Words by Carlie Tucker
It's no secret that technology plays a major role in all parts of travel. This is especially true for business travellers as they attempt to balance being on the road with being productive. Luckily, mobile devices have made it much easier to find that balance, allowing many road warriors to stay connected no matter where they are in the world.
There's no doubt that catching a flight with some sort of device in tow is the right choice. The question has now become, which device is the best for business travel? Laptops and tablets are the front runners when it comes to work on the go, but which is better? Both come with a distinct set of pros and cons.
When To Choose A Laptop
Business travellers are all too familiar with how hectic travel schedules can be. Even more so if they're packed with deadlines. If you're schedule involves a heavy workload with a lot of word processing, presentations, emailing or data processing, a laptop is better suited to your needs.
Tablets have limited capabilities when it comes to this stuff. If your preferred program – Word, Excel or PowerPoint for example – is available on your tablet, it will often be a scaled down version missing many of the advanced features. Plus, touch screens aren't always conducive to tasks that involve a lot of typing.
Need more performance
Sometimes you just need the hardware that comes with a laptop. A larger screen, full size keyboard and processing power are all important considerations if you want to perform many work related tasks. Photos and videos will not only look better on a laptop, but editing and viewing them is much easier on a laptop.
The same can be said for multi-tasking. Tablets are really designed to handle one simple task at a time, which they're great at. If you need to research, write a report and download materials all at the same time, you'll need to pack the laptop.
Specific software required
Laptops are designed to run software much like a desktop computer. They're built for this sort of thing, making it much easier to use if you need a specific program to complete your work. Tablets are more app based, which means they have limited capability when it comes to compatible programs. This is especially true when it comes to highly specialised software. If you are able to track down a version that will run on your tablet, it will likely be scaled down without all the desired features. Chances are, though, it won't be available at all.
Screen size matters
These days, both laptops and tablets come with screens of all sizes. Generally speaking, though, tablet screen sizes fall somewhere between 12 to 25 centimetres. Laptops will almost always have a larger screen with a better quality display, which makes them ideal for business travellers that require more screen real estate. As mentioned above, editing photos and videos is much easier as is building databases, multiple spreadsheets and multi-tasking.
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When To Choose A Tablet
Working in the field
Tablets are highly portable, which is what makes them so appealing. This is especially true for business travellers that need a device to carry around 'in the field'. Whether you're an account manager giving presentations to multiple clients on the road, or you're an ecologist recording local flora and fauna data in the field, carrying a laptop can be quite cumbersome and difficult. Tablets are much better suited to this type of work.
Apps and entertainment are important
Business travel doesn't always involve a heavy computer based workload. Some business travellers only need a mobile device to surf the web, shoot off a few short emails every day and use as an entertainment/information source while on the plane. If you just don't need the performance power of a laptop, tablets are the best choice. Plus, with the capability to store music, movies and gaming apps, they're a great source of entertainment for those long layovers.
Price is important
Entrepreneurs, start-ups and small business owners know that price can often be a deciding factor when it comes to these types of decisions. If you're watching the bottom line, a tablet is your best choice. High quality tablets that will cover the business basics are available at reasonable prices, but keep in mind that the price gap is constantly narrowing. This is especially true if you're planning on buying multiple accessories with your tablet such as cases and keyboards.
If you need to be continually connected to the internet when travelling for work, a tablet is the best way to go. Rather than relying solely on WiFi signals, many tablets operate on a data plan. This allows you to connect to wireless cell networks such as 3G and 4G, meaning that even if your hotel doesn't offer free WiFi, you can still remain connected if you want. Just make sure you review your roaming plan if you're heading overseas to avoid any surprise charges when you get back home.