Traveling with mobile gear: Follow-up

Traveling with mobile gear: Follow-up

Summary: I recently shared the small mobile kit I planned on using on a short trip. The trip is almost over and it's worth following up with thoughts on how well it worked, or didn't work, in different areas.


My trip to San Francisco is winding down, and I will be heading back to Houston by the time you see this. The gear in my bag was as small and light as any I've used on a trip, and for the most part it performed admirably.

I recently shared the kit I planned on taking on the trip along with my reasoning for the choices. At the last minute I made one change, choosing to leave the iPad mini at home and bringing the bigger iPad with keyboard/case instead.

It was interesting to note that of the roughly 20 attendees at this conference, seven of them were using iPads with keyboards in place of a laptop.

The collection of gadgets that accompanied me to San Francisco consisted of the Chromebook Pixel, iPad, and the Galaxy Note 2. That's all I brought and I used it all heavily.

The iPad in the ZAGG Profolio+ keyboard case was used each day at the conference I was attending. The days were long but the iPad's battery easily handled it. I only plugged the iPad into the wall in the hotel room at the end of the day.

Bringing the iPad instead of the iPad mini was a good substitution as it easily handled everything I needed in the meeting room each day. I kept up with all my online communications, writing duties, and everything else on the iPad.

The Chromebook Pixel was my main work system at night in the hotel room and worked fine. I did heavy work on the Pixel at night, as I was too busy at the conference during the day. I could have done the night work on the iPad, but the Chromebook Pixel was easier to use so I'm glad I brought it.

Both the iPad and Chromebook Pixel have integrated 4G LTE on the Verizon network. I had full signal strength on this network so it was lightning fast in San Francisco. It was so much faster than the hotel wi-fi at the conference that I used both devices on LTE the entire stay. 

The only device I experienced problems with was the Galaxy Note 2 on the Sprint network. The primary problem was all Sprint's, as there was no 4G LTE network anywhere I went in San Francisco. This caused the phone to stay on the much slower 3G network, but even that didn't work well. I found the phone constantly dropping the 3G network, leaving me waiting to reconnect and continue. It was extremely aggravating.

The other problem I had I believe was due to a bug with the Note 2. Even though the phone immediately connected to the Sprint network when I arrived in San Francisco, it didn't make the location switch for geolocation. Anything I did with geolocation in San Franscisco, e.g. Foursquare, thought I was still in Houston.

I initially blamed Sprint for this failure to update my location but I now think it is a problem with the Note 2. After checking Sprint Note 2 user forums, I found it is a common problem with that phone on that network.

I ended up rebooting the Note 2, which triggered a location change, so it finally recognized I was in San Francisco when it came back up. I suspect I'll have to reboot it when I get back to Houston so that it will figure out I'm no longer in San Francisco.

Overall, I am happy with the gear I brought on the trip and how well it performed. I do wish the Sprint LTE network was active in San Franscisco. The 3G network was awfully slow at times, and the frequent network drops were annoying.

I could have gotten by with just the iPad but I'm glad I also had the Pixel with me. It made some things easier to do and didn't add much weight to the backpack. It was interesting to note that of the roughly 20 attendees at this conference, seven of them were using iPads with keyboards in place of a laptop.

The entire trip was successful and I accomplished everything I intended to do on the trip. I can attest that the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco is a nice hotel, although it doesn't have coffee in the rooms. That's a big negative for me personally, so next trip I'll probably stay somewhere else.

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Topics: Mobility, 4G, Google, iPad, Laptops, Samsung, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Your Choice, but its a joke.

    The collection of gadgets that accompanied me to San Francisco consisted of the Chromebook Pixel, iPad, and the Galaxy Note 2. That's all I brought and I used it all heavily

    - Too many devices, all you need is a Surface Pro.
    • Right

      100 % right. James... Name one thing you can't do using a Surface Pro that you could do on you 2 other divices. In fact I am pretty sure I could do all of with My Surface RT and a remote desktop connection on my Office PC.
      • Doesn't matter

        You may be right about the Surface Pro but then, I don't have one. Had to choose gadgets to bring from my arsenal.
      • battery life.

        Surface Pro has a limited battery life. Go with the HP Envy X2 FTW instead.(Win 8 on new atom chip)
        • I just bought one of those

          and I absolutely love it. Tablet format when I want to play, laptop format when I want to work and the dual battery means I'm not worried about either dying under under heavy use (if the tablet starts getting low just reconnect the keyboard and good to go). Not sure how good it would be for heavy use, but the two SD card slots mean I've got half my SSD drive free and still have all my music and film library available when travelling.
    • Make voice calls?

      Guess that's why the note's there!

      Ok, 1 thing you can't do on a surface pro, keep working all day with no power outlet?

