6 great mobile writing rigs

6 great mobile writing rigs

Summary: One of the best things about being a writer is the ability to leverage mobile tech to do the job. The six systems I use are as portable as can be, which lets me work practically anywhere without compromise.


6 good portable writing rigs

Now that I've discussed how I work it's time to cover the systems that make it all flow. They cover four different platforms and several different vendors. They all handle everything I need so it's not a matter of using a particular system on a given day when I need to do something special. I can just grab one and get busy.

I will share the apps I use on each system to make it clear how I use it.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air
MacBook Air (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The 11-inch MacBook Air is the most powerful of the systems I use, yet it is small and light. Like all of the systems I use, the battery easily lasts all day so I just throw it in the bag and go. It would be nice if it had a Retina Display but I don't find that an issue for my work.

The apps I use with the MacBook Air for work are Chrome, Evernote, TweetDeck, and ReadKit. ReadKit is a fantastic RSS reader app that works with Feedly, among other services.

MacBook Air coverage: New MacBook Air: Haswell ups the game (review)MacBook Air revisited: 12 weeks in | Why I bought a MacBook Air

Asus Transformer Book T100

Asus Transformer Book T100
Asus Transformer Book T100 (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

This system from Asus is a hybrid that performs double duty as both a laptop and a tablet. I use both of these forms in my work. In the writing phase I use it as a laptop as the keyboard dock is a good one for heavy writing. When doing research I often pop the screen off the dock which is a nice tablet. I can sit comfortably, with the tablet in hand, and do everything I need by touch.

The Windows apps I use with the T100 are Chrome (desktop version), Evernote, Tweetium, and Nextgen Reader for the RSS feed work. Tweetium is a great Windows app and I really like it.

Coverage of the Transformer Book T100: Asus Transformer Book T100: First impressionsAsus Transformer Book T100: One week in

iPad Air

iPad Air
iPad Air (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

When I'm looking to keep the bag as light as possible, I carry the iPad Air which can handle all of my work needs. I use a ZAGGkeys Cover for its great keyboard, which turns it into a solid writing rig. Like the Transformer Book covered, for online research work I can easily pop the iPad Air off the keyboard and use it as a tablet.

The iOS apps I use for my work are Chrome, Evernote, Tweetbot, and Mr. Reader for the RSS feed work. While I fall back on the Chrome browser if I have trouble with Safari, that is rarely happening these days. I end up using the Safari browser on the iPad almost all the time as it is faster and works smoother than Chrome.

See coverage of the iPad Air: iPad Air: Best tablet ever made | iPad Air: One week in

Acer C720 Chromebook

Acer C720 Chromebook
Acer C720 Chromebook (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Since most of my work time is spent in the Chrome environment, the Chromebook is a good fit for me. This Acer is a solid performer and a decent laptop that is nice and portable.

Chrome OS doesn't have apps in the normal sense, but I can do everything in the browser without issues. Of course I use the Chrome browser which is the heart of the Chromebook. I use the web sites for the social networks with the exception of Twitter. I use TweetDeck for that as I like the multiple column support.

I use the Feedly web portal to work my RSS feeds but this is my least favorite way to do it. Their site is not very good, although it is functional.

See coverage of Acer C720 Chromebook: Acer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheapAcer C720 Chromebook: Why I bought oneDay one with the Acer C720 Chromebook

Couple of short time rigs

The four systems covered above are what I use for heavy, ie all day writing work. When I head out with no plan to work, I still like to carry gear just in case a writing opportunity presents itself unexpectedly. I prefer these short time rigs to be as small as possible so I can carry them and forget about them.

iPad mini

iPad mini
iPad mini (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The iPad Air works so well for my writing work due to the good keyboard option. While the iPad mini is small, there is a similar keyboard option available that makes it work for short sessions. The ZAGGkeys Cover for the iPad mini works surprisingly well given the small width of the iPad mini. I can touch type fairly well using this system.

I use the same apps with the iPad mini as I use with the iPad Air.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

Galaxy Note 8.0
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

This tablet is about the same size as the iPad mini, and works well for me. This is also thanks to the folks at ZAGG, as the ZAGGkeys Folio for the Note 8.0 is virtually identical to the keyboard case for the iPad mini. Like the other tablets in my arsenal, it's easy to pop the tablet out of the case for use as a tablet.

The Android apps I use with the Note 8.0 are Chrome, Evernote, Plume, and gReader Pro for the RSS feed work.

See coverage of Galaxy Note 8.0: Galaxy Note 8.0: Still the best small tabletGalaxy Note 8.0 tablet: Beating the iPad mini with features (review)


Not all of these rigs will work for everyone, but I suspect that most writers could use them with few problems. If writing is not your thing these systems will work for just about anyone who spends a lot of work time on the web. It's a testament to how well mobile tech has evolved that all four platforms I use work just fine.

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • +1 on the zagg

    I was lucky enough to get one half price; it's totally revolutionised my writing. I went one further and got another zagg for the ipad mini - never looked back!

    My only criticism of the zagg was a couple of niggles for something so expensive - first i have bought two and had to return one because the letter "o" was printed sideways. Second the charger for the keyboard is on the opposite side to the lightning port on the ipad so when charging, you have a cable out each end... For such a beautiful case it seems a bit day one fail.

    They've done a great job getting all the keys on the mini, though there are quite a few three finger combos!
  • Fess Up - What is Your One Stop Solution?

    Ok James - if you could only have a one device solution (like a lot of us), which one would it be, and why?
    • No answer

      I get asked that question a lot and there's no answer as I simply will never, ever just have one device. As I wrote in the article, all of the devices do everything I need so they're all just as good as one another.
  • iPad Air + Zagg Keys Cover

    Is greatness. I have a T100 as well and it is not nearly as good.