Traveling with a Tablet, Yea or Nay?

Cases and Keyboards

I already have a Smart Cover for my iPad but given the rigors of international travel, I wanted something that would protect the entire tablet, not just the display. Of course at this point you have to decide if you’re after protection only or if you require a boost in productivity. As such, we have a multi-purpose case from iSkin and two keyboard folios up for consideration here today.

iSkin Aura 2 Case

iSkin describes their Aura 2 iPad case as a premium multi-function folio. The brushed metallic navy blue Aura 2 features the same auto-sleep technology used in Apple’s Smart Cover where the display turns off when the cover is closed but the real selling point of this case is the superb craftsmanship and the ability to transform into a typing stand or a viewing stand with ease.

The folio cover opens to reveal notches used to prop the iPad up but there’s also room to store documents, credit cards or even a cleaning cloth. I found this feature to be quite useful during transit as I could keep paperwork here and have it handy in a matter of seconds.

Slots are cut out for easy access to all of the iPad’s buttons and ports. Besides the added bulk that the case presents, this is really one of the best folios I’ve seen to date for the iPad. At just under $60, you really can’t go wrong with this case… that is, unless you need something with a keyboard attached.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, as the name suggests, doubles as a keyboard/stand and as a screen cover. The cover utilizes the magnets built into the iPad which assist in keeping the iPad in place while it’s propped up in typing mode and also turn the whole assembly into a Smart Cover of sorts.

The keyboard connects to the iPad via Bluetooth and is rechargeable using the included cable. Logitech says the unit is good for up to six months use on a single charge based on two hours of usage each day.

The overall design is nice and sleek and the keyboard itself works perfectly but I have to question Logitech’s button layout – more specifically, there isn’t a backspace key. Instead, there’s a small delete button where you’d expect to find a larger backspace button. I could see where this could become rather annoying if you had some serious writing to do on the iPad. Furthermore, if you are looking for a full-cover case, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Belkin Keyboard Folio

Belkin’s Keyboard Folio offers all-around protection for your iPad in addition to a “full size” wireless Bluetooth keyboard. The board itself is larger than Logitech’s and includes an extra row of hotkeys at the top (and a properly sized / positioned backspace key) whereas Logitech includes the hotkeys as a function of the number row keys.

The company claims their folio is good for up to 60 hours of use or 2,000 hours of stand-by on a single charge. This folio is the bulkiest of the three shown here today and it doesn’t take advantage of the iPads magnet system. This means that while there is a cover for the screen, it just sits in place with nothing to hold it closed. I found it a bit difficult to insert and remove the iPad into the shell although once it’s in, you likely won’t have any reason to remove it.

Additionally, the unit as a whole is a bit cumbersome as you need to essentially “transform” it from a case to a keyboard folio since the keyboard is stored behind the iPad when the case is closed. The benefit of this is that you can position the iPad at whatever viewing angle works best for you. With the Logitech solution, you are stuck at a single viewing angle.

Takeaway: Travel or no travel, I absolutely love the iSkin Aura 2 case. This multi-purpose folio allows you to interact with the iPad in several different configurations and it looks great doing so. I wouldn’t think twice about spending $60 for this case.

We probably didn't scratch the surface in the keyboard folio category as there are numerous choices on the market. The Logitech and Belkin units are popular accesories that offer the convenience of adding a keyboard with a certain degree of compromise.

We plan to review these and a few other popular iPad keyboards soon, but in the meantime I can say this: if you need to review documents a keyboard add-on is another must-have, but if you need to type a lot, then an ultraportable will prove a better choice overall.

Traveling with a Tablet, Yea or Nay?

Going on vacation with the iPad has given me a lot of insight about how feasible it is to travel with a tablet instead of a laptop. Any concerns I had about battery life while carrying the iPad around were quickly dismissed. This was evidently one of the tablet's strongest points. Granted, a business trip would likely see me use the tablet for longer periods and in that scenario, a backup battery pack might make the short list of accessories to bring.

Another of my main concerns was the limited storage capacity. 16GB is more than enough for around-the-house use, but as I ultimately found out, it simply wasn’t enough for my photo viewing needs. Since I was on a ship out in the Caribbean, I couldn’t upload photos to a cloud storage service without incurring ridiculous Internet fees. It seems that the easiest option for future trips would be to bring a second SD card to unload photos.

Based on my experiences, replacing your laptop with a capable tablet is certainly a viable option for vacation purposes and mild work environments, but if you’ve got a serious amount of work to complete, you’re probably still better off using a notebook at this point. A heavy workload will be much easier to handle with a mouse and if you need to access files from an external hard drive, the iPad isn't going to be your friend.

I wouldn't hesitate to bring the iPad on my next vacation, but in the same respect, you won't find me without a notebook during my next trip to cover a tech conference. Perhaps Microsoft's Surface tablet and other Windows 8 slates will change my mind later this year.

Tablet on airport image by Shutterstock.