      Don't get me wrong, the surface has a lot of potential (once polished a bit more) and could reduce 2 devices to one, but I view this piece more about the lightning of travel loads, and smaller devices rather than the specifics of the actual device.
    • Surface Pro and cellphone

      The Windows 8 from HTC by my preference, and you could use the HP Envy X2 FTW would be and even better choice than the Surface Pro, much better battery life.
    • correct

      James could have brought just the Surface Pro and a small pocket size nuclear reactor to power it all day.
  • Thanks for the review

    I just don't really see how any of the devices listed specifically made a difference.

    for example, I just last weekend spent a long weekend in London's Docklands, going between lunchtime meetings and evening dinner-meetings, spending the in between time mostly in the room working away. I took an iPad mini and logitech keyboard (that was actually designed for a full size ipad). I also had my MacBook Air with me and my motorola Razr i and iPhone 4S business phone.

    to be honest, I cant see how any of the devices you took would have offered significant advantage over the ones I had with me, or other alternatives. Clearly you are a fan of the larger screen, however this is personal preference. If I'd have taken a 15 inch ultrabook, a 10 inch nexus table and a lumina 920, I figure we'd still be about as productive. just my bags would have been a tad lighter.

    It's still the Pixel I don't get. it's just too much money for what it does. any ultrabook, retina MBP, MBA, or even a cheap laptop would have been as productive; you had enough mobile devices to use as hotspots to connect to LTE and they would have allowed accessing the documents on those devices offline.

    everything else is just preference. Since getting my mini, more and more my phones don't get much of a look in when it's around (they have become my mini back ups) and my ipad 2 met it's demise on ebay. As I say you could just as easily have taken android, windows tablets and phones... I find work on the go very well supported these days.

    ironically the only software pull I have found isn't office. I sippose because I have office and windows 8 on my MBA, I don't think too much about it, but Writer by IA has become my most valued app. I really wish they could bring it to android for my motorola, or windows for my Win 8 installs, but alas not plans as yet. There are ofcourse alternatives, but in terms of taking notes, writing ideas, brain empting stuff, it's basicness is a bizarl alluring asset; on the friday evening I wrote over 2000 words of a proposal in it then sent it to Word to be formated... not formating as you go is a real boost I find.
  • Surafce RT

    used in a recent travel and it worked wonderfully!
  • Why the iPad over the Pixel

    Interesting little article but I would love to know why you chose to use the iPad/Keyboard over the pixel whilst at the conference? I would have assumed the pixel was the best device for the job (and, personally, would have probably only taken that and the Note 2) but you must have your reasons. It would be really interesting to hear what they are.
    • battery life

      It is very frustrating to run out of power in the middle of a conference. The Chromebook Pixel for all its otherwise good spec, has very poor battery life.

      The iPad can run well over 10 hours for typical conference usage. It's guaranteed to last the whole day.
  • Reasons stated earlier

    I outlined my reasons for the Pixel in the earlier article mentioned in this one.
    • Not really

      "I outlined my reasons for the Pixel in the earlier article mentioned in this one."

      That was my point. In the earlier article you said the Pixel was your "workhorse" device and "The only reason I'm considering it [iPad 4] is to have redundancy for work tasks"

      So my question is, why did the iPad (which, in the original article, wasn't even going with you. You were just going to take an iPad mini as an eBook reader) become the main work device whilst out and about with the Pixel just being relegated to use back at the Hotel? For me, this is the crux of the whole article but you've skipped past it.
  • HP Envy x2 FTW!

    Lightweight, excellent battery life (10-14 hours) and a full keyboard dock - plus no compromises Windows compatibility. Add a cheap smartphone for hotspot duties and this one device would have covered all of your bases.

    • Re: no compromises Windows compatibility

      People already discovered, that they do not need any Windows compatibility.

      Integrated cellular is great asset that comes very handy at places such as conferences. Too bad for those of us who travel internationally a lot, roaming makes such usage prohibitive. LTE is also more or less out of the question, because most LTE installations are incompatible (different frequencies) in different countries. So at best you are struck with 3G, which the Pixel happens to not support.
  • To much

    Verizon cellular and one ultrabook was all you needed. It would weight less and have been more capable.
  • for most people

    the choice comes down to budget, or if money is no problem, getting an ipad because everyone else has it and its a nice device with the most apps and accessories. Surface RT has no advantages and many disadvantages. You buy it because you are a MS fan (for some incomprehensible reason to me). This was a similar case when the android 10" came out.

    I can only afford a cheap tablet and a phone. The nexus 4 and 7 fit this bill perfectly.

    If money were no object I'd buy an ipad, ipad mini, surface RT, surface pro galaxy note 2, nexus 10, blackberry, chromebook pixel, samsung chromebook, etc - just so I can be more familiar with all of these to be educated. I hate microsoft and apple (I think MS slightly more), though.
    • True...

      However, in my case, my budget allowed me to get a Surface RT which I used primarily as a laptop (meaning for web work and Office-suite work) and only occasionally as a tablet; a Nexus 10 which I use primarily as a tablet (to watch movies and for reading and reference work); and a cheap smartphone (which I use for phone calls, as a music player, and a hotspot when I need to). My budget allowed me to do this. But I could not upgrade to the Nexus 4 (which I was considering) or the Nokia Lumia 720 (which I would like, but can't afford).
  • Interesting anecdote

    "It was interesting to note that of the roughly 20 attendees at this conference, seven of them were using iPads with keyboards in place of a laptop."

    Huh, looks like there is great demand to use a tablet with a keyboard.

    Now if only some company would look at all the mistakes apple made with the ipad and its lousy keyboard support and if only the were to release a product that addressed those mistakes.

    Oh right, a company has. I'm typing on that product right now. Everyone who has ever used an ipad with a keyboard (and there are a LOT of you out there, James is proof) would be better off with a Surface.