The Perfect Tablet For Travelling

I don’t currently own a tablet, but have been seriously looking at the possibility of purchasing one, especially for our upcoming trip to Disney World. We both own smart phones, so we wouldn’t be disconnected on our trip, by any means, but we would both like to be able to do some blogging while we are there. And, let’s face it, typing a detailed post on a smart phone doesn’t sound at all fun.

So, I’ve been looking at picking up a tablet. I’m not positive, yet, exactly which tablet to get, though. I’ve narrowed the field to a select few, I believe. Here are some of the criteria that I think would make the perfect tablet for travelling:

  1. Connectivity: It’s going to be important to be able to access the Internet on the go while travelling. Most modern hotels are going to have available Wi-Fi, and usually for free, but that’s only while you’re in the hotel. As a result, it may well pay to have 3G or 4G available as an option for connectivity.
  2. Battery Life: If you’re going to take your tablet out with you then it needs to have enough battery life to last for the whole outing.
  3. Apps: Let’s face it, you’re going to want to have something to do on the tablet and that means it needs to have a decent selection of apps.
  4. Affordability: As much as I would like money not to be a factor in this purchase, it most definitely is. I personally believe that if I’m paying as much as I would for a notebook then maybe I should just get a notebook. Obviously, a tablet is much more portable and you pay a bit of a premium for that form factor. Still, it’s unsettling to me to pay as much for a tablet as something that can run all the software on my desktop, including top of the line games. It doesn’t necessarily have to make sense, okay?

After doing lots of research on various tablets, I’ve found that finding something with a data plan may not be the easiest thing to do. There are basically two options for cellular data enabled tablets: various flavors of Android and an iPad. Neither of those are a bad choice, of course, but there is such a large upgrade cost for the data plan and the additional monthly cost, that the affordability factor has been over-ruling the connectivity factor. As a result, I’ve been concentrating mostly on just Wi-Fi enabled tablets.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

First up is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. This is an Android tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich. I have to say, everything I’ve seen about this tablet looks really good. It’s seems very responsive with the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor. It has an 8 MP rear camera with an LED flash and a 1.2 MP front facing camera. It claims to have a 12 hour battery life, though real-world tests place the battery life around 9 hours without the keyboard dock. Android Community has a fairly decent overview of the specs. The 32GB model has a $499 price tag while the 64GB model has a $599 price tag. Both of these have a microSD slot, though, so there’s not much reason to upgrade tot he 64GB model, I think. However, that aforementioned keyboard dock, which would be a very nice feature for blogging on the go, adds another $150 to that price tag.

Using the factors I outlined above for the perfect tablet for travelling, this tablet is fair in connectivity, good in battery life, good in apps, and fair in affordability. There is no cellular data plan for this model, though all of the tablets I’m looking at are similar in that respect. Nine hours of battery life is quite good for lasting through an entire day out. The Android app market is nearly as robust as Apple’s. It is a touch pricey, at $500 and, let’s face it, the keyboard dock is too nice to pass up, so realistically, it’s actually $650 at best.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The next model I’ve been looking at is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. This is another Android tablet similar to the Asus Eee Pad above. This tablet is a little older than the Asus and so it’s hardware specs are a little less than that model. It has the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor. There is a rear-facing 3MP camera and a front-facing 2MP camera. Like the Asus above, this model has a 10.1 inch screen. Similar real-world tests put the battery life for the Galaxy Tab at just under 9 hours. The 32GB model runs about $450. There is no card slot on the Galaxy Tab, so you are limited to the 32GB, not that I think that is a huge issue, but it does somewhat limit the number of apps/videos/etc.  Later this month, Samsung is expected to announce a new model, I believe the 10.1v, so that price may come down even more in just a bit. Of course, it might be worth looking at the upgraded model, at that point.

