Take the iPad, ditch the notebook when you travel

If you are going to be flying, the Apple iPad offers a number of advantages over a notebook PC.

There are passionate views on both sides regarding whether or not the Apple iPad can be an effective business tool, or is merely a consumer gadget. That debate has merit while sitting in your office or the comfort of your home, but if you are planning to go on a trip soon there are a number of good reasons to take the iPad and leave the notebook behind.

For starters, the iPad is thinner and lighter than your notebook or netbook computer. At only half an inch thick and 1.5 pounds, the iPad can fit comfortably in your carry-on bag where you normally carry the current issue of PCWorld Magazine that you just bought at the airport gift shop. No need to carry an additional piece of luggage just for the iPad.

Next, the iPad will get you through the TSA security checkpoint with less hassle. Notebook computers have to be removed from the case and placed in their own separate bin for more detailed inspection, but the TSA has deemed that the iPad is not a notebook for the purposes of airport security and can be left in your carry-on bag.

Once you are through the security checkpoint and waiting at the gate, the other iPad advantages become more evident. For example, the iPad has about four times the battery life of a standard notebook, and about double the battery life of most netbooks. A notebook can barely survive a short hop from Dallas to Houston, but the iPad can keep on chugging along even on cross-country flights.

Next, the iPad is much less cumbersome and significantly more convenient. Unless you are sitting in first class, the area between your chest and the seat in front of you is barely enough space to take a deep breath. Unfolding a laptop on your knees, or folding down the tray table and trying to work there requires some moves normally reserved for contortionists.

Assuming you manage to get that far, you still have to navigate most notebooks and netbooks using a touchpad of some sort, or resort to an external mouse--not very practical given the lack of space to work with. The touchscreen interface of the iPad, combined with the slim, flat-panel design, make it ideal for working in the cramped spaces on an airplane and intuitively navigating through the OS.

The last reason I will offer for taking the iPad and leaving the notebook at home is versatility. The iPad has an instant-on interface and can easily transition from playing music, to watching a movie, to typing a document in Pages, to surfing the Web (if your flight is so equipped), to playing a game of Tetris. It offers both business productivity and consumer entertainment in one slim package.

The iPad provides enough business productivity to fill in for the notebook even on a business trip. You can still get e-mail, and surf the Web, and with the right apps--or cloud-based services--you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as well.

Granted, a notebook computer can also play MP3 files and DVD movies, but again--it takes up more space--often its own carry-on bag, you have to take it out to get through the TSA security checkpoint, it only has a quarter of the battery life, and its too cumbersome to use practically in flight.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies. He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW. You can follow him on his Facebook page, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com.

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