Gear We Like
Choosing the right notebook for travel
Having worked in the IT industry for a solid five years, I’ve seen people make mistakes with technology time and time again. There was the man who couldn’t figure out how to turn on his computer because it wasn’t plugged in, and there was the woman who unknowingly had two internet connections at her house, and was paying for, and using, both.
Not everybody has the know-how, and that’s quite OK – no judgments here. Nobody gets it right all the time, including me!
For instance, I traveled with a very old, large and heavy notebook for quite some time. It wasn’t until the screen literally fell off the hinges that I decided it was time to suck it up, transfer my data, and get a new one. I usually sit on the cutting edge of technology and pick up all the latest gadgets, but I just couldn’t bear to get myself a new notebook. When I did, though, I gained new insight into what features, specifically, make life so much easier on the road.
Don’t believe the hype! Size matters. And this time, bigger isn’t necessarily better. By different logic, smaller isn’t either, though! We want one that fits just right. I downsized from one with a 15.4 inch screen, to an 11.6. This time, my notebook fits nicely in my bag, it’s easy to carry on its own, and it’s incredibly light.
I was concerned with the screen real estate I would be losing but, with increasing resolutions and higher quality displays these days, I don’t feel like I had to sacrifice anything. If your notebook is too big, it’s going to be heavy and take up more space. If it’s too small, though, your chubby fingers will just end up mashing keys.
Make sure your hard drive is big enough, too. It’s easy to fall prey to the logic that you can always just get an external hard drive, but then you’ve got another piece of equipment to carry around and take care of. I have a 500GB hard drive in my machine, which is more than reasonable. And, since I backup everything online and keep all my files in the cloud, I never have to worry about external drives!
Most things in your notebook will be upgradable or replaceable. Dead battery? Sweet – buy a new one. Not enough RAM (memory)? No worries – just buy some more. Your processor, however, is not something that you can just change out. When purchasing your notebook, make sure you’re equipping yourself with enough processing power to handle your daily tasks along with the things you might only do occasionally.
By the same accord, stock up on memory (aka RAM). And not just any memory—get fast memory. Put simply, the faster it is, the faster things will happen on your computer. And with more memory, more things can happen faster. Also consider the maximum amount of memory your notebook will be able to take if you want to upgrade in the future.
A small power source means there’s less to carry on the side. Instead of carrying a huge brick, I now carry a tiny little box with a skinny, yet durable cord. This is literally a huge burden off my shoulders, as my power supply lives in my backpack. Life got so much easier.
Also, some notebooks come with international adapters. If you’re traveling to different countries, you don’t want to have to use a bulky adapter or converter as well. Keep the stock ones with you, switch them out, and you’re in business.
Lasting longer is better, and this time around, there’s no such thing as lasting too long! If you’re an avid traveler, don’t settle for a battery life of anything less than 5 hours. The amount of available time we end up with is uncanny. Buses, airplanes, trains—they’re always easier with a movie, Word document or internet connection. This is where I get my best work done.
Keeping in touch with your family and friends back home is hard. Don’t rely on phone calls. Visual communication is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to stay in touch. It’s pretty standard these days, but make sure your notebook is well-equipped with a webcam and microphone. My previous laptop had neither a webcam nor a microphone and my outgoing calls to the other side of the world became very, very expensive, and just plain difficult. It shouldn’t be so challenging just to say, “Hey, Mom!”
Live in the Cloud
You want to make sure you’re equipped for all internet situations. Many notebooks come with slots for SIM cards these days. Make sure you have both WiFi capability and an Ethernet port. Many computers don’t even let you plug straight in anymore, but as a traveler, you never know when you’re going to need it!
If you want to stay in the cloud and keep yourself backed up online, reliable internet connectivity is key. The idea here is that, as long as you can keep everything online, you won’t have to carry extra accessories with you.
It’s not always easy making a purchase like this. The notebook you choose will have a direct impact on your productivity on the road. Prepare yourself ahead of time, figure out what it is that you need and want, and make sure you’ve got your bases covered so that you won’t have to deal with silly accessories or upgrades in the future.
Keep it tight, keep it light. Travel safe. Stay productive.