Friday, February 22, 2013

Tech Review - I shop for a Travel Computer

If all goes well there should be some interesting travels ahead in 2013 and 2014.

Since this is the modern age I have started traveling with a computer, which is a help in many ways.  I can stay in touch with home, research local sights, get translations and maps.  But my existing laptop has not proven to be ideal.  It weighs in at a little over five pounds, closer to six when you add a case and a charger.  And it is a bit bulky for someone who is an admitted fanatic in regards to packing light and tight.  No matter the length of the trip I will not check a bag, at least on the outbound leg.  (I have less concerns about my stuff going astray when I am safely home, and have even been known to purchase a few trinkets to bring back).

So I was in the market for a travel computer.

The basic parameters were of course:  light, trouble free, wifi, able to store and manipulate photos, skype.  Oh, and I need a real keyboard.  I have tried to use an iPad and I just can't do it.  When you learn to type on a hulking 1970's IBM Selectric typewriter you tend to hit the keys with authority.  Touch screens do not take kindly to that treatment.

I thought I had a winner with this guy:

It is an Acer Aspire One, specifically a 725-0845 model.  Cute.  2.5 pounds.  On paper it has an abundance of memory and storage space.  And it was a bargain.

But it had a fatal flaw.  Windows 8.

Windows 8, if you have not yet had the displeasure of making its acquaintance, is the Microsoft attempt at creating an iPad.  It is designed for a touch screen, which the above does not have.  It is designed for computers specifically set up for it, which this was not. It is also designed to have as many possible varieties of extraneous bells and whistles - all of them ultimately directing business to Microsoft and their pals.  The race was on to delete as much "bloatware" as possible before all the automatic updates choked the processing speed down to the "escargot" level.

I lost.  The priority should always be to put antiviral protection on first. Especially if you are going to start downloading all the actually useful things this computer lacked.  But by the time I had my two reliable programs installed the computer had already autonomously loaded on other things and updated itself several times.  It went slower, and slower, and finally stopped. Reading various anguished reviews I am not alone in this experience.

I will say a few positive things.  Acer is a fine company and this is not an exemplar of their entire product line.  The folks at Target were great, both with the purchase and the return. And the process by which the little bugger throttled itself with a poorly considered and indigestible batch of updates only took a short while, well within the 30 day full refund window.

If you have to buy anything similar to this I understand that there is a function which allows you to remove Windows 8 and revert to the old reliable Windows 7.  Do it.  Fast.

So I am back in the market.  I would like to get something in the next few weeks, allowing a good month of field trials before heading overseas.  I am thinking about a tablet with a docking station/real keyboard.  If anyone has any comments on this:


I would be glad to hear from you.

It costs a little more but still in the budget.

I forgot to mention a couple of my other travel computer parameters.  It should not cost more than my bar tab at the Twice Brewed Inn for my two weeks of digging holiday*.  And it should not be so precious that I would cry if someday a camel steps on it.

*Creating equivalency between my toys budget and my bar tab would seem to be, as my Scottish friends would put it, "a hard bit of graft".  But I am prepared to do what it takes. Shop sales, buy a few extra rounds. And I always leave a little extra for the pub staff, so I think I can pull it off.

No comments: