the Acer Iconia W700.

With three collections of reading matter accessible from each device, I’m going to test which tablet is best for enjoying comics and free eBooks.

iPad vs Windows 8 Tablet: Reading PDFs

In order to read PDFs, my warring tablets need a Dropbox app and a PDF reader.

On the iPad, this is made possible thanks to the official Dropbox and Adobe Reader apps, both of which are free.

muo-tabletwars-pdf

For Windows 8, however, the Dropbox app is notoriously un-Dropbox like, with limited syncing. Better is the Adobe Reader Touch app, which offers touch-based interaction with PDF documents, and various advanced features such as comments and bookmarks – it’s quite close to the desktop app.

The main problem appears to be one of speed. The Windows 8 Dropbox app is remarkably slow, missing any automated syncing options. As a result, despite the ease with which Adobe Reader Touch makes reading PDF documents, the iPad wins.

Result: iPad

Comic Books – iPad or Windows 8 Tablet?

Both platforms have a Comics by Comixology app, although unlike the Windows 8 version the iPad Comics app naturally doesn’t rely on the Metro/Modern styling of its Microsoft rival.

muo-tabletwars-comix

However, both apps offer fast browsing, can download comics from the Comixology cloud quickly, and offer matching degrees of control and account functionality. My full library of comic books is available on each, and in the unlikely event of me reading every title I have outstanding in the space of a week, I can easily buy and download more.

Quite simply, it’s a dead heat between the two apps!

Result: Draw

Amazon Kindle: Which Tablet Is More “Book-like”?

There is a good chance that the majority of my digital reading on holiday (I’m taking a self-imposed sabbatical from the web) will be thanks to the Kindle app.

muo-tabletwars-kindle

Once again, the apps are of a similar quality, but while the iPad Kindle app offers a now-outdated skeuomorphic bookshelf, the Windows 8 version presents your Kindle library and any recommended books in the store with mosaic-like style.

The actual task of reading with these apps is straightforward, with both using the common swipes and long taps that can be found on all versions of the Kindle app. If I was planning to take both devices, I would be happy in the knowledge that each app syncs to the main Amazon account, enabling me to pick up where I left off on the other device.

There is very little to choose between the two apps – they’re virtually identical in all regards except the user interface, and as such both devices are equally suited for reading.

Result: Draw

Conclusion: Weighted in Apple’s Favour

There are many other factors that might be considered when comparing such apps. One of these is the hardware that the various readers will be running on.

Although Windows 8 fails slightly with the Dropbox situation, the actual readers – Adobe Reader Touch, Comics by Comixology and Kindle – all offer superb handling of the eBooks that I’ve tested.

muo-tabletwars-devices

As a result, it comes down to the hardware. Of benefit to the iPad is the shape of the screen. The 4:3 aspect ratio is much easier to deal with both for the eyes and for holding the device. While the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Windows 8 tablet is more suited to watching movies and browsing the web, it is really only suitable for reading in landscape mode, which is quite limiting.

Ultimately, however, despite being three years old, the weight of the iPad edges the device ahead further. The Acer Iconia W700, even without the case, is a little too heavy still, and thanks to its Core i3 processor gives off a bit of heat that is quite unnecessary for reading.

The iPad wins, and will be joining me on holiday!

Image Credits: Open book Via Shutterstock

  1. Chris Hoffman
    July 26, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I don't have an iPad or Windows 8 tablet, but I'd imagine the iPad would win. The iPad has a much higher-resolution screen than Windows 8 devices and is also much lighter than them (assuming we're talking about full Windows 8 and not RT).

    That said, Android is a really good option. The Nexus 7 has a better screen than the iPad mini -- the newest Nexus 7 has a crazy high DPI. It's also a good size for reading books, whereas Windows 8 tablets and full-size iPads are a bit on the large side.

    I would've liked to see Android covered, too.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Chris: see above for Android.

      Under comparison was an iPad 1st generation, as you would have noticed from reading. Display is 132 PPI in addition to the specs mentioned above. Resolution on the W700 is 190 PPI.

      So no, the iPad used (an indeed a second gen iPad) doesn't have a higher screen resolution. Modern iPads are 264 PPI.

  2. likefunbutnot
    July 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    You don't mention Android in this comparison, which is unfortunate. I own an ipad3, a Surface Pro and over a dozen Android devices and I have to say that the best READING experience I have is on 7" - 9" Android devices, both because of the wide selection of software and because of the simple ergonomics of being able to pick the right tool for the job. As a hint, the right tool for the job is going to weigh considerably less than the 680g that a porky ipad weighs.

    Also, I don't know why Dropbox is your single consideration for copying data. All devices have native methods for file transfer. Some of them are more or less painful than others. It's certainly worth discussing that non-iThings aren't going to have to require Dropbox or iTunes and a special cable. Both Windows and Android devices likely have some kind of support for external storage and/or a completely standard USB connection. Modestly sophisticated users can also download arbitrary data directly from the web or connect to a file server to copy files, something that a standard iThing is utterly incapable of doing.

    All of the devices can use other reader software for their respective platforms; no one is forced at gunpoint to read PDFs using Acrobat or comics through Comixology. It's fair to say that differentiating based on app experience should be a non-issue since any of the above can switch to some more agreeable option.

    Finally, mass market books are as a rule printed in rectangular shapes. Some are more rectangular than others, certainly, but the author offers nothing other than opinion in decrying a 16x9 format as "limiting." I personally find the ipad to be unwieldy to hold for long reading sessions, in much the same way that a thick hardcover book eventually becomes a bit tiring. The author also neglects to mention overall screen resolution; more pixels on-screen is ultimately going to mean more text can be displayed at once, whether that text is in a 4x3 or 16x9 orientation.

    In conclusion: the author's conclusion is based on flawed premise and limited experience with a wider set of available options.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 26, 2013 at 9:46 am

      This is without a doubt the most comprehensive and well-written response I've ever had to an article on MUO.

      Unfortunately, it completely misses the point. I totally agree with what you're saying, but like your conclusion, your response is based on a flawed premise: a misunderstanding of the post.

      "I’m off on holiday today, and intend to do a bit of reading."

      Not, "I'm off on holiday next week, time enough to buy a new Android tablet and compare all three and look for a new set of reading and cloud apps."

      The aim was to compare a three year iOS tablet with a brand new Windows tab. That is the important thing here, the difference in age.

      • likefunbutnot
        July 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm

        Is the comparison between those particular devices really one that needed to be made for that purpose? There's flatly no way that the Windows 8 device, a machine that's delicate, heavy and possessed of limited battery life, would be worthwhile as an e-reader.

        I actually do think there's an important discussion here, on that I and the other commenter want to have, but it's not between a general-purpose Windows machine and a limited, Apple-centric tool but instead between the wider Android platform, dedicated e-Reader ecosystems (Kobo, Nook, Kindle) and Apple's solution, possibly throwing in the option of Microsoft's mobile solutions as well.

        I argue about this somewhat regularly with a librarian friend of mine. The fact that we go around and around about it should suggest the passion that we have as readers and also as technology enthusiasts to make sure we all wind up with the best experience possible.

        • Christian C
          July 26, 2013 at 5:29 pm

          I agree, likefunbutnot, this is an important topic and we already have an article in development looking at the wider ereading platforms pretty much as you describe.

          (Although I suspect that the best solution is probably the one that fits in with an individual's personal perceptions about e-reading - things like book cost, ease of use and whether they're losing anything from using an e-reader over a book).

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