Could an iPad replace a laptop for Traveling?
When I travelled around the world from 2011 – 2012, I schlepped a 15” Lenovo W520 laptop with me to stay connected, email, organize photos, and do the occasional blogging. There were times on the trip where I considered ditching the laptop and using a tablet for the rest of the trip, but I never followed through on that threat. In May 2013, before I headed to Israel for a work trip, I finally picked up a 4th generation 64GB iPad with LTE. As part of my return to blogging and contributing to the travel community, I wanted to explore if it was remotely possible to rely on an iPad (or another tablet) instead of a laptop for traveling purposes.
On my trip, I used the laptop to do things like Facebooking, managing/editing photos, email, researching places to visit, watching movies, and Skyping. Some of these functions could easily be replaced by an iPad; while others would pose some difficulties in replacing. Thinking about how I used my laptop, the main barriers to replacing it with a tablet would be photo management, comfort around using an onscreen keyboard, screen size, and that odd website that may require adobe flash to be correctly viewed.
The barriers I listed to switching to relying completely on a tablet (in my case an iPad) could be worked around for the most part. For example, I could get a blue tooth keyboard instead of using the built-in keyboard of the iPad. Most of the popular websites either have a mobile version that works on a tablet or a specific app that can be downloaded. There are also web browser apps that do support flash enabled websites. While screen size of a tablet can’t be changed, it can be mitigated. Stands can be purchased so the user doesn’t have to hold the screen close to their face all the time or HDMI adapters purchased to output video to a larger screen. Even adapters for reading SD cards and external hard drives can be purchased.
The one challenge that would be especially challenging to overcome would be editing and managing photos. The SD card/USB adapter would really address storage and backup concerns – as a tablet is especially limited in space and it’s always good to make backups of your travelling memories, but I have yet to find an application that is as powerful as Adobe Lightroom for editing and managing photos. This to me would be a deal breaker. I didn’t spend a bunch of money on expensive dSLR lens and a camera body not to be able to edit a photo taken with those items.
For shorter trips (less than 1 month) and where a person may not need to post photos remotely, I can see an iPad being a replacement for taking a laptop on the trip. As of this post, there are rumors that Adobe is working to release an iPad app for Lightroom. If the app is ever released, it may change my mind, however, typically iPad apps do not have all the functionality of their native desktop software.
For longer trips, where you won’t be home to edit and manage photos, I can’t see how an iPad could replace this functionality. Additionally, even for short term travel, carrying some of the accessories such as keyboard stands and Bluetooth keyboards negates some of the benefits of leaving a laptop at home. When I purchased my W520 in 2011, the ultra-light weight laptops were expensive and under-powered. Today, Macbook Airs and ultra-books represent a significant step forward in terms of price and performance. If I were to plan another extended trip today, I would probably plan on carrying a Macbook Air or Ultra-book depending on my preference.
What do you think? Can a tablet replace a laptop while for travelling? If not, do you think there will be a point where tablets can replace laptops? Leave your thoughts below.