Travel Gadgets: Tablets vs. Laptops

With so many options on the market, or already at home, it can be difficult to decide what technology will best fit your travel needs. In Travel Gadgets Part I (Smartphones vs. iPods) we started highlighting some of the top travel gizmo’s Flashpackers are using to gear up for their next outing abroad. Here are some more travel tools for the tech-junky with points to consider on which gadget will enhance your experience the most!

Backpacker Technology

Tablets vs. Laptops

When laptops were first introduced, they were the answer to travelers’ prayers. Portable and powerful, it appeared that no other electronic would be able to top the laptop’s combination of full-range capabilities and mobility…But then the tablet emerged. Now backpackers are baffled between which one is the better buy, and what significant differences actually exist between the two.

Feeling Sevilla Hostel, Sevilla Hostel
Photo shows a Flashpacker (What’s a Flashpacker?) at Feeling Sevilla Hostel in Sevilla.

Laptops – handy and useful?

Tried and true, laptops are ideal for the travel writer, blogger, photographer, and photo journalist, or for any other typical traveler that wants to stay connected, Skype, edit and upload pictures and videos as-you-go, and organize travel plans.  The main advantages that laptops have over tablets include:

  • Price: In comparison to tablets, laptops are more backpacker budget-friendly.  Plus you are more likely to already have an old laptop at home that you could use in contrast to the relatively new tablet.
  • Durability: While the sleek tablet touch screen may be enticing, the open-air surface is also an invitation for damage.  This could be a potential disaster since a tablet without a working screen is virtually useless.
  • Storage: Tablets have a substantially more limited storage space than laptops.  Laptops may be best if you know you’re the type of person that is trigger-happy with the camera and wants to have every travel map, plane ticket, hostel reservation and other relevant document saved locally.
  • Keyboard: If a primary purpose of bringing an electronic device abroad is so you can keep a travel journal or travel blog, then a laptop may be the better option.  Typing long documents for extended periods of time is more difficult and takes more time on a tablet touch screen. 
    while it will cost extra money, a possible solution for your tablet could be to buy an attachable keyboard.

Tablets – Technology for Backpackers?

Tablets are great for being on-the-go since they’re much lighter and thinner then laptops.

As the new kid on the technology block, tablets are garnering a lot of attention in the world of travel and social media.  They are also giving laptops a run for their money with these chief advantages:

  • Mobility:  In the daily life of a backpacker, the weight (both literally and metaphorically) of this advantage could possibly be enough in itself to win the battle.  Tablets are substantially lighter and thinner than laptops and thus take up less room in your backpack, are less strain on your back, are less of a hassle to tote around, and offer the majority of the same, essential functions of their counterpart.
  • Battery Life:  Tablets tend to have a longer battery life than laptops.  Thus if you mostly plan to use it for entertainment or social connection purposes during commute time, then a tablet might be a better option for you.
  • E-Books:  Whether you want to check some words in a language dictionary, read up on a site’s history, culture, or attractions, or just read some passages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road for travel inspiration on your flight, many tablets come equipped with E-Book readers. If you’re going to a city where you plan on being a beach bum, this is a definite advantage to be able to read in the sunlight!
  • Social Access:  We would have to say that Tablets offer easier access to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, your Godashboard, etc.  The instant on/off startup is definitely a plus compared to the time that it takes for a laptop to boot-up.  In addition, many tablets have built in WiFi and 3G that allows you to connect to the internet wherever you are without an available WiFi network.  (3G may cost extra though.)
  • Custom Apps:  Tablets often have custom applications with all sorts of added travel benefits.  For example, you can download Trippy for your iPad for free and get access to a collection of inspiring travel photographs with maps to browse and get ideas for your own ventures.  You can also search more photos by a specific destination and stumble upon a place you might not have otherwise discovered.

When it comes down to it, the laptop – tablet debate is not truly a question of better technology, but rather a question of which technology better suits your specific purpose for using it. It’s also a question of which better suits your personal preferences and travel style.

Which backpacker gadget do you prefer?  Tell us here!

This post was updated at 25/09/2013