Why I Bought A Chromebook, Part 2

Now on to part 2 of my Chromebook review and how it works best for me.

When I first opened the box my Chromebook came in (via Amazon), I was pleased. Visually it’s not a Macbook Air in terms of style but it’s a nice gray color and it is light! It weighs less than 2 pounds. It’s well made, it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy and it opens and closes snugly.  It’s a lot smaller than your average laptop at 11.6 inches corner to corner. But for sitting on the couch or in the bed chilling, it’s a nice size that sits in your lap. And if you gave it to a kid to use, it would be more than adequate. The screen is average and has brightness controls which help. There are decent sounding speakers that get loud enough for you to watch a YouTube video or a movie but obviously you aren’t dealing with something high-end so don’t think you are going to get Beats by Dre type bass.

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My Acer on top on my old Compaq laptop.

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How the Chromebook screen looks.

My Chromebook is made by Acer and comes in 3 variants: 2GB RAM, 4GB RAM, and a 4GB RAM with a touchscreen. The base model (which is what I have) starts at $199. Are you starting to see why these little computers are popular? The price is definitely right.

I’ve had my Chromebook since Christmas and I use it daily. It charges in a little over an hour and I’m able to get 6-7 hours off of a charge. Because Chrome OS is so light, it’s almost an instant on. I open the top and get to doing what I want to do. I’ve gone to the Chrome App Store and downloaded various web apps such as Pocket, Any.DO, Dropbox, TweetDeck, Pandora and Netflix. They have been optimized to run on Chrome, and often they will sync with your phone. The Chrome App Store has various apps and extensions for business, education, games, social media and more.

A Chromebook is not a Windows laptop and as such has a very small hard drive, about 16GB, which is the same storage space as my phone. And of course, you cannot load full fledged programs. So what do you do if you need to be productive? You can use Google Docs, which allows you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and save them in Microsoft formats. Or you can set up a SkyDrive cloud account and use their Microsoft web apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint for FREE. They are more than adequate for light work or for a student. If push comes to shove, you can actually remote into your Windows PC using Chrome Remote Desktop. Pretty cool huh?

In fact the only major limitations I see with my Chromebook is the ability to upload music (and Google is currently working on a way to sync Chrome OS to Google Play Music) and the ability to upload pictures. I will still need to use my old laptop for that. But even then, there are several photo editors that can be used in Chrome to edit, correct or add filters to the photos you have stored online. And because Chrome is constantly evolving, Google typically puts out updates every 6-8 weeks with new features and functionality.

So those are my impressions of the Chromebook in a nutshell. I think that I made a good choice for my needs and I will be able to use this device for several years. There are several manufacturers to choose from and a few different screen sizes. In fact I typed this whole blog post on my Chromebook.

Here a few links to give you a bit more info:

If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Why I Bought A Chromebook, Part 1

I am admittedly a bit of a techie, in particular when it comes to phones, tablets and laptops. I follow several personal technology blogs and Twitter accounts. I keep our devices updated. Between the two of us we have 2 cells, 2 tablets, a laptop, a desktop, an Xbox 360 and the brand spanking new Xbox One. We have a lot of gadgets to play with right? So why add another one?

Well my Windows laptop is 4+ years old and between all the updates/virus protections, it has gotten slow as molasses. I’d read several reviews about Windows 8 and it seemed that folks weren’t that thrilled with it as well as being confusing to use since it has been so radically redesigned from Windows 7. And then I thought about what I really use my laptop for. So I made a list.

  • I tweet. And I like to live tweet TV shows so I prefer a keyboard to typing on my phone or tablet.
  • I go on Facebook.
  • I stream/upload/download music.
  • I read books.
  • I surf the net in general.
  • I check my email.
  • I upload photos.
  • I might chat online a bit.
  • I watch Netflix or other TV shows that can be streamed.

And guess what….I do ALL of that online for the most part. All of that is done within a browser and in my case normally it’s Google Chrome. And because I am a person who is heavily tied into Google services such as Gmail and Calendar and use Android devices it made sense to take a closer look at the Chromebook.

First off what is Chrome OS:

With Chrome, the browser actually is the OS — in this case, the Chrome OS builds on the Google browser of the same name. It’s pre-installed by PC manufacturers who adhere to Google’s hardware specifications.  The OS uses Web-based applications, so you don’t need local storage for software, either.  Chrome OS is based around the cloud computing model. That means that all of your data and applications are stored online, in the “cloud,” so that you can access them from any computer, anywhere. Chrome is a seriously stripped-down, fast OS. Because Chrome supports only Web capabilities, it can do away with much of the bulk and unnecessary system checks that slow a traditional OS.

