This month seems to be all about portable careers here at Future Expats. No matter what portable career you choose, you’ll need a computer — even if it’s just to handle email and bookkeeping.
And when your career is portable, you’ll probably want a computer that’s, well, easily portable.
After my first visit to Panama, I wrote about the computer I chose to bring with me on my scouting trip.
It had to:
- Be easy to carry — in other words, light weight
- Have features that would let me do actual work on it
- Have a “real” keyboard
I knew I didn’t want to haul my 10+ pound laptop with all its associated paraphernalia. So I went shopping.
I opted for a 10″ netbook which looked like it had everything I was looking for.
The netbook got the job done for me, but it was slow. Slow enough that it drove me crazy and I decided to look into alternatives.
I still wanted something that would be lightweight and easy to carry around. Some of the tasks I need to do routinely include:
- Writing and editing documents
- Creating and updating spreadsheets
- Uploading photos and videos from my camera and editing them
- Updating websites
- Updating financial information, invoicing
- Email, browsing, etc.
On my last visit to the US I brought an Android tablet and a bluetooth wireless keyboard back with me.
It requires me to do more work “in the cloud” than I was used to, and it uses Apps instead of programs. It syncs with my Android phone and I can transfer files between the tablet and my big computer.
I had to buy an adapter to download files from my camera. Not a big deal.
Now, I’m a Windows/Android girl, so I can’t speak to Apple’s array of products. Their MacBook Air devices are fully fledged computers and are extremely lightweight, so if you lean toward Apple that might be all you need. Apple’s iPads are also very popular.
Some Windows computer makers have come out with ultra lightweight models. When my big laptop joins that great hard drive in the sky, I’ll be looking at those. But with a tight budget, I’m not about to replace it until I have to.
For those who are comfortable doing most of their computing in the cloud, there’s also Google’s Chromebook series. These are lightweight computers that run on the Android system and they are extremely affordable — how’s $199 or $249 grab you? Instead of expensive programs, they use inexpensive Apps. The downside is, you need internet to do a lot with it.
And that brings us to the big tradeoff: in computing today, the more you can do in the cloud, the lighter weight your device can be.
That’s great if you are living and working in places with plentiful, affordable WiFi. If you’re not, you’ll have to choose a more traditional — and less portable — computer.
I still have the slow netbook. In fact, I’m writing this article on it right now. Why, when I have my serious computer and my tablet, would I use the netbook?
And the answer to that is frustratingly simple.
The power is out, which means our cable internet is down and the battery on my big laptop is drained. My backup internet for these situations is a USB device which works well on my Windows machines, but can’t be used with the tablet.
So when the power goes out for any length of time, I haul out the frustratingly slow netbook, which I keep charged for just such emergencies. I plug in the USB internet device, and my business can limp along.
You may be able to avoid this issue if you get a tablet with its own data plan, or if you have a smart phone and a plan that lets you use it as a WiFi hub. For either of those to work, you still need to be in a place with a signal.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You need to weigh your own computing needs, your tolerance for downtime and your willingness to change your habits.
Check out some of the most portable computing devices available currently.
UltraBook Computers (aff)
Touchscreen Ultrabooks, which combine tablet features with a larger computer (aff)
Do you have a favorite, easily portable computer you’d like to recommend? I’d like to hear about it.