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Best Notebook to travel in France/ Spain with... Necessary or Not?

We are traveling throughout France and Spain next month.
I was thinking of getting a notebook to use for the travel time - Facebook, Pictures, Skype, GPS.

What have you used and what would you recommend?

Thanks so much!

Posted by
2351 posts

I use a tablet for this. Mine is an iPad, but there are other brands as well. I find a tablet easier and lighter than a notebook. For email, web, photos, etc it can't be beat. I only take my laptop computer if I need to work, otherwise the iPad handles all recreational stuff very well.

If you have a smartphone, it would work for this. If you turn off the phone service and just use wifi it basically acts like a mini tablet. Of course, the screen is smaller, which is why I prefer the tablet. Reading on a phone gets tiresome.

Posted by
544 posts

I just travel with my iPhone now. And a 2m USB cable so I can plug in and charge and use it at the same time if I want. The newest ones are so big it doesn't seem worth it to carry an iPad for the slightly larger screen.

Posted by
1406 posts

Notebooks are pretty cool, but are really only necessary if you need/want to do "real" work. Otherwise tablets work fine for most folks. Consider getting a small Bluetooth keyboard for it, or get a case that incorporates a keyboard.

Test drive some notebooks at a local electronics or big box store and see if it's any easier to type on one than on a tablet/keyboard combo.

Posted by
31071 posts

I use a Toshiba NB-305 Netbook, which is a few years old, but it still works well. I much prefer having a "proper" keyboard as I'm a touch typist and just can't function with those goofy virtual keyboards. While there are accessory keyboards available for tablets, I find that an awkward solution and prefer to have everything together. The other advantage of the Netbook is that it has a conventional hard drive, which provides much greater room for photo storage. It also has a built-in SD card reader, so it's very easy to load photos to post to websites or whatever.

However, one point to add. The keyboard on the Netbook is slightly smaller than that of a full sized computer. It's not as easy to type on that compared to my Mac at home, but with a bit of practice it's not too bad.

Posted by
4695 posts

Ken: "However, one point to add. The keyboard on the Netbook is slightly smaller than that of a full sized computer. It's not as easy to type on that compared to my Mac at home, but with a bit of practice it's not too bad."

SOME netbooks have smaller keyboards. But anything over the 11.6" size - the borderline for a "netbook" I guess - should have a full-size keyboard, albeit without much space on the edges. Both netbooks I've used have been this size. I have the same issue you have with typing, and I could not survive with one of those tiny netbook keyboards. I work every day on a "netbook" with an 11.6" screen, however.

I might recommend one of the new "2-in-1" laptop designs for people who would prefer a real keyboard but also enjoy a tablet (the keyboard flips completely around flat so you can use it as a tablet). And some manufacturers like Dell have released 11.6"-sized 2-in-1 models. I have used a couple of them - they are pretty cool. I will probably buy one soon.

Posted by
11181 posts

A point of terminology: A notebook is another word for laptop, and can be any size screen, processor speed, etc. A netbook is a smaller screen size (usually 10-11 inches), lighter weight, doesn't have an optical drive (no CD/DVD/BluRay) and uses lower-powered processors like the Atom. A netbook is fine for web browsing, e-mail, storing photos, etc. but usually can't do things like edit video or watch high definition video (some of the newer ones can). They are inexpensive. As said above, many are ditching them for tablets, but I agree with Ken - by the time you add a keyboard, external storage, a card reader, and some US ports to a tablet, you can just get a netbook that has all that built in! However, a tablet is certainly lighter and thinner than a netbook.

Another thing to consider is an ultrabook, which are PC variants of the Apple MacBook Air (or, of course, a MacBook Air itself). These are full powered and come in various screen sizes, but have an all solid-state hard drive and no optical drive. They are compact and lightweight, but are expensive.

Posted by
1334 posts

I listen to audio programs much more often than I watch video, so the iPod touch or iPhone is a small solution that works better for me than an iPad, and a possible workaround for the keyboard is to pack along the same Apple wireless keyboard that you use every day, and connect via bluetooth. No getting used to a smaller keyboard either real or virtual.

I've tried this only a couple of times so far so I can't give a full report on how I like it yet.
I can remember when the first portable electronic typewriters with thermal paper output became available,
and I had a Brother that had a gray narrow screen that showed two lines of typing, and could hold about 16K in memory,
so it was set to print each line when you pressed the return key (newly renamed from the carriage return and not yet known as the enter key!)

