Hey Lifehacker, What is the best device for daily public transport use? I will soon be traveling on a train daily for an hour so and need something to entertain me. Between laptops, tablets, phones, ebook readers, music players and other devices, I have no idea where to start. Suggestions? Thanks, Commuter Games
Train picture from Shutterstock
As a fellow victim of the lengthy commute, I understand your conundrum. I live in the Blue Mountains and work in Sydney’s north, which translates to a round train trip of nearly three hours. Luckily, my job as a tech journalist allows me to test various gadgets without having to pay for ’em, so I’m pretty clued in as to what works and what doesn’t.
You probably already own a smartphone which are a great way of killing time, especially if it has a large screen. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your principle train device.
Most smartphone batteries are pretty limited and you need to keep using it throughout the day. While charging at work usually isn’t a problem, it’s far too easy to forget until the last minute, resulting in a boring trip home. My advice is to keep your smarty in your pants and invest in a gadget purely for travel.
So, what to choose? The answer largely depends on what you like to do on the train. Every product you mentioned above is better suited to one particular task than the others — if you like working on the go, plump for a laptop. If you’re a fan of books, grab an ebook reader like the Kobo Aura. If listening to music is your thing, go for an MP3 player.
However, each of these devices also have their specific drawbacks: laptops are cumbersome and hard to use while standing up, most ebook readers have limited functionality and MP3 players are rapidly going the way of the Walkman cassette player (these days, it’s all about ‘convergent technologies’, apparently.)
Certain tablets, meanwhile, are reasonably proficient at all of the above tasks. They also come in a variety of sizes and different operating systems to suit a user’s preference. If you like having variety, that’s probably the best way to go. Personally, I find seven inch tablets are better suited to train travel than their larger 10 inch brethren. A 7in screen provides just enough screen real estate for most computing tasks yet remains small and compact enough to slip into a bag or jacket.
In terms of specific models, the Asus-built Google Nexus 7 is a pretty good bet. Boasting a zippy quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor clocked at 1.5GHz, a choice 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM and a Corning Gorilla Glass display with a native resolution of 1920×1200 pixels (323 ppi), it’s a surprisingly powerful little unit. Crucially, it also comes with LTE connectivity, which means you don’t have to tether the device to your phone if you want to browse the internet (provided you’ve purchased a SIM).
Whatever device you opt for, the important things to look out for are battery life and versatility. In terms of battery life, the aforementioned Nexus 7 should last you a good three or four days in-between charges; especially if you’re only using it on the train.
On a final note, I feel perversely compelled to recommend a product you didn’t mention: the trusty paperback book! I often wonder whether our dependency on gadgets is gradually making people stupider. Although tablets are great learning tools that put a wealth of information at your fingertips, the reality is that they’re chiefly used for gaming apps, Facebook updates and entertainment websites. There’s nothing wrong with being (literally) bookish. Give a try once in a while.
As always, we’re keen to hear any additional suggestions from readers. If you know of a specific gadget that makes for a perfect for travel companion, let CG know in the comments section below.
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