One of the reasons small tablets have become pretty popular recently is due to their mapping abilities with GPS and access to dozens of maps including for example the OS Explorer maps. Now that you can download virtually all these maps for free and cache them offline they are becoming very useful for backcountry navigation. I have just been testing out a couple of small tablets for outdoor use namely the google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy note.
First off the Nexus 7 is considered a proper tablet with a 7 inch screen. Whereas the galaxy note is really a mini-tablet and phone with a 5.3 inch screen. Personally, I think the best form factor for a tablet is around 7 inches as the larger 10 inch screens (ipad, samsung tab, etc) are just too big for carrying around outdoors and you will need two hands to navigate with one. You can quite easily handle the nexus 7 with one hand. The main advantage of a galaxy notes size is that it still has a fairly large screen but it is still pocketable.
Both tablets perform great with GPS/offline navigation with the larger screen of the nexus 7 being great to map read from. Obviously, these tablets are not just for navigation but are for all the standard media device stuff like books, music and games. The galaxy note has the addition of a FM radio which is quite handy for up to date weather forecasts when you are offline.
On the subject of navigation the galaxy note also has a built in barometer (handy for rough weather forecasting) and with an application it can also become an altimeter. I’m not sure of the technical stuff here (so don’t quote me on this) but I have read that using a GPS alone is not particularly accurate at estimating altitude. With the addition of a barometer the GPS can lock on much faster and give you are more accurate altitude reading. The mapping software built in to android takes advantage of this as it is an option in many mapping apps.
While both tablets perform really well outdoors there are some advantages and disadvantages between the two. The obvious advantage of a galaxy note compared to all other tablets is that it is also a phone so you don’t have to carry two devices with you but still get the advantages of a large screen. The major advantage of the nexus 7 is battery life. The nexus 7 can probably last three times as longer than a galaxy note and boasts one of the best battery life compared to all other tablets and ipads.