Working on the road is sometimes necessary, yet often difficult on a budget. Smaller, more portable electronics, alongside mobile data connections, can quickly add up to intimidating bills. This can make working away from home unattractive even for people who aren’t tied down to a desk.
There are, however, some ways of reducing the costs of working away from home, including both fixed costs (such as your laptop) and ongoing costs (such as your mobile data plan). You can’t do everything for free, but you can stay productive for surprisingly little money if you have the right hardware and freedom from overpriced on-contract mobile data.
Laptop: Samsung Chromebook 3G
If you’re looking for inexpensive, portable productivity, the Samsung Chromebook 3G is the obvious choice. This laptop is sold for $329, offers about six hours of battery life and weighs just 2.5 pounds. It also offers a surprisingly large keyboard and touchpad, both of which make using the laptop for hours on end a pleasure. While all Chromebooks are primarily designed to be used alongside a data connection, you can set the operating system up to make your Gmail inbox and Google Drive usable offline.
The killer feature, of course, is 3G mobile data support. No other laptop sold remotely close to this price offers the same support, and this particular Chromebook even comes with 100 megabytes of free data every month for two years. Chromebooks in the United States support Verizon by default, but can be configured to use other networks. Those sold in Europe will work with any network as long as you have a valid SIM card.
Smartphone: Galaxy S III Mini (Unlocked GSM)
Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini has always been considered “that small one” and is often ignored in favor of the larger Galaxy models. If you’re on a budget, though, the Mini is the obvious way to go. Running Android 4.1 with a fast dual-core processor, yet sold unlocked and off-contract for as little as $230, you simply won’t find a better value for frequent travelers.
Another reason the S III Mini gets the nod is compatibility. This unlocked GSM phone works on AT&T and Sprint in the United States and is compatible with all GSM carriers across the globe. All you need to do is purchase a plan, pop in the SIM, and you’re ready to go. Besides ensuring you’ll have connectivity, this wealth of choice will give you more options as you search for the most affordable plan.
Oh, and you can turn the S III Mini into a WiFi hotspot, which is incredibly useful. Just be warned that hotspot use will completely consume the battery within a few hours. Which brings us to the next gadget.
Mobile Wireless Hotspot: Huawei E5331
If you have the Chromebook 3G, you may not need a mobile hotspot at all, but you may already have a laptop, or you don’t want to go with Chrome OS for other reasons. If that’s true, you will probably need a hotspot, because turning your phone into one quickly drains the battery.
As with a phone, you’ll want an unlocked hotspot that supports GSM networks, as this ensures you can use the hotspot with a wide range of networks across the globe. The Huawei’s E5331 ticks off all the right boxes, and it only $60 to $70 online. The E5331’s lack of support for 4G is a downside, but is acceptable given the hotspot’s low price and broad compatibility.
Mobile Cellular And Data: Cheapest Prepaid
Now you have an unlocked GSM phone and an unlocked GSM wireless hotspot. That means you have access to many carriers, and you don’t have any need for a contract. Now the only question is – which service do you use?
Answering that question definitively is impossible, as services differ from one country to the next, as do prices. What I do suggest is that you look into prepaid plans and see how much data you can grab for tens of dollars per month. You might be surprised at what you can get. T-Mobile, for example, provides North American customers with 2.5 gigabytes of data per month for just $30 per month, while UK readers can check out TalkTalk’s unlimited talk / 4GB data plan, which is just £18.
Other Networking Needs: ASUS Multi-Mode Pocket Router
While a cheap mobile data plan may be great, not everyone wants to pay for it, and it isn’t always available. Having WiFi and Ethernet capability as a backup is important, particularly for those spending a lot of time in hotels.
That’s where the ASUS pocket router comes in. This helpful gadget is the size of a USB drive, but can act as a USB wireless adapter, create a WiFi hotspot out of an Ethernet connection, set up a private LAN between devices, or enable wired Ethernet on a notebook or tablet lacking an Ethernet port. And it does all of the above for just $34.99!
If you purchase all of the gadgets recommended here, all at once, and it’ll cost you less than $650. That’s barely more than the price of an average 15-inch laptop, and well less than a typical ultrabook or ultraportable notebook. Who says working on the road isn’t affordable?
Have you worked from the road and know a cost-effective tip? Be sure to share it in the comments!
Image Credits: Garry Knight Via Flickr