Small tablet versus netbook

I'm re-posting this under "General Europe" in the hope of getting more response: I've traveled to Europe several times with my netbook with good success, but this year I'm considering buying a smaller tablet (iPAD mini or a Nexus 7). I'm thinking it might be nice to have something I can carry in my purse. I've found my iPOD to be not terribly helpful as a traveling device. Can anyone point up the various issues in using a smaller tablet (NOT a full-size iPAD) versus a light netbook? Also how necessary or helpful is it to have cellular access as opposed to a wifi only model? Thanks.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

I fiddled with a mini ipad a couple of weeks ago and couldn't imagine what use it would have. Both of our pads are cellular, but have never been on an international data plan. I've used mine on international cellular in Europe once for a couple of minutes. My wife used hers on international cellular for about twenty minutes on her last trip, but she was way beyond Europe and in the far beyonds where there was no wifi. I can't see the need to lug anything around anywhere during the day.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1617 posts

OMG, I brought my ipad2 on our trips to France and to Italy. I don't think I'll ever travel without it again. It's lightweight compared to computers, and we really enjoyed some rented/downloaded movies from iTunes in the evenings. I also enjoyed downloading my daily photos and posting some on my Facebook page for my friends at home to enjoy. I even used the iPad to record a video of a small town and posted to Facebook. Every single hotel, except for 1 on our 2 week trip in Italy last September had free wi-fi. You just have to ask for the "code" at the front desk. I think we did pay 1E a day at our hotel in Gubbio... You do not need cellular - that will cost you big $$, just like on the iPhone. Make use of free wi-fi in cafes, McDonalds, hotels, etc. Do make sure you have a nice padded carry case for your ipad. I have a small case it slips into for added protection. The other bonus with the ipad is FACETIME. I was able to "call" my kids at home (they all have iphones) in the evening to check up on everything, and we used iMessage as well. It's FREE with wi-fi. You can also download the Skype app to video call home as needed. This year I found some iHome compact speakers at Costco that will go in my carry on luggage to use with the iPad at night to watch movies, or to hook up and have some music in the room. We find we don't turn on the TV at all, since all there is is BBC news - that repeats too much. I enjoy a little bit of music in the morning and evenings when we are just preparing for the day.

Posted by Gwen
Los Angeles
222 posts

It's my understanding that I would need the cellular access if I wanted to use the GPS on a tablet... is that correct?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24132 posts

Gwen, There are pros & cons for each. Some things to consider.... > Netbook - light weight and designed for long battery life - uses a "normal" keyboard for those that prefer touch typing - provided with a hard drive for greater storage capacity for photos and files (MacBook Air models use solid-state memory so less capacity) - often a built-in SD Card Reader, so loading photos is easy (nothing extra to buy) > iPad Mini, etc. - very light weight and thin so easy to carry, and good battery life. - virtual keyboard may not be as easy for typing (although accessory keyboards can be used, but that means something else to haul along. - SS memory provides less storage capacity - Accessory device usually required to load photos - App's can increase functionality, especially when travelling (more App's available for iPads than other types of tablets) - Tablets seem to be more convenient for watching movies and reading books
- As with cell phones, tablets can be used to take photos and also edit during travels (I saw MANY people taking photos with iPads when in Europe last fall) Regarding the issue of Wi-Fi or cellular data access, a Wi-Fi only model will be cheaper. Cellular data is usually a somewhat "pricey" option, which may incur HUGE charges for those that use it a lot. Which cellular network are you with? You might check with them on the costs, or any "travel packs" that they offer. AFAIK, GPS on a tablet does use cellular data, but I haven't looked into that in any detail. Be very careful with data! Everyone has to find what's "right" for them. I use a Netbook as I need a HD with LOTS of storage room for photos, and also a "proper" keyboard. Good luck!

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

Here's a little different slant on the topic. We, rather, my wife, has used an iPod Touch 1st generation for all our trips. It is used mostly for WiFi connection to our home email account. Secondary uses are to email ahead for reservations and to use it as a translator. My wife has begun experiencing finger problems related to arthritis and that makes using the tiny Touch keyboard difficult. We have decided to go up a notch and get an iPad Mini which has a bigger keyboard that will allow for fewer mistakes.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

GPS on an I tablet does not use cellular data. The simple test is to turn off cell data and see if your gps is still working. Mine does, all the time. So does the iPhone. My understanding is that some older I tabs that are wifi only have no GPS chip/ant.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14110 posts

I own a netbook and a pad. I thought briefly about taking the pad to Europe. No. It is too limited in functionality. But then, I have used computers since the 60s. Maybe I expect too much. Pads just don't measure up.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24132 posts

