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Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Travel Gadgets | 2 comments

Netbook or iPad – Which is the Better Travel Computer for Backpacking?

I’ve noticed many people backpacking with an Apple iPad, me included. I got mine as a gift last summer and thought it’d be an ideal travel computer. Now that I’ve spend a couple of months travelling with my iPad I thought I’d share my thoughts and compare it with using a netbook which I purchased a couple of weeks back (You can probably see where this is going but it’s not all bad). I’ve got an iPad 2 and an HP Pavilion dm1, it has a 1.65GHz processor with 2GBs of RAM.


hp Pavilion side

My hp model

back of Hp Pavilion dm1

back of Hp Pavilion dm1








The iPad is very lightweight coming in at 601lbs (1.3 pounds)compare that to my netbook and it is a whole kg less (2.2 pounds less). As a backpacker you’ll know that an extra kilogram can make a huge difference, we are always trying to limit how much we carry and I certainly noticed that difference in weight plus you have the extra bulk of the charger.

Advantage: iPad

Battery Life

My netbook battery lasts a little over three hours if I am using Word and listening to music/doing some light browsing. Great for a netbook, it ranked better than all the other ones when I read reviews for it however I can get 10 hours of battery life out of the iPad 2. So the iPad is great for longer journeys, perhaps on a train or bus where access to a power outlet isn’t possible.

Apple iPad 2

The Apple iPad 2

Advantage: iPad

Memory Size

Limited to 64GB memory with an iPad however most people are likely to have the 16GB or 32GB as the 64GB is quite a bit more expensive. I have a decent camera and the size of the pictures come in at around 5MB. With my other apps I’m maxed out after uploading around 240 pictures. With a netbook, much more space possible for a lower price tag and option to transfer to memory stick.

Advantage: iPad

Loads Very Quickly

Windows is a lot more streamlined than it used to be however it’s nowhere as quick to load as Apple’s iOS. Booting up the iPad takes less than 15 seconds and I can be surfing in under 30 seconds. Definitely a plus if I want to get online and catch someone on Skype rather than wait 5 minutes on my netbook.

Advantage: iPad

Connecting with other devices

I got the Apple Camera Connection Kit, well a third-party version of it. It can be a bit pernickety but usual it’ll download the pictures from my camera. However I run into compatibility issues when I want to play videos, it just won’t do it. Also I couldn’t find a way to get pictures off my phone or download pictures to a memory stick.

Advantage: Netbook


The iPad 2 will set you back £329 although you might get it slightly cheaper with discount codes and if you go through a cash back website (I’d recommend TopCashback). I ended up paying around £315. The newest version starts at £399 for the 16GB version going up to £659 for the 64GB version. (ouch!). For this netbook I think I got a bargain, I paid AU$312 (£210) which I was very pleased with, it runs Windows 7 so cost AU$80 (£50) less than the Windows 8 version which was on sale from $484 (£322). I believe most laptops range £200-£300 region so it’s definitely a saving over the iPad. A new option is the iPad mini however I personally feel the screen is too small to get a decent experience from, I can’t imagine Skyping on it.

Advantage: Netbook


The iPad does have a lot of great apps; Dropbox for uploading pictures, Skype, writing apps and then WordPress for updating a website. There are thousands of other cools apps too but for me the main things I want from a computer, and I noticed particularly frustrating with the iPad, is that you can’t upload attachments. Pretty frustrating when applying for jobs and your CV won’t upload. Updating a CV on a non-Word format also brings in issues and isn’t something you’d want to send as is. If you are updating a WordPress website the WordPress app does work well but typing a blog post on an iPad is a nightmare.

Then there is surfing the web, the iPad does offer an easy to use interface, fast tabbed browsing although the lack of flash support can be annoying. HTML 5 video is becoming more and more common however there are still a tonne of sites running Adobe Flash. In addition to flash games and flash apps a lot of streaming websites use flash so it’s an important point to consider if you want to stream content. Some providers have built apps to get around the problem including Netflix and Lovefilm.

Advantage: Netbook

My Conclusion

It’s a close call but for me the best travel computer is the Netbook, I can’t imagine having to update this travel blog on an iPad, adding images with a touchscreen, the time it’d take would drive me crazy. I had a go of the app but I prefer having the functionality and ease of the Netbook. I’ve heard other travellers say the same “I wish I had brought a netbook”, for me the iPad is more of a novelty but it may not bother you if you aren’t updating a blog and are going to be using it for occasional browsing and mostly for keeping in touch with family via email or Skype, and you can always update a CV from the local library.

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  1. Notebook definitely :-) I travel and work (freelance marketing & communications consultant) at the same time, and won’t be able to be as efficient at working while on the road with a tablet. And nowadays notebooks are so slim and light, that the weight differential between a notebook and a tablet is hardly anything :-) But to be honest, I do carry an almost mini-tablet-like smart phone which I use for all the fun stuff like browsing and checking my social media channels, so I travel with the best of both!

    • Thanks for your comment Lynn. That is a good point about the weight difference being minimal these days. Notebook is definitely the way to go! :-)

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