Recent travels with the iPad

During my vacation last week I spent a couple of days in Nashville. The trip to Nashville was supposed to be short, fly out on Tuesday morning and return on Wednesday afternoon, but it didn’t turn out that way. I typically carry a laptop or tablet PC when I travel, but decided not to at the last minute secondary to the short turnaround. Instead I threw my iPad in my bag along with my DROID in an effort to travel light.

The trip to Nashville was anything but smooth. My flight was delayed twice in Sacramento and I ended up needing two connections to get to Nashville instead of one. Fortunately for me I had the iPad with its long battery life to keep me entertained for most of the trip. I started in Fresno at 3:00am PST Tuesday morning and arrived in Nashville at 11:30pm EST Tuesday night. I used the iPad to play games in the Sacramento airport during my first 3 hour delay. I made sure I stayed close to an electrical outlet to ensure that I had plenty of battery life for the flight. Between using my DROID heavily, landings, takeoffs and walking from gate to gate I had no trouble making it to Nashville on a single charge.

So how did the iPad perform? Well, it performed admirably. Besides playing games I used the iPad to catch up on a lot of reading. Prior to leaving home I downloaded quite a few PDF files onto the iPad using a combination of GoodReader and iRead PDF. I’ve mentioned several times on this site that I am not a fan of reading a document against a backlit screen. I stand firm in my opinion that an e-ink screen is better suited for reading documents, but the iPad performed well and I can certainly see why people are raving about reading on the device.

Other than playing games and reading PDF files I also found the iPad great for checking email and following my Twitter feed and Facebook updates. Of course I needed a wireless connection, but my US Airways flight from Phoenix to Charlotte had Gogo inflight wireless internet available, and every airport I seemed to be stuck in was connected; lucky me.

I arrived in Nashville late Tuesday, took care of business on Wednesday and prepared for my return flight home only to find out that my flight had been cancelled secondary to mechanical failure. Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper. I’m sure frequent travelers have to deal with this from time to time, but I don’t travel often and this was a first for me. Bummer.

This is where things with the iPad didn’t work out so well. While I found the device a pleasure to use for reading, playing games, dealing with email and using social media, I found it difficult to use for any serious work productivity. The iPad just isn’t designed to take the place of a laptop. Typically when I have downtime I can generate a blog or two or work on something that I’ve been sitting on for just such an occasion. No luck with the iPad. The onscreen keyboard is good, but not that good. In addition the simplicity that makes the iPad such a wonder also creates some problems when it comes to doing a lot of the things I’m used to.

I have a friend and colleague that travels quite a bit and I asked him about using the iPad as a work machine while he’s on the road. He told me that he carries a portable keyboard, generates documents on the iPad and either syncs them to his desktop when he gets home or emails them to himself. Huh? That doesn’t sound like a great solution to me. I asked him why he didn’t just carry his laptop and work directly on documents without having to move them around. He just shrugged his shoulders at me. I’m still not sure what that means.

I finally got a flight home on Wednesday morning through Chicago O’Hare. Once again the iPad was in its element and became the focus of my attention as I used it to play more games, read and watch a movie (Transformers) on the return flight. Overall the iPad was a successful travel companion for much of the trip. With that said there are some things that an iPad isn’t well suited for, and for that reason I will continue to carry a laptop or tablet PC when I travel. I’m just one of those guys that feels more comfortable with a keyboard. For those of you that just have to use a Mac check out the MacBook Air. It is still one of my favorite Mac machines of all time. It would make an awesome tablet.

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