There is no way to browse in a retail store for personal enjoyment with a small child in one’s orbit. Double that, with one toddler and one self-mobile baby, and it becomes not only impossible, but it approaches a war crime committed against oneself. Today, thanks to the mercy of my wife, I got to wander thoughtfully around a Best Buy, with no children, and familiarize myself with some of the current generation of gadgets, which I usually only read about.
Here are some of the things I learned while browsing around Best Buy without my kids:
- Retina iPad minis are not way better than iPad Airs. Yeah they’re adorable and light, but side by side it was clear I’d made the right call: iPad mini was still just too cramped and squat, and the iPad Air far more immersive. And screen typing was a nightmare on the Mini, whereas I’m typing this right now on my Air’s screen without trouble.
- In relation to the above, I need to stop listening to tech pundits and allowing their opinions to color my own considerable gadget lust. I can trust my own avaricious instincts.
- As for tablet size and weight, I found the LG G Pad 8.3 quite compelling. The screen (at 8.3 inches, of course) is only a fraction of an inch bigger than the iPad mini’s, but it felt much bigger, and I could see it being a very good compromise between the Mini and a full-size iPad or other tablet. Something like that might be where I go for my text tablet, whenever that happens, in upcoming millennia.
- In the context of 7.9, 8.3, and 9.7-inch screen sizes, the Nexus 7 seemed a little ridiculous, like an oversize phone. While I once really liked this line of devices, now it just seems redundant.
- Speaking of big phones, I had gotten curious about “phablets” lately, and now my curiosity has ended. In comparison to my existing 5-inch Nexus 5, phablets’ displays aren’t so much bigger that they make a meaningful difference, particularly with the trade-off of pocketability. I believe I will pass.
- On the opposite end, I’m coming to realize what many have already, that the Moto X might just be the best Android device. As Joanna Stern was just saying on The Talk Show, the Moto X may actually be the perfect smartphone size: a medium-sized 4.7-inch display, but with a sufficiently reduced bezel so that it fits the hand as nicely as an iPhone. That, or an iteration of it, is likely my next phone.
- I’ve been bullish on Chromebooks, and I continue to be optimistic about what they may become in the increasingly-commoditized PC market, but holy crap, the displays on the current crop look like absolute garbage (the Pixel obviously excepted, and not for sale in Best Buy). I felt like I was looking at the screen through a haze of crud.
- On the flip side were Lenovo’s laptops. I haven’t even looked at a PC laptop other than by accident in a very long time, and I had no idea how good Lenovo’s looked, easily rivaling Apple’s hardware aesthetically. It’s just that they were all running Windows 8, and damn what a shame that is.
- Checking out the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina Display side by side was informative, if for no other reason than to see how much they overlap — to the point where it almost seems silly to buy the Air when the Pro is at such a similar price point, weighs not much more (and the 13-inch Air is not so weightless as to make it a deal-maker), and has a far superior display. I’ve always presumed a 13-inch Air would be my next laptop (again, in ages to come), but now that seems like a dumb move.
All in all, I came away from my first chance to browse electronics without my kids screaming at me with a renewed sense of being “all set,” that the things I have now, old and new, high-end and low-end, are really just fine, and that I’m not missing out on any crazy-great experiences. There are certainly many things to be wished for, without a doubt, but surprisingly to me, there is little to gnash one’s teeth in lust and envy over. Some, but not that much. And that’s good!