iPad, photo courtesy of Apple Inc.

Do you have an iPad, an Asus Eee Pad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab or another “tablet” mobile computing device? Do you have a laptop computer? Have you considered dumping your laptop in favor of a tablet when you travel? If you have, you’re not alone.

Tablets are becoming more advanced, and serious tablet apps are allowing business travelers and vacationers alike to use their tablets more productively than ever, but can they successfully replace laptops for travel?

Many travelers have answered, yes.

More than a few tablet users are now leaving their laptops at home, yet I still see scads of laptops traveling. One only has to see all those bins sporting laptops at TSA airport checkpoints to know tablets haven’t yet become the primary travel computing device. I am, however, seeing more and more travelers with both tablets and laptops while on their journeys.

At this time, it appears the major question affecting whether a traveler replaces their venerable laptop with a tablet is whether or not they’re primarily a content user, or a content creator, while away from home.

Business travelers and content creators, who are making and editing memos, letters, and spreadsheets, plus answering large numbers of email in detail, are still primarily traveling with laptops for their work.  On the other hand, more and more vacationers — primarily content users who are researching places to visit, events to attend, and other travel information, plus sending a few emails — are ditching their laptops and lightening their carry-ons with tablets. In an emergency, their tablets will suffice for essential office work, as necessary, yet serious content creation, is still not the forte of tablets.

Let’s look at tablet pluses for travelers:

• Traveling light is a goal for many travelers. Laptops with screens of 14 inches or more will generally weigh at least 4.5 pounds. Tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, weigh less than a pound. Laptops also normally require bulky separate power supplies which aren’t feather light, while tablets need only a lightweight cable and small adaptor for recharging.

• Tablets can easily fit into a travel pocketbook with lots of other gear, or a small travel daypack. That’s not so with a laptop.

• There are a variety of business apps for tablets available today. Tablets can display and edit Microsoft Office documents, and display Adobe “pdf” documents. They also can access Cloud documents such as Google Docs.

• There are a variety of tablet apps today to edit photographs, both from the tablet’s own camera and from digital cameras, if in a suitable format, such as jpg, the main format of digital point-and-shoot cameras.

• Tablets are fabulous entertainment devices, able to help travelers pleasantly pass the sometimes endless hours cooped up on planes and trains. They can display downloaded movies and TV shows, run terrific games, play almost endless music, stream movies, music and videos, and display books, magazines, and newspapers.

• Tablets are excellent communication devices. Email and texting are among its core functions. They easily “surf” the Web and run apps which utilize “online” data for all sorts of purposes and uses, such as location research, reservations for theater, museums, hotels and restaurants, etc., while traveling, locating stations and providing street navigation.

Is that enough for travelers? It depends. Let’s examine some tablet shortcomings compared to laptops, for travelers.

• Laptop computers have built-in keyboards, with true finger-sized keys. Tablets have built-in “on-screen” keyboards, with no touch characteristics, which are awkward to use for more than short passages. There are physical keyboards available for tablets, but that adds weight and size to its package, reducing the tablet’s size/weight advantage.

• While tablets have many available business apps today, and can handle important business document formats, their apps are not nearly as powerful, or easy to use, as their laptop counterparts, and don’t have all the laptop’s software features.

• Tablets have apps which can do some sophisticated photo effects, but they are cumbersome to use for true photo editing, unlike laptops. Tablets which use fingers as a “mouse” don’t permit accurate enough pointing in photo editing apps, which makes it difficult to achieve quality area edits, often required for photographs. Even 3rd party pointers for tablets aren’t accurate enough.

• Tablets today have more overall memory than ever, but still suffer from a lack of storage capacity, compared to laptops. For business travelers needing space for presentations and “offline” documents, for example, tablet storage is generally inadequate. For travelers who are photo enthusiasts, the storage capacity of today’s tablets is typically wholly insufficient for any journey of more than a day or so.

For the typical business traveler, today’s high-end tablets could be okay in a pinch, but for a business trip requiring meaningful content creation and/or editing, a laptop is still the de rigueur computing device. For serious travel photographers, professional or amateur, the same is certainly true.

For vacationers with little need of document and photo file capacity, and little or no need to combine work with pleasure while vacationing, a great tablet might be all that’s necessary and would be, therefore, advantageous compared to hauling around a laptop.