Finding the right travel companion requires careful thinking about how you travel and what you need to do when you get there.
The boom in portable gadgets is a godsend for those of us who tend to work and play on the road, but we’re so spoilt for choice that it can be hard to know which device is best. There’s a range of notebooks — with tiny netbooks at one end, powerful Ultrabooks at the other end and plenty of ultraportable notebooks in the middle. Then you’ve got the explosion in smartphones, tablets and “phablets” to consider. Phablets are basically overgrown Android smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, which might just hit the spot for some people.
All these devices have their strengths and weaknesses so you need to spend some time weighing up your options. While it’s tempting to simply splash out on the latest and greatest wundergadget, you should seriously consider your needs before handing over your cash. Don’t get your heart set on a gadget and then try to justify it. Instead start with a list of requirements and then look for the gadget which best fits the bill. You might even find that a combination of gadgets is the best solution for you.
It’s important to keep in mind that all portable computing devices trade off portability against usability. Start by asking whether your travel companion will spend more time on your shoulder or at your fingertips. Will you simply carry it from your plane to your a taxi and then into your hotel room? Or will you be wearing out some shoe leather walking the streets with your tech in a satchel or backpack? The more you’ll be lugging around your devices, the more you need to worry about size, weight and general ruggedness.
When it’s time to fire up your gadgets, what will you do with them? Do you need to create and edit content or will you simply consume it? If you only need to read documents then a tablet is probably a good choice, and it doubles as a great entertainment device. But if you need to write long documents or edit complicated spreadsheets then the lack of a physical keyboard may make life difficult.
A separate wireless keyboard for your tablet, or perhaps a case with a built-in keyboard, could be a wise investment. But even then you might struggle to find mobile alternatives to some of the desktop software you rely on.
Opting for a 10-inch netbook might seem the perfect compromise, offering the flexibility of a full desktop operating system rather than Android or Apple’s iOS. But such a tiny computer could still be frustrating when it comes time to get some work done. It’s not just about grunt, it’s also about the size of the keyboard and the design of the trackpad. There’s little point in buying a travel companion as a productivity tool if it’s incredibly awkward to use. You can’t judge this from the spec sheet, you’ll need some hands-on time with a display model in a shop.
If 10 inches won’t cut it then you’ll want to look at the super-thin 11.6 and 13.3-inch Ultrabooks, but it’s also worth considering the range of ultraportable notebooks. They might not be as sexy as Ultrabooks or offer as much grunt, but they’re also not as expensive.
The fact ultraportable notebooks offer less grunt can help push the battery life out past six hours, even putting many Ultrabooks to shame. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, you need to spend time weighing up your options to find your perfect travel companion.