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by Phil Ball

Q. I'm going to be traveling a lot soon which will include taking lots of photos. Until now, I've carried a laptop computer and a couple of small portable external drives to backup my images and maybe even do a little post-processing. But all this equipment takes up a lot of room and I need to lighten up. Could a tablet take the place of my laptop? Would some USB drives work well for this so I could leave the hard drives home?

A. The short answer here is "no" to the tablet. It sounds like you are a serious photographer so we're talking about taking many photos along the way. There are very few tablets that have enough computing power to replace your laptop for either post-processing with a program like Photoshop Elements nor do they offer sufficient storage to hold many photos. What's worse, many tablets do not have any USB ports so neither external hard drives nor thumb drives can be used.

That may be changing in the near future. Actually, the gap is narrowing and we may soon see some improvement in tablets that make them more appropriate. At this point, if I were in your situation, I would buy an ultra thin laptop computer similar to the MacBook Air or a Windows equivalent. You might also decide whether you can live with a smaller screen which would mean a lighter laptop. At present, these are the only ways to downsize your laptop.

As far as the backups go, I would suggest using large capacity USB drives or even camera cards that fit your laptop and camera. They work the same as USB drives. The only danger is getting camera memory cards confused with similar cards used as your backup. Camera cards work just like USB thumb drives; you can write your images to them just like you can write to a USB thumb drive.

Either USB thumb drives or memory cards are much easier and lighter to transport than external hard drives. Hard drives can be damaged through rough handling whereas USB thumb drives or memory cards are relatively damage proof. Bon Voyage.

Published: Courier 2/2/14 - Page 3C