Saturday, 23 March 2013

Getting Ready for Japan - Travel Light

This August I'm heading back to Japan again to visit Kyle.  Having learned from my previous trips I'm opting to travel light this time, I'm not bringing my laptop.  Last year I took my Asus Transformer and my E5420 laptop (the friend I was staying with had wired internet only so I used the E5420 as a temporary hotspot), this time I'm bringing the Transformer only.
As a travel laptop, the E5420 has proven quite useful.  It's a 14" model so it doesn't take up too much space and the 9 cell extended battery allows for a reasonable runtime.  With it, I was able to log in to a Wi-Fi hotspot in Frankfurt airport and blog/surf away to my hearts content while waiting for my flight to Tokyo.  Unfortunately the size meant that using it on the plane wasn't especially practical so I generally opted to use the Transformer.
Dell Latitude E5420 with Extended Battery
Even though the laptop is not oversize, it still takes up a lot of space in my carry on bag and does add a substantial weight.  Again, not massive but for a carry on bag size and weight really do matter.  The advantages of the Transformer are:

  1. Smaller - it's netbook sized
  2. Weight - it's probably twice the weight of the average tablet, much lighter than a laptop.  With the E5420 and the Transformer, my shoulder did start to ache.
  3. Tablet/Netbook - I've got a tablet PC that I can connect a keyboard to for typing - a touchscreen tablet with the best of both worlds.  Writing a blog with the on screen keyboard is not something I look forward to.
  4. Runtime - with a battery in the tablet and keyboard, it should be enough to keep me occupied during the layover and long haul flight

Asus TF101 Transformer with Keyboard Dock
There is another reason for reducing the number of devices carried.  It takes much longer to get through security as there is more to check, especially if you have a large box of AA batteries.  That slowed things down at Manchester, then it slowed things down at Frankfurt, on the return leg I opted to store them in my suitcase.
One final point is that I've written this post using the Transformer and keyboard dock (I've made a few formatting changes from my main PC).  Typing isn't as comfortable as on a full size laptop keyboard but it's no worse then most netbooks.  The blogger application is obviously designed for phones but it's usable on tablets (it does lack a few formatting options present in the web interface but for a basic post it works fine).  For any documents I might need to write, Kingsoft Office does a good job and recently introduced Dropbox integration.  The Polaris Office software included is okay but on the whole I prefer Kingsoft, I'll probably write a separate review and comparison of the 2 applications (I'm not sure how useful this will be as this version of Polaris is 2 years old and is only included OEM)
I have to admit, these days I haven't actually used the keyboard dock that much.  For the most part I browse websites that are already in my bookmarks list, check my emails, message/call on Skype and check Dropbox.  I think I'm going to start using it more.  The only issue I really have with this device is that as a TF101 (probably 2 or so years old) it no longer seems to be receiving software updates.  There will be no Jelly Bean update but Ice Cream Sandwich does a good enough job.  This tablet has become increasingly sluggish for a while now but a factory reset seems to have resolved this.
For what I'm going to need on this trip it will suffice.  It's not as powerful as an actual laptop but it does what I need and saves weight/space.