A fairly fast Windows machine might finish booting in around 45 seconds. In contrast, Google wants Chrome laptops to be up and running in 7 seconds or less. The Chrome OS user interface looks much like the Chrome browser. Beyond this browser-like OS, these laptops have no pre-installed software. There’s an integrated media player that lets you watch movies, play music and view photos when you’re offline. Adobe Flash is already integrated into the Chrome browser, so you can view all Flash Web sites, too. When you want to write a report, for example, you just access a Web-based word processing application.

For more basic computing tasks, though, you should be able to find applications that suit your needs, using Google’s Chrome Web Store. Similar to Apple’s App Store and the Android Market, the Chrome Web Store will offer applications for a huge variety of tasks.

So then I thought long and hard about what the Chromebook could do that my tablet couldn’t do and it came down to the fact that sometimes you really just need a keyboard to do certain things. And I was getting frustrated by my old slow laptop, when I needed to do it. So I didn’t look at the Chromebook as a total laptop replacement, it became more of a companion to the old laptop I have as well as my other tech toys.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will talk about my initial impressions of the Acer Chromebook that I got for Christmas and how I’ve been using it.

Food Friday: TIH’s Chicken Bryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

I originally wanted to try the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for chicken with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes but when I realized I was going to have to layer the cheese and tomatoes under the skin before I baked it I decided not to because I have texture issues.

So I decided to do a quick search for a similar type recipe and then I remembered that I like the Chicken Bryan at Carrabba’s which is essentially the same thing. So here is the recipe I used from food.com.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 4, but cut them in half to make 8 pieces because they were so thick.)

kosher salt, to taste

fresh ground pepper, to taste

olive oil

4 ounces goat cheese (I used about 6 oz. for 8 pieces)

6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

2 -4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

4 teaspoons onions, minced

4 teaspoons garlic, minced

8 tablespoons butter, divided

6 tablespoons white wine (I used pinot grigio.)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon’s worth)

Directions:

1)  Brush chicken on both sides with olive oil, season to taste with Kosher salt and cracked pepper.

2)  Grill chicken until done (internal temp of 165F) – prepare lemon butter sauce while chicken is grilling.

3)  Sautee onion and garlic in 2 Tbps butter until soft and fragrant.

4)  Add white wine and lemon juice, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes to reduce.

5)  Add remaining 6 Tbsp butter, a little at a time, until it melts and mixture is emulsified.

6)  Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and basil, heat until hot (but do not overheat or sauce may break).

7)  Top nearly-done chicken breasts with 2 oz each of the goat cheese until cheese warms and softens.

8) To serve, spoon lemon butter sauce over chicken breasts.

Probably the only change I would make is slicing the chicken breasts length wise to make them thinner cause mine were so thick and actually grilling them (like on the grill or in a grill pan). I sauteed them and they turned out fine but they didn’t have the grill marks on them. The picture below is how they turned out for me.

Enjoy!

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At The Movies With The Macks: Skyfall/Lincoln

Hubs and I took in a couple of a flicks over the last few weekends in Skyfall, the 23rd installment of Sir Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 and Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s film about our 16th President.

Let’s start with Skyfall. I’ve always been a casual fan of the Bond series and really started to pay attention when Pierce Brosnan stepped into the role because I was a fan of the TV series Remington Steele when I was a kid and always found him to be super Rico Suave, even when he was kicking the ass of some villain. But since Daniel Craig took over the role with 2006’s Casino Royale and became the first blond Bond, I’ve been really paying some attention. Not only because Daniel Craig is sizzling HOT but because he brings a certain grittiness to the role of 007. Dare I say it…James Bond likes to get grimy and me likey quite a bit. At any rate, I looked forward to Skyfall and it did not disappoint.  There was less overall action (but there is a fantastic chase scene to kick off the movie) than Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace but the story line was more nuanced, as it took the viewer into the pasts of both M and 007  and even dared to query if 007 and his spycraft was outdated and passe’. Since this is the 50th anniversary of the Bond film series, the nods to the past were quite appropriate. The movie wraps up at Bond’s abandoned childhood home with a twist you won’t expect and I’ll leave with you that. This is a definite must see. Read a review from the LA Times here.