Posted by
31071 posts

Andrew H.,

When I was researching Netbooks prior to my purchase, the smaller keyboard was mentioned in some user reports. I noticed it as soon as I started typing on it, and had to adjust my finger spacing slightly. I find the keyboards on the Mac's so easy to use, but the Netbook always takes a bit of "adjustment" when I'm using it on travels.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you everyone. Great, helpful responses to help in our decision... still not 100% sure what to do but getting closer now!

Posted by
2995 posts

I used an IPAD mini on my trip and was quite pleased with it. The size and function both seemed perfect for my purposes.

Posted by
1406 posts

yet another option is a small, possibly refurb Chromebook. Which is a Google device that's half computer, half tablet in that it has minimal storage and is really designed to work on wifi and you store and access all your goodies in the magical cloud. You can get a small one for not much money and then if you don't care for it, donate it to Goodwill or a local school when you get home.

My rule of thumb when deciding which gadget to grab is, laptops/notebooks are for CREATING and tablets and iTouchs are for CONSUMING.

Posted by
14035 posts

I have used a netbook for years. I use Word and Excel for all my travel planning so I like having a real computer and keyboard. I keep track of expenses on a spreadsheet and write travel notes (never find the time to really journal) on Word along the way. The netbook is much more versatile than a tablet and since I wouldn't carry either around with me during the day, the extra weight doesn't bother me. I do carry an iPod touch.

Posted by
9363 posts

Mine is a little Aspire One netbook - 11" screen. I use it to upload pictures from my camera's memory card, get my email, surf the net, and blog. I also plug my other devices into it and charge them all at once. I haven't had occasion to use Skype on it. It weighs less than 2 lbs and cost less than $250, but that was a few years ago. I leave it in the hotel during the day, but it wouldn't be a big hardship to carry around if need be.

Posted by
1406 posts

Here's something that popped up today on the interwebs:

Groupon offers the refurbished 2.8-lb. HP Stream Intel Celeron 2.16GHz 11.6" Laptop in Blue, model no. 11-d077nr, Magenta, model no. 11-d011wm, or Blue, model no. 11-d010nr, for $119.99 with free shipping. That's $59 under the lowest total price for a new unit. It features an Intel Celeron N2840 2.16GHz Bay Trail dual-core processor, 11.6" 1366x768 resolution LCD, 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, HDMI, 3-cell battery, and Windows 8.1 64-bit. (It doesn't include an optical drive.)

Posted by
4695 posts

phred, that's basically a netbook - it has an updated version of the Intel Atom CPU (the Celeron "Bay Trail M"). It would work for what the OP mentions, but notice the 32GB SSD? That means it doesn't have room for storing photos, for those who might want to use it for that (OP didn't mention this requirement). Of course, one could buy a big USB flash drive and use this netbook to copy files from your camera card to it, but don't expect to save them on the netbook's internal drive.

(My first netbook from 2009 had a 160GB hard drive, with plenty of free space to store a good number of photos, though it was a whole lot slower than this HP is.)

Posted by
1406 posts

You're right, not much storage. Just like a Chromebook, it's designed as an internet access device. Uses the mystical cloud.

Here's a tablet/laptop hybrid I saw today:

Walmart offers the RCA 10.1" 2-in-1 32GB Windows Tablet, model no. W101, for $129.99 with free shipping. That's the lowest total price by $43. It features an Intel Atom Z3735 1.83GHz quad-core processor, 10.1" 1280x800 touchscreen display, 1GB RAM, 32GB flash memory, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, 2-megapixel rear and front-facing cameras, detachable keyboard, Office Personal 365, and Windows 8.1 (with a free upgrade to Windows 10). Deal ends today

Posted by
24 posts

Hello Everyone.

Well, I have learned a lot! After due diligence and lots of homework, I decided on this:

1 x ($189.99) IRULU Walknbook Hybrid 10.1" Tablet Quad Core - 2GB 32GB, Intel Baytrail-T 1.33-1.83ghz, 5.0MP Camera, Bluetooth 4.0

It is not a company I am familiar with although it got pretty nice ratings and it sounds like customer service is good too.
It has the camera, bluetooth, USB ports, headset, highly rated speakers, upgradeable memory, and its small for transportation. I think those were my highlights.
The price was right also. I bought it from NEWEGG which had a $25 discount for using VISA Checkout.

So in the end, I bought the above with

1 x ($19.97) EEEKit Office Kit for IRULU Walknbook Hybrid 10.1 Mouse+Mini HDMI Cable+USB Hub

for a total of $167.

Hope it is as good as the ratings/ comments say - although I don't know if I can beat the price.

(Oh Free 60 minutes a month of Skype and 1 year of Free 365 too....?)

I love this forum... thank you all!