Looking at my factors for the perfect tablet for travelling above, I’d say this tablet also ranks a fair in connectivity. There are versions that have cellular connectivity, but they are outside my personal bounds of affordability. I would also rate the battery life for this tablet as good. Even 8 hours should be enough to do plenty of activities, though the Asus model does seem to edge out this tablet in battery life. Also being an Android tablet, you have the Android marketplace for apps, so that rates a good, as well. Though, this model is less expensive than the Asus, I’d still only rate this a fair in affordability.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Next up is the Kindle Fire. I think this tablet is a perfect example of the old adage that “you get what you pay for.” The Kindle Fire has a 7 inch screen, as compared to the 10.1 inch of the models above. It has a dual-core processor, the Texas Instruments OMAP 4, but most users have described the responsiveness as a bit sluggish. There are no cameras on the Kindle Fire, either front or back. There is only 8GB of storage in this model, though all of the media you get from Amazon on the device can be stored in the cloud. That’s possibly a plus, except that you won’t have access to that media when you aren’t online. Still, though, even with all those apparent cons, the pro of the $199 price point may outweigh them. I’m not certain. I do know that one of the uses we would like to have for the tablet is a reading device. The Kindle store is, of course, one of the best places to get e-books, though the DRM is less than ideal. However, I have the Kindle app on my smart phone and on my desktop, so it’s not exactly like I wouldn’t be able to access my e-books wherever I happen to be.

Using my perfect tablet for travelling factors above, the Kindle Fire rates a fair in connectivity, a fair in battery life, a fair in apps, and an excellent in affordability. This is probably the lowest price tablet you could get that might be considered a full-fledged tablet. In exchange for that low price, you get a limited selection of apps and not the strongest hardware specs out there. It has about 6 hours of battery life in real-world tests, which isn’t exactly great, but not terrible either, thus the fair rating. It’s enough battery life for most outings, but I’m sure we could run into situations where it would die while we are out. The lack of cameras are disconcerting. We have a nice camera and will likely have it with us at any point on the trip, but it could be an issue for blogging. Any pictures or videos would have to be uploaded separately. That would be kind of a pain.

iPad 2

Last, and certainly not least, is the goliath of the tablet market, the iPad 2. If you’ve done any research on tablets, you’re probably familiar with the specs for the iPad 2, but I’ll go over them here again. It has an A5 Apple dual core processor and, of course, runs the iOS operating system. It has a rather lackluster 0.7 MP camera rear-facing and even less for the forward facing camera. It’s adequate, but certainly not great. On the other hand, battery life is really great with the iPad 2. Boasting at least 11 hours of battery life in real-world tests. There are 3 different models, a 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB model. Respectively, the price for those models are $499, $599, and $699. However, much like the Galaxy Tab, Apple is expected to announce the iPad 3 next week and it’s entirely likely that these prices may drop by as much as $100 very soon. Of course, with an iOS device comes the Apple App Store and access to half a million of app.

Similarly to all the devices listed here, the iPad 2 without a data plan only rates a fair in connectivity. Battery life, though, is rather impressive, rating an excellent in comparison to the other models above. Apps, as well, is an excellent. Though the Android market has nearly caught up to the App Store, iOS still has a slight advantage in available apps. Affordability, however, is only fair. You’re paying a bit more for the equivalent model of iPad 2 as compared to the Asus and Galaxy above, even if the price comes down next week.

Summary of Tablet Ratings
Asus Eee Pad Samsung Galaxy Tab Kindle Fire iPad 2
Connectivity Fair Fair Fair Fair
Battery Life Good Good Fair Excellent
Apps Good Good Fair Excellent
Affordability Good Good Excellent Fair

I’m leaning a bit towards the Asus Eee Pad at this point. I like the better cameras and better hardware than the Tab and the affordability factor outweighs the iPad 2. Of course, I’m going to wait until the iPad 3 and new Tab come out to make my final decision. One of those may blow away the competition to a point where the choice is obvious.

What would you choose? Or did I miss a tablet that is perfect?

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One Response to The Perfect Tablet For Travelling

  1. Connaught says:

    Very useful post. It is very necessary to check all these points before going to trip.

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