4 Cons of a Tablet-Based Dev Environment

Home, Bangkok, Thailand, 2019-01-20

#software_engineering #travel #mobility


I previously wrote up the tablet-based dev environment that replaced my MacBook Air. In this post I will enumerate four of the biggest downsides that you should be aware of if you’re considering this approach.

1 - Network Dependence

The first drawback is quite obvious - since this device is mostly just a window to another machine somewhere - you need a good Internet connection. Not just an Internet connection - a GOOD Internet connection. Get a poor connection and you can do work but it will just take 20 times longer than it should because you’re waiting for the lag.

On the positive side, working via 4G in Thailand and on most hotel and airport WiFi that I’ve used in various places around the world - it has mostly worked great. Just try to avoid the situation where you have something critical to deliver and don’t have a known-good network connection to deliver it through.

Also use tools like Microsoft Word for Android and dev tools like Python running under Termux to take work offline and do it on your tablet if you can to break the network dependence. Having git running under Termux also helps with that because you can clone work down to your tablet and push it back up after it’s done.

2 - DPI

Remote Desktop through this thing is SMALL. You need 20-20 vision for this to be a viable solution, or otherwise scale things up a lot but this means you get less on the screen which also subtracts from productivity.

If you find it physically uncomfortable to work at this small dot pitch for long periods this is not the solution for you - stick with a laptop or perhaps look at a 10” iPad, Galaxy Tab or other option instead.

3 - Not Lap-Friendly

In this setup the screen is not bolted to the keyboard. This means it doesn’t really sit well on your lap unless you have a table or some other thing to rest the separate components on.

I’ve thought on and off about 3D printing some kind of minimal housing or bracket to enable clipping the two pieces together into a laptop style form factor for such situations - I’ll share that here if I put something together.

4 - Bad for your Posture

The simple approach of the tablet resting on the table in it’s cover-stand with your mini-keyboard in front of it puts the screen well below your eye level. This subtracts from comfort and your ability to work on it for long periods. It helps to raise the tablet up by resting it on something such as a napkin box or Starbucks cup (tall size).

This is another situation that I’ve been trying to come up with a lightweight and transportable 3D printable solution.