Flyers beware: the United States may ban laptops on flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in March 2017 a proposal to ban laptops from aircraft cabins. This poses a potential challenge to both work and entertainment.
Fortunately, smaller devices can compensate for lack of a laptop. Wondering what smart device you should buy in light of a possible laptop ban? Here’s what to bring.
TSA Laptop Ban: What Smart Device to Buy?
What smart device you should buy depends on your needs. For example, an ideal gadget for in-flight movies differs from an in-flight music player. Similarly, the best e-reader may not suit business needs. But the best all-rounder? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 ($300): Best All-in-One
A small tablet fits a variety of purposes. It’s an e-reader, media player, and game console. With a keyboard, you can even write or send emails. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is the best bet. This mini tablet clocks in at under $400. CNET notes that the Galaxy Tab S2 comes with 32 GB of onboard storage. Plus, there’s a microSD slot for additional expansion. With its long battery life, the Galaxy Tab S2 will keep you satisfied throughout the entire flight.
However, there’s no more IR blaster as with earlier models. But the large storage options allowed with its microSD slot, small build, and fantastic screen make the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 a best as a smart device to take on a plane. Because of its versatility, the Galaxy Tab S2 is perfect as a music or video player, e-reader, or game console.
An Amazon Fire is a spectacular alternative. While it’s branded the kids version, the Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablet is a fantastic rugged tablet that you won’t have to worry about getting thrown around in your carry-on luggage.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ($100/£110): Best E-Reader
Ironically considering my passion for tech, I prefer my books analog. Paper pages are gentler on the eyes. Plus, there’s that pleasant, familiar old book smell. Enter the Kindle Paperwhite. PC Mag praises its vibrant screen, large ebook store, and affordability. It’s lightweight and small. A robust literary catalog and excellent performance along with cloud-based storage make this the best e-reader available.
However, PC Mag does comment that while the Kindle Paperwhite is phenomenal for ebooks, there’s no audiobook support. Moreover, what it delivers with a pleasant screen, it loses with a lack of an adaptive backlight. Further, tablets like the Kobo Glo HD and Aura H20 offer waterproofing whereas the Paperwhite does not. Plus, the Kindle Fire is increasingly versatile.
Still, with its low price point, cloud storage, and power, the Paperwhite is the best pick as a smart e-reader for in-flight entertainment.
The DroixBOX PlayOn GPD is probably the best device you haven’t heard of. This nifty Android media player tops the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Vita. Because it’s an Android tablet, there’s the full functionality of the Android operating system. Additionally, the DroixBOX PlayOn sports a Nintendo DS XL form factor. As such, it’s spectacular for playing Google Play Store-bought titles as well as ROMs using emulators.
Select emulators are pre-installed. You’ll also find Kodi onboard as well for watching movies and TV shows from the 32 GB of built-in storage or a microSD card. An HDMI output rounds out the stellar feature set. Unfortunately, and oddly, there’s no Bluetooth. But you can hook up controllers via USB.
iPod Touch ($200+): For Music Lovers
Despite what you may think, a standalone media player is an excellent piece of hardware. When it comes to smart media players, the iPod Touch is a solid choice. In fact, the iPod Touch is one of the few Wi-Fi-enabled MP3 players that’s not outrageously priced. I’m looking at you, Sony Walkman.
The iPod Touch starts at around $200 for the base 16 GB variant. Models go up to 128 GB, but the price rises accordingly. As such, it’s tough to recommend. Limited file compatibility further hurts the iPod Touch. Audiophiles will lament the lack of FLAC support. Nevertheless, the iPod Touch remains the best smart MP3 player available. If you don’t need Wi-Fi, there’s a slew of other options like the Sansa Clip Jam and offerings from Cowon which boast better features though lack Wi-Fi.
Logitech Keys-to-Go ($45/£48): The Safe Bet for Productivity
Because the TSA ban focuses on battery size, a safe choice is adding a keyboard to your smartphone.
I would recommend using a wired keyboard — however, both Android and iOS devices use different standards for connecting keyboards. A Bluetooth keyboard works for both. Of the smaller keyboards around, the Logitec Keys-to-Go keyboard offers the best combination of functionality and portability. On top of that, its razor-thin profile guarantees that it’ll pass the TSA’s inspection.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($595/£625)
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is marketed as the tablet that can replace your laptop. Truthfully, its combination of a Pixel Sense Display, keyboard, stylus, and Windows 10 make it a good pick. However, that comes with a downside: we don’t know for certain whether it will pass the TSA’s inspection because of its size.
In our review, we found the Surface Pro 4 a pleasing fusion of a tablet and laptop. However, we suggest the i5 model for light mobile gaming. Hardcore multimedia users will want the i7. This versatile hybrid device is an awesome gadget for in-flight use. Despite Apple’s superb product lineup, I recommend the Surface Pro 4 over the MacBook Pro.
But the base model with its Intel M3 CPU simply isn’t a worthy laptop replacement. Additionally, the keyboard and stylus aren’t included. However, the Surface Pro 4 is the best device in its category. Alternately, the HP Spectre X2 is an impressive device. While its entry-level configuration also utilizes an M3, it’s a more affordable device. Similarly, the Samsung Tab Pro S clocks in around the same price as the Surface Pro 4. While I haven’t used a Tab Pro S, I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition. I’ve found its performance on par with a budget laptop and perfectly capable of writing and editing duties as well running multiple apps simultaneously.
At Least the Peanuts Are Free
With a possible TSA laptop ban, a new smart device may be in order. What you get depends on your needs. For the average consumer, an Android or Windows tablet with a 7-inch or 8-inch screen is the most versatile. This option affords music, video, and gaming capabilities, and it’s also an e-reader. Coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard, it’s suitable for office productivity. To keep packing light, I travel with my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition rather than lug around my HP Omen gaming laptop.
Alternatively, you may select a device that provides a specific function. For instance, the DroixBOX PlayOn is an amazing portable gaming and multimedia player while the iPod Touch is great for music.
What smart devices do you recommend for air travel?