Julie’s gadget diary – Thinking about buying a new laptop (or tablet) for my next trip


I had to take Jeanne to the hospital this morning for surgery to have her gallbladder removed. I went back and forth last night trying to decide if I wanted to lug my 13″ MacBook Pro with me, my Samsung Galaxy S Tab 10.5 or just my phone which is currently the LG G6 which I’m reviewing.

But I knew that I wanted to do a little Gadgeteer writing while I was waiting for her surgery to finish, so I didn’t want to just rely on my phone. So the internal struggle was really just about the full sized MBP laptop and the Android tablet.

I ended up leaving the MBP at home and took the Galaxy S Tab. I really enjoy the S Tab, but that’s only when I’m playing on it. By “playing”, I mean a few games of Words with Friends, catching up on my Feedly RSS feeds, Instagram, and stuff like that.

When I tired of those tasks and decided that I wanted to dig into some email reading and writing, and Gadgeteer writing, I started getting a little frustrated with the tablet’s lack of a physical keyboard. I even complained in real time about it with Dave Rees via Google Hangouts.

If you read the chat transcript above (click for a bigger view), you can see that I had a few typos. That’s because tablet touch style keyboards are a  big pain in the… fingers! I’m a really good touch typist, but only on a physical keyboard.

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It’s great to be able to share the same first world problems over and over again with Dave. Let’s just say that after years of being friends, he just gets me when it comes to gadgets. Probably because he keeps dealing with the same issues as far as the best devices for travel.

My problem is that I really want to make a tablet work for me and just can’t seem to let go of that dream. I continue to revisit this same question every year about this time. What’s so special about this time of year? It’s a few weeks before our first vacation which we always take in May. Vacations require planning. Jeanne plans where we’ll go and planning for me involves the gear that I plan to take with me.

I’ve tried the iPad Pro, a Windows Surface Pro, and a Samsung Galaxy S Tab. It’s time to FINALLY find an ultra light weight laptop with a full sized keyboard that lets me use the laptop on my lap and not just on a table.

Although I’m not a huge fan of Windows 10, I can deal with it if the solution is a better buy than Dave’s suggestion of a used 12″ MacBook.

It’s time to start researching options before I run out of time before the trip. Wish me luck!

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Update 04/07/17

Dave talked me into ordering a refurbed 12″ MacBook from Amazon’s warehouse deals. I paid an extra $10 to get it tomorrow. We’ll see how I like it. And if I don’t like it, I can return it within 30 days for a full refund 🙂

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20 comments… add one
  • Margaret April 6, 2017, 5:07 pm

    Hope Jeanne is OK!

    I still love my 12″ MacBook (2 lbs) and travel with it when I can, although I agree that the keyboard isn’t for everyone. Usually I lug around the MacBook Air (3 lbs) I use for work. That one pound makes a huge difference. (I remember the days when I traveled for work carrying around my Powerbook 165c, which weighed more than 9 lbs.)

  • Robert L Grenader April 6, 2017, 6:02 pm

    How’s Jeanne?

  • Aphoid April 6, 2017, 6:17 pm

    I’ve been a mac user since ’08 as my primary machines, but my two most recent personal laptop purchases have been a Toshiba Chromebook 2 (with 13″ 1080p IPS display), and a Lenovo Yoga 700 11″ (also 1080p IPS). I’d suggest trying a lightweight convertible 2-in-1 Windows machine. That Yoga is not nearly as nice as any of my macs (the trackpad drivers in particular are bad), but it works pretty well for trips and is light enough to use as a tablet in a pinch (it’s just barely heavier than the original iPads were). You can use it on your lap too without worrying about kickstands and the like.

    At home, I keep it next to the couch for occasional casual use, but grab the MacBook Pro 15″ if I need more horsepower.

    I also hope Jeanne recovers quickly and safely.

  • Bill Henderson April 6, 2017, 6:48 pm

    I’ve written more than a few reviews on my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. I like the setup and it’s convinient. Plus my Pages docs are updates across my other devices automaticallly. But then I’m an Apple guy. 😉

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 6, 2017, 9:14 pm

      I’ve done the same thing with my older iPads and even the Samsung Galaxy S Tab, a Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse (for the Android tablet). But after I combine the tablet with the keyboard and mouse, they end up being as bulky as my 13″ MacBook Pro without being nearly as convenient to use.

