These days it can be tough to cut the cords to the cyber-world when traveling. So many of us do our banking online and inform others of where we’re at by using email, Facebook or Twitter. Count us in on those who bank online and it is nice that if you’re gone for more than just a few days, you can check accounts, pay bills or even move money.
We did try once using our Windows Phone smartphones as a test and really didn’t like it. While the browser on the phone is Internet Explorer, it wasn’t fun at all zooming in and out when entering passwords. You really don’t want the mobile version set to store your username and password for you. Not too long ago we did purchase a notebook computer (not a netbook) also know as a laptop. We looked for a small footprint and size and got lucky with a good price on one. We got even luckier when it was an LED display which made for an even thinner computer. Last week when we went to Florida, Donna wanted to jump in and take the laptop with us. I had already found that it would fit vertically in the top case of the K1200LT. When you travel by motorcycle, even by touring motorcycle, space is at a premium. But before leaving we wanted a padded sleeve or case for the computer which would make it even thicker. We ended up buying small bag for it that wasn’t too bulky so Donna could use it for more than just for motorcycle travel. When packing, I noticed we lost almost a third of the space in our top case bag just because of the computer being in top case too. Something had to change if we wanted to take a long trip.
We began thinking about tablet computer after the trip. Donna had toyed with the idea of an iPad but already having a Nook e-book reader steered us towards the Nook Tablet with an Android operating system. The size of many of the Android tablets was also smaller than the iPad, which was a plus for packing. Then a last-minute contender entered the race, the BlackBerry PlayBook. The cellular 4GLTE version was just coming out but we wanted a strictly WiFi unit which made us lucky. We shopped around. A 16GB iPad is $400 (more than we paid for our laptop) and most 8GB Android tablets are in the $200 or more price range. Because there was a new PlayBook just released we got our 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook WiFi for only $159! You know what they say, the cheapest thing on a BMW Motorcycle is the rider! But really this tablet did everything we wanted it to do. It will do email, address book and calendar, even synching with my Windows Live account. If fact, the tablet gets mail before it’s pushed to my Windows Phone. It has a full web browser that even handles Adobe Flash. The screen is large enough and bright enough to see, use and enter passwords without zooming in and out. While it is no laptop or iPad, it more than meets our needs. We like the full web browser as our financial institutions are both credit unions and online banking is done using a web browser because there’s not always “an app for that”. The BlackBerry PlayBook also feels hefty and robust in your hands. It even does MS Office files right out of the box. Even in it’s included padded neoprene sleeve it would fit in the clear zip top of the top case bag with room to spare. I’ve been playing with it around the house now for 2 days and really enjoy it. We don’t see connectivity as being an issue as it seems most hotels and other places now offer a WiFi connection. Even if we don’t have WiFi, our Verizon Smartphones have the ability to become a “WiFi Hot Spot” as long as we can get a data connection. The size will make it a lot easier to pack in the future too. Unlike BlackBerry smartphones there is no data plan required with a cellular provider and is a stand alone tablet PC that can use a WiFi connection. If you do have a BlackBerry phone though, there are additional features available. This isn’t an endorsement of the PlayBook, but more of a report on the choice we made and why. We were more interested in a tablet that didn’t take up much space and traveled well. As we travel with it, we’ll write more about it.