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Best portable device for math PDF files?

  1. Aug 21, 2012 #1

    Stephen Tashi

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    What's the best portable device for reading mathematical PDF files? - one that would show equations and graphs clearly? I'm not particularly interested in the general field of electronic books or wireless connectivity, but It would be nice to have portable device for the many free math PDFs that my desktop computer finds on the web.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2012 #2
    I don't know if there is a particular tablet that is significantly better than the rest, but at least the kindle and kindle touch are not great. They do work, but they are slow with pdf's and don't display pictures well. I would be willing to bet that anything that runs Android or iOS would be excellent.
  4. Aug 21, 2012 #3

    Stephen Tashi

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    Thank you. As Edison said, "Negative results are results".
  5. Aug 23, 2012 #4
    Laptops are quite portable... I don't understand why people assume tablets and the like are more convenient.
  6. Sep 26, 2012 #5
    I just ordered a Kindle DX (the older white model) on eBay. I downloaded a bunch of free math textbooks (all legal) and probably put up screenshots.

    I used to use my 13 inch laptop but it led to a lot of eyestrain (I normally have dry eyes, so extended computer use meant I was going througha bottle of eyedrops a week) so I hope that e-Ink would be a better solution.

    My friend has a regular Kindle that he uses, but the 6" screen would be too small for PDF files and I'm not quite sure how the slow refresh rate would work out.
    I'll let you know how the kindle dx works as soon as I get everything set up :)
  7. Sep 26, 2012 #6
    Amazon Kindle, Sony nook

    Apple iTouch/iPhone also works, but you need to buy the PDF reader off of iTunes in that case.

  8. Sep 28, 2012 #7


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    Somebody has to say it: The best portable device for math is the one you carry between your ears!
  9. Sep 29, 2012 #8
    Probably because they are. If you are not doing anything that requires significant computational power and just want to watch videos, read books, surf the web, email, etc there is absolutely no need to lug around a clunky heavy laptop. Tablets are less than a half inch thick and weigh roughly 1.5 lbs while laptops are closer to 5 lbs.

    To answer the OP: I have the iPad 2 and I love it. It has virtually replaced my laptop for everyday tasks. I keep an entire library of texts and PDFs on it and everything renders beautifully. If I were to do college all over again, I would have a hard time ever buying textbooks again.

    The iPad might be more than what you are looking for, and understandably many people do not like Apple products. I have friends with the Kindle fire and Google Nexus, both priced at about $199 for the base model (which is probably sufficient for your needs). In my experience, the Nexus seems to be the favored. Kindle is less user friendly than I would expect for something that is supposed to be geared toward 1st time e-reader owners.
  10. Sep 30, 2012 #9
    A tablet is good for read-only and minimal notetaking. I have not been able to take substantial notes on a tablet, and haven't heard of or seen anyone successfully using it in math or physics. If you are getting an iPad, consider using a Dropbox account to store your PDFs.

    I recommend an ultrabook over any tablet if you're taking it to class or the library (any place with a proper table/platform). If your time is spent primarily commuting on a train or the likes, then it makes sense to get a tablet.

    Frankly, the iPad is heavily overpriced. I've not seen anyone using its true value up to this point. I'm still trying to breakeven myself, by reading my collection of papers and books on it.
  11. Sep 30, 2012 #10
    If you want a laptop then get something in the 10" range. They're small, cheap and good for that kind of stuff.

    If you want a tablet, then get a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Cheap, powerful and much better than an iPad.
  12. Sep 30, 2012 #11
    The problem is that the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, the Google (ASUS) Nexus 7, the new iPad all have backlight displays.
    No matter how many many nits (a whopping 600 for the Infinity Pad) or how high the DPI is, they're all backlight displays.

    So since I've a pretty big collection of articles and math/engineering/physics ebooks (which are downloadable for free from my university library system), I was wondering for how long could I use these devices before I literally burn my eyes.
    What's your opinion or experience about it?

    On the other hand Amazon just came out with their updated line of ereaders and tablets.
    For instance, the Kindle paperwhite has a 6" e-ink display (119$), while the Nexus 7 is tagged at 199$, which is pretty a bargain.

    What would you choose if you want to read and study on scientific ebooks (PDFs)?

    I wouldn't use a tablet for playing games, watching movies or checking my inbox, but I'll use it mainly for reading books.

    Any suggestions are welcome!
  13. Sep 30, 2012 #12
    The backlight thing is a personal issue that I can definitely understand.

    I have a friend who has (almost) all of his textbooks on a Nook. He likes it. I have another friend with a kindle touch from last year. He also likes it, but always complained that it took a very long time for diagrams and formulae to show up. The kindle also picks a spot to split the screen that does not always makes sense, and it doesn't allow continuous scrolling. Perhaps the new ones are better.
  14. Sep 30, 2012 #13
    The backlight thing is a personal issue that I can definitely understand.

