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Best travel computer 2015 – iPad, Tablet or Netbook

Ipad Air, Tablet PC or Netbook for travel: choosing a lightweight laptop

The Ipad is discussed online as a netbook killer: it’s just more fun than a netbook. Sure, it is. However, is it better to take with you for travel?
I’m planning a long trip to India next year. India is a country where the rich are very rich, but the poor are also very poor still. It’s an upcoming economy, but women still can’t be sure they won’t be molested on a country road. There are issues with clean water there, that make American tap water look peachy. One thing that IS sure though is that you have to travel light when going to India.

I think the real laptop killer is the Windows Surface Tablet (shown above). It has a cover that doubles as a keyboard making it functionally like a laptop, while it has the size of a tablet or netbook. And yes, that means you CAN edit normal MS Office files on the Microsoft Surface Tablet. That’s not possible on any other tablet on the market today. Did I mention you can use USB on one of these as well as MicroSD?

I learned long ago that there are two complementary strategies when traveling light: take only the bare necessities, and of the things you DO need, take them in as light a form as possible.

I bought a 13 inch notebook last year, that I’m very happy with. It’s as good as a desktop pc. However, it’s not as light as I might wish. I had muscle ache in my back from carrying it, the first few weeks. Not good. Especially not, considering I will be carrying my life on my back in India. So, I need something lighter.
Still, as an online publisher I need to be able to publish on the Internet when I’m gone. I need to be able to write down my thoughts when the inspiration strikes, and preferably in a way that limits my time at the unavoidable Internet bars on the road. In short: I need a netbook. However, there’s a new player in town: the Ipad. Is it good enough to make me switch? This page is meant to help me decide. Please voice in too!

In short, my conclusion is that you can do almost anything you need on an Apple iPad with 3G (mobile internet connection) that you would be able to do on a Netbook as well. An iPad is not a computer, however you can mail, navigate, give presentations (keynote is great), go online, chat and take notes. It’s half as light as the lightest netbook and with that touch screen and navigation options it is really a great device for on the go.

Some things the iPad just does better than any laptop: reading books on an iPad is great, I would not choose to trade it in for a netbook on that account.
The battery life of the iPad is very good, matched by only the best notebooks and netbooks.

So – what are the considerations?

  • Typing – if you are going to edit documents, you will need either an external keyboard (available for all types of tablets, including the iPad) or you can go with the usually slightly more comfortable laptop option.
  • Editing MS Office documents
    • If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can edit your MS Office documents on any of the usual suspects with the Office Apps for android or iOS. Don’t expect ALL formatting options to be in place, however formatting is not lost either.
    • If you don’t have an Office 365 subscription, I’m afraid you’re more stuck with getting a Windows netbook, laptop or Tablet.
    • If you want to be able to fine tune everything in your MS Office documents, including all arcane forms of formatting and macros, you will need to get a Windows Laptop or Tablet.
  • Gaming, e-reading etc: on the road relaxation is best done on something without a keyboard, so a tablet or iPad makes more sense (with or without external keyboard)
  • Weight: the lightest laptop weighs 2.38 pounds. A typical 10 inch tablet weighs 1.5 pounds including a keyboard case.

What’s missing is just as important perhaps. Do you need that USB desperately enough to take a laptop instead of an iPad?

Sharing files is easy enough if you just edit and access files through Dropbox or Google documents. No need for a laptop on that account. In fact, you can do that even on your Kindle Fire. Don’t let the name fool you: it’s really a tablet pc.

However, when it comes to price, and an ability to type comfortably, recently laptops are making quite a come-back. And they’re more like old-style netbooks than you would think.

iPad, Android or Windows tablet?

In this case price and functionality are the most important considerations. Ipad is the most expensive option. On the plus side, most people find that it’s easiest to use. It also has the largest app-store.

However, Android makes a good second. The app-store is full of apps – less than iOS perhaps, but full enough for most needs.

Similarly, the Kindle Fire line is a very good choice if budget is your main consideration and you’re not planning on doing a lot of file editing. The price is good for the hardware you get. However, you will (unless you pay extra) have to deal with Amazon ads and promotions.

Windows is still the minority choice. Compatibility with Windows PCs is the main selling point. However, I do know one or two very happy users.

I asked my readers:

Do you have an Ipad, Microsoft Windows Tablet PC, Kindle Fire or Android Tablet?

Do you have an Ipad or Tablet PC?

  • 49% I have neither
  • 26% Yes, I have an Ipad
  • 12% Yes, I have an Android Tablet PC
  • 1% Yes, I have a Kindle Fire
  • 12% Actually, I have both
  • 0% Yes, I have a Windows Tablet

553 people voted in this poll.

Laptops for travel: Chromebook, Windows or Macbook Air

The Chromebook has become one of the low-budget laptops for people who need only the basics: an easy to use Office system without too many bells and whistles, gaming and built in online storage. It has built in protection against viruses and spamware and is easy to use.

Windows laptops are available in 3 flavors:

  • Touch-screen laptops that take full advantage of the Windows 8.1 operating system
  • Cheap laptops for those who want to travel light, but be able to use all software they way they would at home (though perhaps a bit more slowly).
  • Gaming laptops – the name speaks for itself: high end laptops with high-end graphics cards.

Macbook Air – Lightweight laptops by Apple.

On a previous version of this page I asked my readers: What’s your most important consideration in choosing between an Ipad, a tablet PC or a netbook?

What is most important to you?

For your convenience I have added the conclusion based on that.

  • 22% Being able to type and respond to emails and stuff > laptop or tablet with external keyboard
  • 20% Lightweight  > Tablet
  • 12% Battery life > don’t skimp on price: more expensive = better battery life
  • 12% Connections: USB ports etc. > laptop (probably a Windows laptop: Macbooks have less USB ports)
  • 11% Easy of use > personal preference
  • 9% Windows compatibility > Windows tablet or laptop
  • 6% Being able to read, listen to music, watch video, play games  > tablet
  • 4% Speed > don’t skimp on price: more expensive = faster processor and more internal memory
  • 2% Memory
  • 1% Camera

139 people voted in this poll.