  • Walter Shwe April 6, 2017, 7:54 pm

    I too struggle with what tech to take with me when I travel. It always winds up being some sort of compromise unless I bring everything. I wish your partner the best.

  • Alan April 6, 2017, 7:59 pm

    Hoping for a speedy recovery for Jeanne. I’m sure all of the Gadgeteers do as well.

  • Julie Strietelmeier April 6, 2017, 8:56 pm

    Jeanne’s doing great. She’s sitting next to me on the couch surfing on her MacBook Pro while I do the same on mine while the Academy of Country Music Awards play on the TV in the background. Yes, it’s non-stop partying at our house 😉

  • Julie Strietelmeier April 6, 2017, 9:10 pm

    I did some gadget soul searching this afternoon while Jeanne was snoozing. I realize that the only reason why I want a tablet to do everything I need is because tablets have a small light weight form factor and not that they have a touchscreen and are tablety.
    I have also decided that I don’t want to go Windows 10. I’m a macOS person just like I’m an Android person 🙂 I’m not saying that won’t change sometime in the future, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I’d even be happier switching to Linux before I’d want to switch to Windows 10.
    It looks like a 12″ MacBook or a MacBook Air may be in my future.

    • CS Chua April 6, 2017, 10:02 pm

      Take a look at XPS 13 2-in-1. I bought the 9365 model. It weighs 2.7lbs with 16gb and an i7 processor. The key reason I waited and chose this is the need for 1. 16gb so I can run Lightroom and Photoshop, 2. Lightweight so I can use it or my travel photography. 3. Supports touch screen and a digital pen for finer photo editing work on the go. I had wanted to go for the Macbook Pro 13 (touch bar) but eventually settle on Dell as it is evident to me to be much better value for money.

      • Julie Strietelmeier April 7, 2017, 8:49 am

        I have the original XPS 13 and have used it as my travel computer on occasion. I don’t have any real problems with it other than it runs Windows. 🙂

    • Jackie Cheng April 6, 2017, 10:10 pm

      I’m still loving my 1st gen 12″ MacBook. Works great and super light. Have it dual boot to Win10 if I needed Windows specific apps. I can run Parallels but it just works better in pure Win10 mode when needed. Highly recommend!

  • Julie Strietelmeier April 7, 2017, 11:50 am

    Dave talked me into ordering a refurbed 12″ MacBook from Amazon’s warehouse deals. I paid an extra $10 to get it tomorrow. We’ll see how I like it. And if I don’t like it, I can return it within 30 days for a full refund 🙂

  • David Baker April 7, 2017, 3:45 pm

    I use a keyboard on my IPAD air 2, but I also have one on my Note Pro 12.2 which pretty much means I can get by without a laptop. I have an HP XPS 12 which I love, and i have traveled with it and the IPAD, but only because the IPAD has data, so I can share it when I need it.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 7, 2017, 3:50 pm

      If there was an Android tablet that had a real keyboard with a touchpad that was attached in a way that would let it feel like a laptop on my lap, I’d want to try it. But I’m pretty sure I’d still end up wishing I had my MacBook because it has Photoshop on it and it’s easier to edit, batch rename, and upload images to my website when I’m working on reviews. Yes, I can do all that with an Android tablet, but it takes longer and is a bit (ok a lot) clumsier.

  • jeff goodstein April 7, 2017, 5:00 pm

    I keep seeing this in FB feed and very temped to buy one. Maybe you get one and review it for us. It looks like a great solution.

    https://www.sentio.com/

  • Jeremy May 26, 2017, 1:15 pm

    Julie,
    I recently picked up a surface pro 3 with the i7 for 600 refurb on Amazon. Other than the fan noise which can be a little distracting, it has been a great addition. The pen input is amazing, and the keyboard is a nice touch but easy to remove. I like having the ports for usb and monitor capability if/when I need them. I also have an iPad Pro 12.9 and it doesn’t come close when I have to choose.

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 26, 2017, 3:08 pm

      Hi Jeremy,
      I ended up going with a 12″ MacBook. I liked it so much that I sold my 13″ MacBook Pro and am now only using the 12″ MacBook. No fan noise for me 🙂

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