Several years ago, I started my quest for the perfect travel computing solution. Academic travel places a lot of demands on our technology: often, we rely on computers for presentations at conferences, taking notes, and keeping up to date on other projects and meetings. For a few years I was able to rely almost entirely on an iPad and keyboard case for all my conferences, which offered a lot of portability if not much computing power.
Sadly, I was parted from my iPad this year, and I had to make the decision of which platform to invest in for my next conference workhorse. Choosing a new computer for travel has gotten more complicated thanks to the range of options, from the affordable Chromebooks (which Jason tested and Amy converted to Linux) to the ubiquitous Macbook Air to the Windows Surface and other hybrids. While the latest generations of iPads are still compelling options, they can be difficult to consider when the price of an iPad plus a decent keyboard case can be comparable to many laptops. It’s also worth factoring in the software and web platform favored by your institution: while more learning management systems are supporting tablets and mobile devices, updating course material and grading on the go is a lot easier on a laptop.
My current solution is the Yoga 2 Pro, Lenovo’s version of the hybrid tablet / PC. Unfortunately, the tablet aspects of Windows computers aren’t nearly as useful as they sound, as many great touch-screen games are developed with Apple’s iOS in mind. I’ve only found a few apps that take advantage of the tablet mode, such as the drawing note-taking options in Microsoft’s OneNote. For writing, I’ve found Poe best replicates some of the distraction-free writing tools I used to rely on with my iPad. I do wish I’d realized what a challenge the ultrabook form factor would create for connecting to projectors. Just like Apple’s laptops, the ultrabook’s size necessitates a special converter for Micro HDMI to VGA or HDMI. (For conference travel, it’s often best to have both, as projector support can vary wildly.)
So far, I’m fairly happy with this solution, but I feel like a truly portable and cross-platform compatible travel computing set-up is still out of reach. It is convenient to have a full computer with me on the go again, but I’ve been eyeing the iPad Air 2 and I might be tempted back to a more portable solution in the future.
What are your solutions for travel computing? Share your favorite devices in the comments!