    I have a friend who has (almost) all of his textbooks on a Nook. He likes it. I have another friend with a kindle touch from last year. He also likes it, but always complained that it took a very long time for diagrams and formulae to show up. The kindle also picks a spot to split the screen that does not always makes sense, and it doesn't allow continuous scrolling. Perhaps the new ones are better.
  15. Oct 1, 2012 #14
    Well, the Nexus 7 has a 1.3 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 (Nvidia Tegra 3).
    I hope it can handle flawlessly most of the PDFs.

    In your opinion are 7" displays too small for a textbook?
  16. Oct 1, 2012 #15
    A solution for those who can't afford a tablet, but have a netbook/laptop.


    This is a program that alters the brightness/colour of your screen to more natural hues which are less straining on your eyes.

    I use it to read often. And it gives me the benefit of having a laptop instead of a tablet (bias).
  17. Oct 1, 2012 #16
    I suggest a test. Change your screen resolution on your current machine to something close to what you want to buy.

    Won't be a perfect representation, but it will give you hints on how much you need to zoom out to see anything/how distorted symbols get.
  18. Oct 4, 2012 #17
    My Nexus 7 is superb for reading math textbooks and papers. The resolution is amazingly high so everything is crisp. Zooming in and out is easy and shifting to landscape makes everything bigger.

    It has the advantage that you can comfortably hold it in one hand for long periods (unlike a netbook or 10" tablet). I also like my Kobo Touch (eInk) for PDFs, but the Nexus 7 is just so much faster when you need to scroll around or jump pages. The backlight is also strong enough to read in daylight, which I had worried about before buying it.

    Ebookdroid is my reader of choice since it will also display Djvu files (unlike the Kobo):

    I am a paper junkie, so my preference is to own physical books if they are good. However, there are a huge number of excellent free PDF textbooks and technical papers. Also, travelling with a tablet full of PDFs is certainly easier than with a case full of hardbacks...
  19. Oct 6, 2012 #18
    Thanks for sharing your opinion and impressions!

    I'm really looking forward buying a tablet/ereader since my university gives me the opportunity to download interesting textbooks/articles through their library service, so, even tough I'm a paper junkie like you, it could be a good choice for me, moneywise and spacewise.

    Now I've 2 questions for you:

    1) Does the Nexus 7 open/handle with ease even large PDFs? (Like PDFs >20mb)

    2) Would you read a huge book like "War and Peace" on your Nexus 7 or you'll go with your eInk ereader? (Ok, the obvious answer would be the paper version, but just imagine that you couldn't get it)
  20. Oct 7, 2012 #19
    I'd like the answer to 1) but my definition of large is > 160mb. (Yes, I do have pdf's larger than 160mb)
  21. Oct 7, 2012 #20
    Yes, the Nexus 7 handles large PDF files easily. I currently have a 21 MB (scanned) file I use regularly. I don't see why it wouldn't be just as good for even larger files, having a quad-core processor. The only limitation is the lack of an SD card slot, so you will want to manage your book library a bit if they are all huge files.

    For straight reading of novels, I would recommend an eInk reader (Edit: As long you can find your book in EPUB or MOBI format). They are the best if you start at page one and go one page at a time through the whole book. Then the speed of searching and page turning is a non-issue. My wife and I have read a number of regular books on our Kobo and find it very good. I am sure comparable ones like the Nook or Kindle would be just as good. I am not sure how they are for PDF handling, though.

    There is a quick review of the Kobo Touch eInk reader for math PDFs here:
    http://curvingspace.blogspot.ca/2011/11/ereader-for-mathematics-pdfs.html [Broken]

    The main drawback, as stated in that article, is jumping around in textbooks. I am always referring back and forth between sections and the current eInk readers become very frustrating for that.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  22. Oct 13, 2012 #21

    Ray Vickson

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    I downloaded the free App "PDF reader lite" on my i-phone 4 and it works fine.

  23. Nov 2, 2012 #22
    Hi, I've been using the ipad and have had great success with my various math pdf's through ibooks! :wink:
  24. Nov 17, 2012 #23
    After reading some articles around the web and some user experiences from Android message boards, I am seriously considering the case of buying the Nexus 7 as my only portable device (apart from my bulky laptop) both for PDFs and for ePubs.

    I've read many comments of people who are using the Nexus 7 as an e-reader, even for large books, with no relevant eyestrain. Plus I won't be reading outside at direct sunlight, but mainly at home, university or in the underground, so, as long as I disable all the notifications (social networks and emails), I think it could be the perfect device both for reading large ebooks (like some '800 or '900 classics available from Project Gutemberg from free) and to go through chapters on my math/science PDFs and articles.

    And also the nice Kobo Glo (with backlight when needed) costs only $70 less than the much more powerful Nexus 7.

    What's your take on this?
  25. Nov 18, 2012 #24
    Is ebooks(Kindle editions) from amazon.com support on Google Nexus 7.
  26. Nov 18, 2012 #25
    I'm assuming that you are asking if there is a kindle app for Android. The answer i yes:

    I don't know much about the Kobo Glo, but my guess is that it renders pictures the same way that the black and white Kindles do. That doesn't mean that it can't be used for science books, but it is slower and sometimes awkward.
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