iPad a good travel companion for business or pleasure
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in
Vancouver July 12-18, 2011 issue #1133 High Tech
I just got back from several weeks’ holiday travels; lucky me.
As many of you do, I take my high-tech office with me, putting a
premium on portability and usability. In past years, I’ve written about
travelling with a MacBook
Air and with a netbook.
This time around, I
took a tablet.
While I’ve recently reviewed tablets from Motorola and RIM in this
column, both of those had already gone back to their manufacturers.
Instead, I took my own iPad – not the new iPad 2, but last year’s
And I was glad I had it. While both the Motorola Xoom and RIM
BlackBerry Playbook models I’d had for review (and previous years’
MacBook Air and Dell Mini 9 netbook) have Wi-Fi networking, iPad models
optionally include 3G networking. It’s easy to get the sense that Wi-Fi
is readily available – that hasn’t been my experience when travelling.
A few moments in a Florence Vodafone storefront in Italy got me an
iPad-compatible micro-SIMM good for a month’s wireless data access. The
The account automatically cancelled itself at the end of the month. No
muss, no fuss and online access pretty much everywhere – on the train,
hiking in the Tuscan countryside and in the several hotels we stayed at
with limited or no Wi-Fi connectivity.
At its best, 3G networking is slower than Wi-Fi, and I never figured
out whether there were limits to how much bandwidth my 3G account
As a result, I avoided things like watching online video or downloading
apps and updates. But email and everyday web browsing was fine. (Over
three weeks, I used about 500 megabytes of data.)
That always-available connectivity also let the iPad double as a GPS,
handy both when hiking in rural Tuscany and in the medieval maze of
cities like Venice. In addition, I had an Android smartphone – without
a data plan, the phone’s GPS w
as unable to download and display maps.
The iPad’s tablet form factor made it a nice travelling companion –
smaller and lighter than a notebook or netbook, easier to use on an
airplane seat-back tray table. I easily carried it in my backpack while
hiking, something I wouldn’t consider doing with a notebook computer.
The tablet screen worked well for watching video (in horizontal
landscape mode) and reading books (in vertical portrait mode). Before
leaving, I loaded it with movies, TV shows and novels – avoiding any
need to pack pounds of paperbacks.
A consortium of B.C. libraries offers eBooks on loan, downloadable and
readable on iPads and other portable devices.
The 10-hour battery life let it remain usable throughout the long
flight from Vancouver to Italy, though carrying any sort of eBook
reader means not having anything to read during takeoff and landing.
(And yes, even my older iPad continued to really have 10 hours of
battery life; I checked usage on the nine-hour Venice-to-Vancouver
flight, and it dropped by 10% with every hour of use.)
Instant-on was also a plus, letting the iPad be available as needed.
(It’s not really instant-on, but rather, resume from suspend. However,
given the iPad’s long shelf-life when suspended and little need to be
shut down or restarted, that’s a technicality.)
I didn’t find myself regretting having last year’s model. The iPad 2 is
thinner and a tiny bit lighter, but my older model is thin and light
The new model has a faster processor and more RAM, but the older model
never seemed sluggish. And the current iPad has built-in cameras
lacking in mine, but the one time I saw someone using an iPad 2 to take
photos it looked pretty clumsy.
More on how I did take photos next time.