Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Les tablettes et le Tep

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We both acquired new tablets not long before this vacation. I had been managing with a 10″ Motorola Xoom. (A what? Exactly!) The Xoom wasn’t a success in the marketplace, but it still served my needs just fine for many years. It was starting to seem rather slow, however, and had recently become a bit flaky, randomly losing connection to the wireless and needing a reboot.

Compared with my first tablet purchase, I didn’t give the new one that much thought or research. I was basically figuring I would stick with Android. And I was thinking it might be nice to have a slightly bigger screen.

So when Jean pointed out that the Samsung tablet demo I was playing with at Staples actually was bigger than a 10″ tablet, I thought maybe the time had come!

I did do a little research at that point. Apart from some snarky commentary about who on earth would want a tablet that big (me!!!), and pointing out that it did cost more than most tablets (more than some laptops, in fact), it was well reviewed. A bonus payment at work made the price more palatable, so after a bit more experimenting with the demo model, I made the purchase.

Samsung 12.2 tabletAnd I’ve been happy with it so far. It is much faster, the screen quality is much higher, and it’s actually lighter than the old one. The bigger screen means I no longer have to zoom magazines to read them and it’s also great for the digital sheet music. (The tablet display is about the same size as office paper.) I had to get used some Samsung-isms that still trip me up on occasion, but mostly it’s still Android and familiar. And to my surprise I didn’t have to reinstall any apps; based on Google account, it just set all that up for me, and rather quickly as well. (I just had to sign into everything again.)

This was all making Jean, who’d been managing with a Blackberry playbook, a little bit jealous. But the same device wouldn’t do for him. He wanted something that would allow him to upload and process photos while on vacation, requiring a bit more juice than you get with an Android tablet.

So he bought what was essentially a Windows 8 laptop, but in tablet form. His screen is even bigger than mine. (And he paid more money for his device than I did.) But it’s still a lot lighter and has better battery life than a laptop would.

Setup wasn’t quite so easy for him as for me, either, but it wasn’t that bad. Once he got past the typical feeling of loss and alienation that all new Windows 8 users experience (Where are my programs? What are these useless tiles for? How do I shut this thing down?), he was pretty happy with his purchase as well.

So we were kind of disappointed to find out that the free wireless at our France hotel was available only in the lobby, not in our rooms. Not good enough! [Yes, it’s a bit sad.]

Fortunately, I had come across a solution for that: Portable, rentable, wifi hotspots, courtesy Tep Wireless. I had read some good reviews of this service, so decided to sign up for it.

Tep wireless deviceFor $7 a day (10-20% discounts coupons rather easy to come by), you get 150 MB of internet access. They ship the device to you a couple days before you leave (yes, there is an extra shipping charge). It’s a very small device with a charger, set to work with the network of the particular country you’re travelling to.

We set it up in our hotel room, and it was very easy. It has a password on the back that you sign into the wireless with, and supports up to five devices (we had three, with my cell phone).

It was an excellent connection. Fast, reliable, and presumably more secure than open wifi network. I would also take the Tep with me when I brought my cell phone, and that way we could, anywhere, check email or Google maps (or Twitter!) without using data (no roaming charges!). The Tep had about five hours of battery life, which proved enough for us.

And, the 150 MB per day (which carries forward if you don’t use it all), was sufficient until almost the last of vacation, when Jean’s photo uploading brought us to the limit. They told us that by email, we were able to add more data at a reasonable fee to get us through the last couple days, and all was good.

We were sad to see the Tep go by vacation end. They had included a return envelope with the device, and we bought sufficient French postage to mail it back to them.

Of course, we noted that we get highly offended when hotels ask us to pay for wifi access, yet here we were all delighted about a gizmo that cost us 50 some dollars plus shipping for one week of Internet.

But hey. If it appeals to you, and you can afford it, we would definitely recommend Tep portable wifi. Good device, good customer service. (And definitely cheaper than foreign roaming charges.)


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