Gwen, A bit of further information regarding GPS use on an iPad..... THIS website has a brief description that covers GPS use. This seems to be only for the iPad and not the Mini. Some relevant sentences..... "All iPads are able to provide location information, but not all iPads have GPS." "If Wi-Fi is turned off, however, your iPad cannot determine your location." "According to Apple, the iPad Wi-Fi + 3G models include assisted GPS, while the iPad Wi-Fi models do not include it. Assisted GPS does not rely on satellite signal alone, obtaining additional information from other servers or networks." THIS Apple website also covers topic to some extent. One relevant sentence....... "The WiFi+3G/4G iPad and the iPhone both have a GPS receiver. The WiFi-only iPad and the iPod do not and these devices require an accessory." And finally THIS website that covers the iPad Mini vs. the Nexus 7. I'd have to do more digging to confirm exactly what the iPad Mini is capable of, but if that's a "must have feature" for you it would be a good idea to confirm before you make a purchase. Cheers!

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

"If Wi-Fi is turned off, however, your iPad cannot determine your location." I'm sitting here with two iPads, both with cell data and wifi turned off and GPS working fine. What won't work is the stupid map app that comes with the machine won't display so there's no position plot. Switching to other maps solves the problem.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1747 posts

We took a netbook and ipod on last trip - the netbook is too heavy to carry everyday, and at 8.9inch, screen was kinda small anyway. Just bought an ipad mini and I think it'll be perfect. (No 3g on it, so free wifi will do). no problems for me with the onscreen keypad, if you have wifi, it has voice recognition (and Siri!...which I haven't really used at The mini should be perfect for carrying in our daybag, reading books, watching movies/TV shows, updating my travel blog, downloading pics, doing some videos...will still take the pod for music, but a smaller tablet I think is the way to go. (...and this is coming from someone who didn't see the point in digital cameras and mp3 embracing technology!) We also picked up a speaker at Staples for $20 about the size of a medium orange (iHome brand)...the speaker sucks on the ipad, and the speaker actually sounds not half bad.

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
891 posts

I use a netbook daily for work. It simply is more functional than a tablet, primarily because it will run full-fledged programs rather than more limited apps. If I'm near a desktop PC, however, I don't bother with the netbook. It is slower and the screen is smaller. I would probably not take the netbook on a trip overseas again (I've done it in the past). Why not? It is too heavy, relatively speaking. I'd take a tablet and live with its shortcomings. Using a tablet (or phone) is more of a hassle, but I shouldn't need to be online as much while traveling, assuming it is travel for pleasure. On my last trip, I didn't take a tablet but made do with a big smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy Note with a 5 inch screen). It worked, but I wouldn't want to do it day-in and day-out. As for cellular versus wifi, I used a prepaid foreign SIM with a data plan and found that so convenient for my light use that I didn't bother with wifi unless I was at my hotel.

Posted by Stay-ce
Northern California
155 posts

I purchased an ipad mini to take on my trip. I have an iPad, laptop, and net book. I purchased the Galaxy first as it has a memory card slot to store photos and movies. I did not like it at all at returned it to Costco (currently on sale for $169 including a case. So it is much more affordable than the iPad mini). I love my mini. I have stopped using everything else. When I now pick up my iPad it feels like it weighs a ton. The mini fits in my purse and is as comfortable to read from as my nook. I am downloading audio tours and apps that don't require a connection. And my tour books. I am PDFing all my confirmations as one book and placing them in iBooks also. I also have two old iPhones. I had them unlocked and I restored them. Once we land in Germany I will purchase SIM cards for them and use one for GPS and data. The other is for my husband if we need to split up or my older daughter if she is babysitting the kids and we are on a date. I looked at the rates in Europe and they seem cheaper than my current data plan. You just need to purchase a new SIM card for each country. Around 10€. Happy Travels!

Posted by Nicholas
Seattle, Washington, United States
282 posts

Ed: That's because the 3G iPads have a GPS chip in them, as all "smart" devices should. The Wifi only iPad has no way of determining location without Wifi being on. As for me, I would go for the Nexus 7. It is far less expensive than the iPad mini, has GPS built in, and does just as much (if not more) than the iPad. The key selling points that I see on the iPad is that you have access to iOS apps, which are often better looking than the Android apps and sometimes only come out for iOS, and it has a camera. On the other hand, I don't know of that many iOS exclusive apps that I really want and in my book a tablet is not a serious camera. It's nice, but I would never use it to capture photos I mean to be memories. Overally, I would prefer the tablet over the netbook for ease of use and being able to access information quickly. Offline maps, GPS, and confirmations are the three big things that I need a computing device to do on the go and a tablet just does that better.