Lightweight traveling at CES, take two

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Weight matters -- but getting your work done matters more.

Back in late December, I wrote of my need to carry a lightweight laptop to the CES trade show. I ended up taking an Acer Chromebook R 11, which is not only fairly lightweight but also has a touch screen, something that I had found useful when working with a (now broken) Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Well, I carried that Chromebook through two convention centers and several hotels in Las Vegas, and came away with the following impressions.

1. The Acer Chromebook R 11 is a very nice little computer indeed. I liked the keyboard (something that, as somebody who does a great deal of typing, is important) and found the touch screen handy for moving up and down the page, selecting items quickly, etc. The display is not as bright as those of higher-end systems, but for writing article, sending emails and tweets, and viewing the occasional video, it is fine. And the ability to fold it backward so that it becomes a rather thick tablet is very handy when you want to watch a movie in an airplane seat.

2. Weight matters. At 2.7 lb., the Acer is about a pound lighter than my MacBook Pro, and at that, my backpack was feeling pretty heavy by the end of the day (or, rather, the evening, since the typical "day" at CES normally ends for me sometimes between 10 pm and 11 pm). So if I'm going to carry around a computer, a phone, a charger (for the phone), a small camera, a notebook (the paper kind), a clump of business cards, a bottle of water (vital in Vegas) and all the other miscellany that you need for a day at a trade show, it's better (for me at least) to keep the computer under 3 lb.

Under 2 lb. would be nicer, however. Some of those tablet two-in-ones -- not only the Surface Pro 4, but some of those challenging it -- may be worth looking at.

3. The Acer made it through each day without needing a charge, so I could have left the power cord in my hotel room. Paranoia, however, means I probably won't ever do that.

4. Now that more and more of my work depends on online services, it was possible to do most of my daily duties, including getting articles online, using Chrome OS rather than OS X or Windows. There were a couple of services that didn't work all that well -- I had to do a couple of workarounds and I never got my VPN working quite right -- but those are issues that could probably be fixed given time and a version or two.

5. All that being said, I saw a lot of Mac Pros and other "normal" notebooks being carried around by journalists (most of whom, no doubt, had better upper-body strength than I had). So, as always, it's the individual who must decide what works.

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