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I have to admit that Myron wanted to see Lincoln more than I did, being that he is a big history buff in general and is interested in the Civil War specifically. Now don’t get scared and think this is a sprawling, epic (read boring and long) bio-pic about Lincoln’s entire life. It isn’t. Instead, Spielberg smartly chooses the 4 month period between January and April 1865 to frame the movie, when Lincoln, fresh off re-election attempts to get 2 big ticket items accomplished: end the Civil War and get the 13th Amendment passed, which would abolish slavery. Spielberg quite deftly weaves in several story lines such as the relationship between Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln who is grieving the loss of their son Willie, the tension between Lincoln and his oldest son Robert, who has been forbidden to join the Union Army, and the back room dealings that the Lincoln cabinet had to undertake to get the necessary votes (these scenes are some of the funniest of the film). Tommy Lee Jones is a straight up scene stealer as Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, an aging abolitionist and has a very interesting back story based on historical fact. Daniel Day-Lewis melts into character as Lincoln, down to the halting deliberate gait that he was known to have.

A comment related to the slavery story line: I noted a bit of discussion on my social media feeds about the lack of screen time given to the treatment of slaves in the movie. There is a notable opening scene where two black Union slaves speak with Lincoln and one dares to question the President about further rights for blacks and there are a few other scenes involving Lincoln’s house servants, who are both free people of color and his interaction with them, but to be fair this was not a movie expressly about slavery. It was first and foremost a film about trying to get the 13th Amendment ratified and the inner workings of Washington DC government at that time period. It’s a political movie that just happens to be tackling a difficult, soul wrenching topic. I think it’s done quite masterfully. This is a definitely a must see (in particular for older children and teens) and needs to be added to your DVD collection as well. Read the NY Times review here.

Are you planning to see Skyfall or Lincoln this holiday season? What other films are on your to be seen list?

Big Thangs Popping: “The Coalition”

I know some good people, people who are living their dreams, making it happen and got some big thangs popping.

One of those folks is my friend, filmmaker/writer/director Monica Mingo who in collaboration with NFL Defensive Player of The Year Terrell Suggs as executive producer, just debuted their FIRST FEATURE FILM at the American Black Film Festival this past weekend.

*Squeals like a teenage girl*

The film is titled THE COALITION and here’s what you need to know about it:

The bad boys club is really not all that bad. Young,
rich and handsome…the boys know how to have a good time. They love
women, fast cars and doing whatever they want to do. There comes a
time in life, however, when karma is helped along. When it’s done by a
group of scorned women…it can prove to be devastating.

Prime Alexander is a professional athlete living the life most men
dream of.  He has a huge guaranteed contract, beautiful women chasing
him and the best friends a man could want.

He gets what he wants, when he wants it and doesn’t believe in
explaining himself to anyone, especially Autumn, the beautiful woman
he’s been dating for a little over a year.

Autumn Singletary is a wealthy socialite who doesn’t understand the
word no.  Her relationship with Prime has more to do with appearances
than real feelings but that’s of no consequence when Prime decides to
end their relationship by publicly humiliating her in the presence of
his new interest, Skylar.

The bond Prime shares with his boys, Lonzo, Kalif and Dallas has been
nurtured throughout the years as the main constant in their life.
They are always together.  They are always taking care of each other.
They are a true pack and have the secrets and the code to prove it.
1080 for life.

Lonzo, Prime’s very best friend, is an actor on the verge of being the
next big thing.  He’s falling in love with the beautiful Katalina, one
of Autumn’s best girlfriends. He believes he’s at the age where he
needs to think about settling down and look to his parents’ marriage
as inspiration.

Kalif is the youngest of the crew and is seriously addicted to women,
especially his fiance, Shanita.  He’s a hot A&R executive and his
career allows him the flexibility to juggle multiple women.  Kalif and
Shanita have been together since their teenage years and she’s the
love of his life.  He’s messed up a few times and has children by
other women to prove it.  He truly loves Shanita more than anything in
the world and he couldn’t imagine life without her so he takes all of
the steps necessary to make sure she’s happy and doesn’t go looking
for anything.

Dallas is a super arrogant playboy without a care in the world who
prides himself on the chase.  Women are a game for him and he loves
adding to his conquests.  He loves the strategic nature of the hunt
and plays the game a little too well.

A chance encounter gives Autumn the ammunition she needs to create an
unlikely alliance by which to shut Prime and his pack down and she
doesn’t give a damn who gets hurt.  As a woman scorned, she is out for
revenge.  By forming a coalition, Autumn proves she will show no mercy
while getting what she thinks she wants.

Everyone always wants the riches and the fame professional athletes
have.  “The Coalition” shows us that all that glitters is certainly
not ideal and forces us to consider how difficult love is within the
confines of the industry and all that money can buy.

