Category Archives: Product Review

Travelling with a Chromebook

My Chromebook was one of my last acquisitions before we set off, I dithered for about 3 months on whether a Chromebook would be able to handle everything I needed it for whilst I was away. Extensive googling gave me exactly what I expected, mixed reviews. Not on the performance of the machine itself but on whether it would even be useable whilst I was away.

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For those not sure what denotes a Chromebook, here’s a little info. A Chromebook is usually* akin to a netbook (small portable laptop) the difference that has to be made clear though is that the operating system is not Windows as you might expect but Chrome OS. If you’re currently reading this on a chrome browser, which I sincerely hope you are, then you might now be thinking “Google?”

Chrome OS is indeed designed by Google! For most of us the difference that is most stark is that rather than installing programmes like you would on your Windows or Apple computer, you install Apps like you would on your smartphone or tablet. This is where the Chromebook becomes a write off for some people. No you can’t have Photoshop, Word or Skype, sorry! The other big difference is that the OS is intended to be used with an Internet connection, when you open an App it launches as a new Chrome browser tab. If you’re now thinking “that sounds pretty useless” as I was at this point, please give my poor Chromebook a bit more time and attention.

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Right, my Acer only has 16gb Solid State Drive** so for most files, photos etc. i’m using an external HDD anyway. After research I worked out that the only things i’d be able to do whilst not connected to the internet were; write/edit documents, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music, write emails and play games. As I’m sure you can see, there’s not a lot else most of us do whilst not connected to the internet than that list. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a piece of cake and it does require some adaptation to new apps such as Google Docs and Hangouts, but all of these things are possible.

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Here are some bits you might like. I spent £199 on my Chromebook, Lauren spent the total yearly GDP of France on her 11” MacBook Air. The biggest considerations for me were battery life, price and weight. To the touch the 2 weigh the same, around 1.2kg** The Air is thinner at the front, but overall again they’re pretty similar. I’ve got a 9 hour battery life, the Air has 11 and finally my Chromebook cost £900 less than Lauren’s Air.

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I’m not trying to say that my Chromebook is superior to the MacBook Air, as Lauren has a huge SSD and is happily photoshopping as I write, but I’ve got a desktop at home to do all that. What I needed for the duration of our trip was exactly what I’ve got, a cheap, light computer with a great battery life!


Everything in the review before this sentence was written after 3 months of travelling. Here is the 14 month update as to how its held up!

I am still typing on my Chromebook, so as you can see it’s still going. The case has a few more scratches in it but the performance is still going strong. When I consider the body is plastic it’s actually done remarkably well. Whilst living in the rainforest for 8 months I did have some problems that meant the keyboard wouldn’t work. Annoying but not an issue most people will experience (it survived 6 months of humidity before this problem occurred.) On leaving the jungle some silica gel fixed the problem in under 12 hours.

Overall I would say that whilst the screen isn’t the best, it’s comfortable and the speakers whilst of lower quality have a superior maximum volume to Lauren’s Air. The built in webcam is terrible but since most of the South American internet connections are as well, a lower quality camera hasn’t been a problem.

Most importantly the OS. Have I found it a problem? Easy answer, no. There are still issues to be worked out, such as the fact that I can’t store music to device from my Google Music account, but hopefully this is just in the pipework for the imminent updates. You can still store music files and play them normally without a problem.


So yes i would suggest a Chromebook as a viable and good choice for a computer whilst travelling. I can only speak for my Acer C720 in terms of build and performance but I can say that Chromebooks are viable options for travelling.

*The Chromebook Pixel is much more heavy duty.
**With 100gb of free Google Drive cloud storage for 2 years.
***The Air weighs 1.08kg but we’re travelling so it’s aluminium needed a protector bringing the weight up

Rucksacks: The Osprey Farpoint 55

We spent months debating what bag and what size we should purchase for our year long plus journey. On our first trip in 2011, six months in length, we each took an 85L travel pack, with detachable day sack. Looking back we packed so much we can only describe it as everything but the kitchen sink! This time we vowed to pack far less…

So how is the Osprey Farpoint 55 holding up…

THE SIZEIMG_1192

We have been using the Osprey Farpoint 55 for over a month now and can safely say we have made the right choice on size. The bag itself is 55L in total; this includes a detachable 10L day sack. Does this fit everything we need…we can safely say yes. Buy a bigger bag and all you will do is fill it with unnecessary items that you will begin to resent lugging around.

THE DACKSACK

As mentioneIMG_1193d above, the daysack is detachable. At 10L it fits a laptop, a digital SLR and all the other little essentials you need to hand when travelling. When wearing the main rucksack the daysack attaches securely to your front. This means all your valuables are safely in sight whilst keeping your hands free…to hold on for dear life as that bus careers around the corner at breakneck speed! Also it has plenty of additional pockets and a handy whistle on one of the straps…to attract the attention of the coast guard, taxis, buses, attractive boys/girls, or perhaps your deaf grandmother…

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All the straps are adjustable and fit comfortably, so much so you almost forget you wearing it…well until you loose your footing and come close to doing that oh so stylish impression of an upturned tortoise…not that I’ve ever done it. There are also additional carrying handles on the side and the top; these are well made and do not cut into your hands should you choose to carry it with one for a longer period. The shoulder and waist straps all neatly zip away making it easy to store and to check in as hold luggage.

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PRACTICALITIES

The main rucksack has two internal pockets that prove vital for all the tiny bits and bobs you inevitably end up IMG_1185packing…torches, charger cables, anti-malarials etc. Compression straps and strong zips make the rucksack easy close…even when it seems like an impossible feat to fit everything in! Finally the zips are lockable, which ensures all your items stay safely packed away.

THE PRICE

At £90 (RRP £100 but shop around!) the rucksack wasn’t the cheapest on the market but nor was it the most expensive. And overall we would say its worth the investment.

*For more details on what we packed this time and what we left at home see our packing list.