I am about to start traveling a lot and want to find the right notebook computer for my needs. I often see folks trying to use their computer in coach seats (I can’t afford first class yet) with some difficulty because of the size. What should I consider when looking at travel computers?
This question was answered on July 12, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
There are a number of things to consider when looking for a good travel computer and most of them are based on your usage.
For instance, if you use your computer for presentations (without a projector) a larger high visibility screen is very desirable The problem with these great presentation screens is that they are too big to open and use in a coach seat if the person in front of you reclines their seat.
If you are in a situation where you need a large display but want to be able to use it on long flights, you can try using aids such as the Keynamics Aviator Laptop Stand which sells for around $20 (keynamics.com).
The stand allows your computer to hang over the front of the tray and puts it at an angle that gives you a shot at using your notebook for an extended period of time.
If you don’t need anything particularly large, there are a number of portable computers on the market that provide plenty of power in a small form factor The new wide screen formats give you plenty of workspace (especially for spreadsheet work) but are not as tall, making them much more conducive for use on airplanes.
Start by looking at displays that are between 12” and 14” to see if they provide enough screen area for your use If they don’t, go to the next size up (15”) to see if that fits the bill Another huge travel benefit to these smaller units is that they weigh less, which is helpful once you start adding an extra battery, power adapters and other items into your travel case But, just because they are smaller, don’t expect them to be cheaper…often times these smaller units are more expensive because they have to use special components.
All of today’s notebook computers are designed with screens that are viewable from several angles, which is great for presentations to a group or watching DVDs with others, but not so great when prying eyes are gawking at your company financials on a flight.
For those situations, you may want to consider a privacy filter such as those developed by 3M (available from most online and traditional retailers for around $50) which are much like the covers used on car license plates to ward off photo radar.
Regardless of which type or brand of computer you decide to buy, be sure and buy a second battery with the highest capacity available for your unit of choice Typically you will see Li-ION (Lithium ION) batteries that refer to a number of cells (the higher the better).
Some folks reach for Tablet computers because the screens can fold back over the keyboard and can be used like a tablet While this sounds “cool”, most folks that take the plunge and spend the extra find that it isn’t as functional as they thought it would be and end up using it like a traditional notebook computer in the end.
Another thing to consider is security Windows XP Home Edition does not provide any kind of “encryption” of files, so I highly recommend paying the extra for Windows XP Professional (and it’s more corporate network friendly) Encryption will give you a tool for securing confidential information in the event that your computer is ever lost or stolen.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 12, 2006