Starring:
ADRIENNE BAILON
JACKEE’ HARRY
J.R. RAMIREZ
DENYCE LAWTON
EDDIE GOINES
NICOLE GARZA
SHANTI LOWRY
NADINE ELLIS
INGRID CLAY
SATU MAKEDA
SANT’E ANDREWS
CHANTA NOEL PATTON
AND INTRODUCING JAMES PHILLIPS

MUSIC BY GEORGE FONTENETTE
VISUAL EFFECTS – NICK GAY

SOUND DESIGN – AARON WOLD

EDITOR – RICH VOLIN AND HILTON CARTER
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY – HILTON CARTER

GAFFER – PRUITT ALLEN

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER – TERRELL SUGGS
PRODUCED BY RICH VOLIN AND MONICA MINGO
WRITTEN BY TERRELL SUGGS AND MONICA MINGO
DIRECTED BY MONICA MINGO

View the trailer:  https://vimeo.com/25867123

WWW.TEAMSIZZLEWORLDWIDE.COM

Monica Mingo, I am so PROUD of you! You wrote it down, you made it happen! Congratulations!!

Daytripping

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Shot of the aquarium pyramid...

Saturday afternoon, Myron and I took a hour drive down Interstate 45 South to Galveston, TX, an island right off the coast. I’d been wanting to the see the Bodies Revealed exhibit at Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens also has a hotel-resort, a water park on premises, an aquarium and  an indoor rainforest.

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Below are some shots I took with my cell phone of the view of the bay and the grounds at Moody Gardens.

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Here is a shot I snuck at the Bodies Review exhibit. I was living dangerously as you weren’t supposed to be taking pics!

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Here is my cute hubs!! Look at that reluctant smile!

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There are tons of beautiful flowers in bloom. Spring time in Texas is gorgeous! The weather was a wonderful 85 degrees with a nice breeze coming off the bay. We are enjoying it now. By May it will be scorching!

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This cockatoo was eating a snack and wasn’t being that cooperative for my pictures but I finally got one.

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After all that sightseeing, we got a recommendation from Beautifully Complex and decided to check out the Black Pearl Oyster Bar and Grille.

I started out with two huge crabcakes! They were so good and full of meat.image

My entree was Shrimp Diablo over rice and it did have a kick!

I forgot to get a shot of Myron’s dozen oysters on the half shell. He loves them.

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Myron’s entree was blackened shrimp, crawfish and squid over rice. It was pretty tasty. We will definitely be going back to the Black Pearl.

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We grabbed some blue crabs on the way home to cook on Sunday, but they all died overnight. I think it was too hot in the garage for them. We went back to the fish market for some fresh ones, though. My husband was determined to get him some crabs!

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All in all, we had a fun Saturday. Day trips are nice!

There’s An App For That

This year I resolved to finally get my life better organized in terms of remembering important dates and tasks as well as coordinating the social calendars for two people instead of one. So Google Calendar and Tasks have become good friends of mine. Whenever we have bills due, or there is a event coming up, I’m getting into the habit of noting it on the calender and setting a reminder.

But I am, like most of us, constantly on the go and need to be able to access information on the run, so for the last few months I’ve been downloading (and uninstalling) apps and programs that I can use on my phone and tablet, when I’m not in front of the PC.

I’m using SpringPad  (Android/iOS) to organize my thoughts. If I see a recipe, or a hot pair of shoes while I’m browsing online, I “spring” the link to one of the various notebooks I’ve set up and I can come back to it later. I have notebooks set up for clothes I want for the spring, recipes, and vacation spots that Myron and I have discussed.

I’m using Taskos (Android) to manage my to do list. I like that Taskos is simple and easy to use and it syncs with Google Tasks. It’s not fancy but it gets the job done.

I’m using Business Calendar (Android) to manage my Google Calendar. Google Calendar is nice and all but the app for phone/tablet is rather plain. Business Calendar has features such as:

Views for “week”, “4-day”, “month”, and so on, you start with a month view and can tap and drag on a certain set of days to shrink the view to those days. It’s really well done. Tapping on a specific day brings up a small pop-up of that day’s events, and you can swipe to an agenda view if you’d rather see your month that way. It has a list of calendars at the bottom from which you can show and hide different calendars, though it gets a bit unruly if you have a lot of calendars.” – (Source: Lifehacker.com)

Business Calendar also syncs with Google Calendar. The only complaint I have is that it takes 2 apps to do the job for me. I haven’t found an app yet that will manage my calendar and tasks together, at least one that I am willing to pay for. All the apps I listed above are free.

I’m carrying around a mini-computer all day. I might as well make the most of them, so I don’t have to remember every little detail!

