A New Toy for Your RV Travels

    Is buying a tablet pc a good move for travelers and RVers? They offer a lot of really cool capabilities all packed into a small, lightweight and easy to carry package.
    The story of the Tablet PC actually starts with a 1888 US patent by Elisha Gray for and electrical stylus which captured hand-writing. In later years various companies, including IBM, have tried different models and approaches to the tablet. It seems like such a natural use of computing but it is just recently that the tablet has come into its own. Technology and higher Internet speeds have merged to give us a truly useful and enjoyable tool - they are here to stay now. Their small and lightweight size, flat working surface and wide range of applications make them quite attractive for RVing and being on the road. With a tablet pc you can browse the Internet, get instant maps, watch moves, view and store your photos, play games, read books and so much more. Sounds pretty cool for RVing!

     The current leader of the tablet revolution is of course the Apple iPad. The iPad was released just this in January 2010 to mixed reviews initially. At the time people were not sure what do with it - positioning itself somewhere between a laptop computer and a cell phone. It did not take long for it to catch on with millions of the units already being sold. It of course has Apples well known screen and interface, Safari web browser, photo and email apps, movies, games and an incredible number of apps. Like most tablet pc's it does not have a real, physical keyboard but a virtual touch keyboard. Although now there are several out that have actual keyboards like the Nokia N810.  Tablets are not really meant for heavy duty input of data. The iPad comes in several different models separated by storage capacity and WiFi-3G connections. A 3G connection is a mobile connection through wireless phone networks and in theory anyway, provides "always on" connectivity. The problem here is your are tied to AT&T and their 3G network - so your connection depends on being within the AT&T umbrella of coverage. The 3G model costs a fair bit more and with WiFi hotspots being plentiful it may not be worth the extra cost - especially for RVer's on the move a lot. Another con of the iPad (and iPhone) is that for some strange reason Apple decided not to include support for Flash - a technology used abundantly on the Internet. The iPads are also fairly expensive. A very good laptop (not Apple) can be purchased for the cost of an iPad. But all things being said, Apple products are very cool with a very strong following.

    While the Apple iPad is a leader in tablets, a whole bunch of new tablets from other manufactures have  emerged. These tablets are based on Google's Android operating system or Microsoft's Windows 7. It looks like the Android tablets are eventually going to give Apple a run for their money. Android is sweeping the smart phone world and is making big inroads to the tablet business. While tablets from both Apple and Google basically do the same things the two companies could not be more different. Apple has always taken the approach of unique  software and systems, closing outside developers out. Google on the other hand has taken a mostly open source approach throwing their code out to all interested developers and creating a lot of applications and competition. Which approach is better is hard to say, but we do know that all the new tablets coming soon will be very competitively priced and a vast array of features and apps to choose from.

    So, IS buying a tablet pc a good move for travelers and RVers? They certainly do offer a lot of really cool capabilities and convenient, compact size. But with prices ranging from $400 to above $800 one has to double think if a netbook or laptop computer would not be a better investment at this point. Great PC laptops and netbooks can be had for under $500 and much less. Certainly worth considering if you can stifle the temptation to buy and experience the newest technology in the field. 

    Have you gotten yours yet?  Tell us what you like/dislike about them in the comments below.

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