Let's break down the contents of that photo. The largest is a 10.1" Samsung Galaxy Note, about a year and a half old, but most recently acquired. The midsize one is also the oldest; a Barnes and Noble Nook Color. And the smallest is the Motorola Razr M; the only one actually equipped to make telephone calls.
Before I get started, here are a few more comparison photos:
|The screens laid out on top of one another.|
The 4" phone comfortably fits in the pocket.
The 7" nook is a squeeze.
The 10" tab is nae gonna fit.
|Height-wise, they're all fairly similar.|
I've never noticed this being a deal-breaker.
|The screens are all fantastic.|
The nook has an easy brightness adjust and gets plenty bright to use outdoors.
The phone could use a quick brightness adjust for daylight use, though.
The Nook Color was my first Android purchase, and its use reflects that. While I could have gotten a phone, I didn't want to pay for the extra data plans at the time. But I did want to get into the Android dev scene. And the Nook is stellar for that. Being one of the few tablets at the time, it was picked up and quickly hacked. Enthusiasts had their own version of Android running, and unlocked additional features such as; overclocking, audio compensation, and Bluetooth. The inclusion of an SD Card made it easy enough to run the unlocked OS from it, and to recover it should something go wrong. I picked mine up in 2011, and the first thing I did was root it. I've never regretted that. As you can see I'm still hacking away at the Nook. So it's served that use above and beyond the call of duty.
For the more casual consumer, I think it still offers a useful place, albeit one that is better served by the more recent Nexus 7. It's screen is large enough to browse the web comfortably, but it shines when reading books. I find the size is great for one-handed reading, either books or blogs. More modern devices are lighter, which is great for long-term reading. The speed improvement you get from a more modern device only really impacts web-rendering - I don't notice any difference when reading books from the Nook App or through my local library. It does a good job at games too, again the screen being a nice compromise between small enough to hold and large enough to see.
Galaxy Note 10.1
The Note 10.1 is an interesting mix of work, web, and games. On one hand it has pretty much entirely replaced my work notebook. The Papyrus app is absolutely fantastic - it integrates hand-written notes with pictures, etc. and makes for a much more dynamic notebook. It also supports cloud backups. Secondly, the screen's large enough that I can read research papers comfortably. Not only can I read, but the pen allows for nice annotations (which you can later read). I use Mendeley for my research papers, and Scholarley is well worth the full-version (if only for the batch document sync) - keeping my papers up to date and available. These two features alone make the tablet very much worth it - I don't have to haul papers back and forth, and have all of my notes available wherever I am.
On the other fronts, the large screen excels as well. This is the only of the three devices that the wife is willing to use for web-browsing. Mainly because it is so much larger and easier to navigate. It works for casual reading as well. RSS feeds render and feel great, but I find books to be just a little too large & cumbersome. Conversely many apps, such as Twitter, are made for the smaller screens and don't take advantage of the available screen area.
Since this is one of the more recent devices, the processing power really makes gaming much more enjoyable than on the Nook (which just doesn't have quite enough to make some high-detail games fluid). The battery on the Note is fantastic, though. It will power through a full day of (sparse) note-taking and reading and then still have enough for web-browsing and games at home.
Motorola Razr M
As I mentioned above, this is the one with cell service, and that's where I really use it. Since I have larger screens available and prefer using them for reading / gaming, I have a paired down app-list on the phone. Here's the entire install list I have;
- Task sync
- Time tracker
- Music (2-3 services)
- Storage (dropbox / drive / evernote / scholarly (pdfs not synced) )
- Twitter (I find I'm posting mostly from the phone)
- File explorer
- NFC / QR
- Bluetooth utilities
If I had to recommend just one to you - I'd have go go with a modern 7" tablet. The phone is great for the connectivity, but I was getting along without it fine before. And modern 7"ers come with GPS / cameras, which is the one area I find the Nook lacking. Similarly it's great for reading and games. So if you're just looking to dip your toes in, the 7" market is a good place to start.
Still, your needs may not be lined up with my own, but perhaps you can use the info above to help figure out exactly which size fits your needs the best.