Technology for Expats
So I started investigating smaller, lighter alternatives. The two main contenders, based on portability and cost, were either a netbook computer or a tablet.
I found the tablet intriguing, but in the end opted for a netbook.
My reasoning? I needed to work while on the road, and to do that I needed a “real” keyboard (even if smaller than standard), not a tablet’s virtual keyboard. I thought a tablet was good for consuming content (reading email, watching movies, browsing the internet) but not for creating it (writing articles for the website, travel notes, etc.).
Since then, I’ve changed my mind.
I tossed my trusty netbook into a messenger bag and flew to Panama. I used it daily while I was there. I:
- Took notes at the conference
- Did some live tweeting from the conference
- Wrote and uploaded articles like this one
- Uploaded and processed pictures from my camera
- Browsed the internet
- Read and wrote email
- Updated Facebook
- And a few other things
I was able to do everything I needed to do, with a device that was reasonably light (about two pounds) and portable.
But I may be giving the tablet another look.
A recent conversation with my brother has convinced me to take a new look at the tablet as a content creation device.
Following the memorial service for our mother, my three siblings and I met to discuss some estate business. My brother pulled out his tablet, as well as a small wireless keyboard. He proceeded to place the keyboard on his lap and type.
Afterward, I asked him how he likes the tablet and how it fits into his overall computing.
He was enthusiastic about using the tablet as an input device. He routinely takes it with him to meetings, and uses his Bluetooth keyboard on his lap as I had seen. The benefits, for him, are that
- He can take notes at meetings on a low profile device that doesn’t get in the way of making eye contact
- If he needs to show a document or a presentation, he can put it on the tablet and pass it around if need be
- All of his software integrates seamlessly with his laptop and desktop computers, and he syncs content “in the cloud” so all three devices are always up to date
Shipping weight of a 7″ tablet is about 1.5 pounds (I don’t know how much of that weight is packing materials), and for the large 10″ tablets, about two pounds. Add a keyboard, at less than a pound, and you’ve got a pretty portable, lightweight device.
The tablet has one strong advantage over the netbook — wireless connectivity. With a data plan in place, the tablet can connect to the internet the same way your smartphone does. The netbook needs a wifi connection or an ethernet cable.
Whichever you get, netbook or tablet, make sure you can sync it to your other computer(s) and smartphone to get the most out of it.
Until recently, you could assume any netbook was a Windows machine. However, now that Android operating systems have entered the computer market, you can find Android netbooks as well, and they’re surprisingly affordable.
Apple doesn’t really offer a netbook. Its MacBook Air machines are the smallest and lightest, at 11″ and 13″ respectively. However, Apple tablets (the iPad) and phones (iPhone) are quite popular.
Ultimately, choosing a netbook or a tablet will depend on what you’re comfortable with, whether you have other computing devices you’ll also use, and when and how you intend to use it.
Have you used a netbook or tablet computer while traveling? What are some of the pluses and minuses you’ve experienced?