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iPad Mini

Does it fit into your travel plans?

I’ve been packing an iPad along on overnight rides for the last two years. My wife, Ellen, and I stay at motels on our trips and use our iPads (they are personal machines and we quickly upgraded to two) for reading, browsing, and watching videos.

Tablets are often referred to as a lean-back device compared to a lean-forward PC. They work great for media consumption and will make do for creation. For writing emails and a few paragraphs the on-screen keyboard works fine. For more input you may want a keyboard such as the well-reviewed Logitech Keyboard Cover. Ellen is a secretary with excellent touch-typing skills and, yet, has no interest in a dedicated keyboard.

The iPad Mini uses the same number of pixels as the original iPad so all apps work just the same other than being slightly smaller. The 7.9” screen offers 40% more area than the physically similar size Android-based tablets with 7” screens.

Reading: I hadn’t planned to use it much as an e-reader but have found myself buying books more often rather than waiting for it to show up at the library. My AAA account allows me to download PDFs of their travel books. I have PDF manuals for my Triumph, video camera, and various catalogs. The regular iPad works well as an e-reader in landscape mode. The Mini, in contrast, feels perfect in portrait mode -- much like holding a paperback.

Browsing: I prefer internet browsing on an iPad over a PC. I’ve quickly come around to double-tapping the screen to auto-zoom in to an article or pinch-zooming a photo. I slightly prefer the full-size iPad for browsing but it’s not a big difference. Our original iPads included cellular capabilities which I used once; it’s not something I need as most lodging includes free WiFi. Occasionally we stay at places with only Ethernet and now bring along an Airport Express to give us personal WiFi. If the room includes both WiFi and Ethernet, I’ll still use the Airport Express – it’s almost always faster than the overcrowded communal WiFi.

Video: Some hotel TVs allow us to hook up the iPad to the hotel TV and watch our own shows but, more and more, the Video-In is locked so the only choice is to watch what the hotel offers or watch my show directly on the iPad. If I’m alone, the iPad viewing is great and I become just as immersed in the show as if it was on a larger TV screen.

Can it replace your laptop? The iPad has replaced my need for a laptop in all but one case. I still bring a laptop along on longer trips in case I want to make adjustments to my Garmin GPS. I prefer routing on the large PC screen vs. editing on the GPS device itself. Last year I read a comment from a Garmin employee on their forum that they were considering tablet options. When that day comes the laptop will stay home.

Mini or MaxiPad? (oh, ew ...) Ellen not just rides a variety of motorcycles, she also bicycle commutes and the Mini slides into her bicycle bag where the larger iPad was a pain to pack along. The size difference hasn’t been so important in our motorcycle packing as we can split all of our gear between two bikes. Riding solo it might make a difference to you. I can fit the Mini in my small Bags-Connection Daypack tank bag.

I thought I’d prefer the larger iPad for day-to-day use but am finding I prefer the lighter iPad Mini and will probably go with that in the next replacement cycle. My travel plans? A smart phone only on day rides, phone and iPad on 1-4 day trips, and on longer trips I include the laptop.

Jim Palms/Fall 12


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