Moving to a Digital Bible – Part 2 – The Hardware

I’m getting old, but this series of posts is not really about that, except to say, my eyesight has gotten so bad that I can no longer easily read a standard print Bible and have considered moving to a Digital Bible. While I was thinking this migration through, I purchased Zondervan’s excellent NIV Comfort Print Bible. It has served me well. It also kicked off a little bit of a Bible buying spree, but that is also NOT what this post is about. If I may cut to the chase, now, the comfort print type size is no longer clear enough for me to read either thus I am forced to either buy a super large print Bible or go Digital.  #sadface #oldman #comequicklyJesus

This catastrophe has moved me to… buy readers…  Well, no, that might have solved the problem in about 30 minutes and for a grand total of about $5. 

In actuality, my failing eyesight has pushed me to figure out how I would love completely to a Digital Bible. I will roll this journey out for you in 4 parts:

  • Part 1 – The Requirements
  • Part 2 – The Hardware
  • Part 3 – The Software
  • Part 4 – The Results

I am hoping that these posts will provide you some new resources, even if you aren’t interested in following me down the same path.

Today’s post will highlight a few of the hardware devices that I have tried.


I never thought that using my iPhone would really deliver what I wanted for a Digital Bible. It did have two key advantages – I always have it with me and, from a horsepower perspective, can do pretty much everything that a larger device can do. It, however, misses on a few wants – I can’t use a stylus or keyboard to take notes so I am stuck thumb-typing, it lacks a screen large enough to be really usable at meetings or for Bible study and it only provides a single app focus unless you task switch between the Bible App, Notes and Bible Commentary. I do see a lot of people using their phones as their Bible, but it does not fit for me.

Microsoft Surface Duo

My trial of this device coincided with my trying it out for work. It’s a very cool new Android platform – a tablet that can fold down to the size of a phone. It was an absolutely beautiful device – in my opinion, the Microsoft Surface design team rivals the Apple design team. I could run the Bible app on one screen and take notes on a notepad or on my church’s app on the other. It also had a stylus (purchased separately), which allowed me to take notes, but there was nowhere to store the stylus, except in your pocket. At church, in any level of light, it was great, I could see the screen with no problem and was able to take notes quickly while scrolling the Bible app as needed.

Ultimately, while the device was large (opened, it was about 5.7” by 7.4”), it was pocketable because it folded, but I wanted it to be larger. Because of the size, I was not able to effectively hold the device on my lap and use the stylus. From an Operating System/Hardware perspective, it had a little lag when performing most functions, which was very annoying. These things led me to take it back and move on. If Microsoft makes a version 2, I might consider trying it out again.

iPad Mini 5

My trial of this device also coincided with my trying it out for work. It really is the perfect ebook reader size at (5.3” by 8”), essentially the same size as the Surface Duo, but it does not have two screens or fold. The design is basically the same as the first iPad Mini, but with new hardware and screen. I can split the screen (as the photo shows) and run the Bible app on one side and take notes on the other just like the Surface Duo. It does support a stylus, although, that hardware is also the first generation version and again, there is nowhere to store the stylus, but in your pocket. The Mini performs very well at church in low light and had no issues with hardware or software. 

All in all, from a grading perspective, the iPad Mini is very similar to the Surface Duo. It can still, barely, fit in my pocket, but again, was difficult to use with a stylus while in my lap. The operating system is perfectly smooth and, as a Bible reading device, it is great, but I do wish is was a little bigger. To make it an effective Bible Study device, I would need to attach a keyboard, but because of the size, typing would be pretty cramped. If someone confined their Bible Study to reading the Bible and not taking any notes with a keyboard, this might work out very well. I won’t permanently eliminate it from contention, but I want to try something bigger.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Earlier this year, I had a job change and had to send my old iPad back to the company. I purchased the large iPad Pro  (8.5” x 11”) to replace that device and to potentially act as a laptop when attached to the Apple Magic Keyboard. Overall, It is an amazing device – beautifully built with an incredible screen and support for a second generation stylus that charges itself by attaching magnetically to the side of the device. It works very well as a laptop and as a tablet. I did purchase a “paper feel” screen protector and a rubber cover for the Apple Pencil. The cover makes the Pencil more grippy and the screen protector provides a matte, slightly rough surface that makes it feel like you are writing on paper with a pencil and not on glass with a piece of plastic.

Originally I had not planned to use this large iPad as a Digital Bible full-time, especially at Church, but then I discovered the PDF ESV translation Bible (that I discuss in Part 3) – it changed my thinking completely. Another important factor was that I purchased a leather cover that makes the device more easily carried. The Pencil is still a pain in the butt – the magnet is not strong enough to trust it while carrying it so I, again, put it in my pocket.

Overall, this is the solution that best meets my wants and needs. While I really like the larger iPad when I am doing Bible study, at life group, typing out blog posts or presenting at meetings, it is a little too large when I am at church. I am going to continue to use it for now and may update this post when something changes – I might try one more thing – the smaller (7”x 9.75”) iPad Air

Continue on to Part 3 – The Software, to learn what I have found effective and to read about an important new tool that I have discovered and how it has delivered on a major Digital Bible want.

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