So you’re uber connected, right? You have a smartphone, laptop, maybe a tablet too, right? Well with all that technology at your fingertips what apps or software programs are you using to organize your life? Or are you still using a day planner or kicking it old school with a pad and pen to keep track of your activities? Any other cool apps you want to share? Let me know in the comments.

Let’s Go Tapas!

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I’d been wanting to try this place ever since Myron found out it about from one of his FB friends a few weeks ago. We had some time to kill before heading to a birthday happy hour for a friend of ours so we decided to have a little Tuesday night dinner date last night.

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They had some awesome artwork on the wall that I had to get a couple of snaps of with my phone.

But the best part is coming up: the food!

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I started out with a mini bottle of Cristalino Cava, a fabulous slightly dry sparking wine.image

Then, I went IN on the tapas menu! Above is fried goat cheese balls in a spicy honey drizzle with friend onion strings.

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Brought to the table sizzling hot, was gambas de ajillo or shrimp in garlic butter with red pepper flakes.

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Next up was tenderloin skewers with red peppers and onions with saffron rice and a tomato cream drizzle.

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Last but not least, potato cake layered with manchego cheese and chorizo.

Myron had a paella STUFFED to the brim with mussels, shrimp, chicken, scallops and sausage. I went a little overboard on the tapas menu and I was stuffed when I left but it was so tasty!

If you are in Houston, I can strongly recommend Andalucia in the Houston Pavilions! http://www.andaluciatapas.com/

You should go there. NOW.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Hands On: Part 2

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Here are a few pictures of the tab sitting in the keyboard dock that I ordered. It’s about the size of a netbook. The keyboard is very sturdy and sits flat easily. It will be good for blogging or tweeting during an awards show!  Lolololol!

The keyboard dock will also let you plug in the charger and power up through the dock as opposed to plugging the tablet directly into the wall. Cool, huh?

Hands On With My Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

As you all know, I’ve been on the hunt for a larger tablet/e-reader to use as a laptop replacement for around the house and when I travel. I already have a Nook Color and I have probably been a tad bit obsessive about how much I really enjoyed it as an e-reader and as a hacked Android tablet.

But I wanted something a little bit bigger, still small enough to toss in my purse but larger so that I could surf the web without squinting and that would have enough processing power to stream movies and TV shows from the internet or Netflix without getting hung up. I didn’t necessarily require cellular wireless access, WiFi is suitable for me.

After doing my research and polling nearly everyone I could think of, I decided to go with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. It’s the longest name for a gadget on the planet but since Samsung has several tablet sizes in their lineup, it’s helpful in knowing what size you are dealing with. My tablet measures 8.9 inches from corner to corner, diagonally. It runs the most recent Android tablet OS, Honeycomb 3.2 and has 16GB of storage. It is not expandable beyond that.

8.9 and Nook Color side by side

A word on the storage capabilities. There are other Android tablets that are able to be expanded for additional storage with microSD cards (such as Acer and Toshiba). They also tend to be thicker and heavier because of the ports required for the additional expansion. I use the Dropbox app to store music, documents and pictures in the cloud. I will be streaming movies and TV shows wirelessly and my e-book files are very small. Based on my needs, I determined 16GBs was more than enough for me.

I decided to go with an Android tablet to stay on the same platform as my cell phone, it was cheaper than an iPad, and most of the apps that I use scaled up decently enough for me on the larger screen size. I know that Apple has more tablet optimized apps than Android but I found over 2000 tablet apps in the Android market that I could utilize if necessary and that number is growing daily. I blog, I tweet, I Facebook, I use Google Reader, read, and play games and all of the apps that I have so far work just fine on my 8.9.

Facebook App for Android

Email on the Samsung 8.9

Myron ordered a case for me from Amazon that protects the tablet and allows viewing horizontally or vertically. I also splurged on a keyboard dock as well. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I will update this posts with pictures when I get it in.

Case for the 8.9..Delta Red of course!

Overall, I am enjoying this tablet.  The screen is bright and the colors look awesome. It’s lightweight, the build quality is good and it doesn’t feel flimsy, I can customize the look the way I want (which is why I tend to like Android over Apple in some ways) and it seems to be satisfying the needs that I have in a tablet. It’s around $400 dollars at Best Buy, which is $100 bucks cheaper than the base model Wi-Fi iPad. If you want a similar size to the iPad, I would suggest the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is actually a bit larger than the iPad’s screen size of 9.7 inches.

Here’s a review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The 8.9 has basically the same specs, it’s just smaller.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?