Should I or should I not? Owners of the Apple iPad are faced with the question of whether it is worth their while taking the gadget with them when every time they decide to go on holiday.

The iPad can be a useful friend on the road but it is limited in what it can do for globetrotters.

You are sure to be the target of envious looks if you pull an iPad out of your bag at the airport and while you kill time by watching a movie or reading an online newspaper. Your neighbour with a smart phone can do the same but it is not quite as good as on an iPad.

“The best thing about the iPad is its large screen,” says Michael Jarugski from Giata, a content provider for the tourist industry. The screen has a resolution of 1024x768 pixels which means it provides a great way to display information compared to smaller smart phones.

“Looking at the screen is quite like reading a book.” A few publishers are providing iPad versions of their newspapers and magazines. Project Gutenberg has thousands of copyright—free books to download and Apple’s iBook store has all of the latest publications. According to Apple spokesman Georg Albrecht, there are over 15,000 books in the store right now.

Joerg Wirtgen has learned to appreciate the iPad as a useful companion on the road. Wirtgen is a journalist at the German computer magazine “c’t” and lists the iPad’s plus sides as its light weight, its compact size and its low noise level. The iPad also does not heat up like a laptop and its battery can store a charge big enough to get you to your destination on an intercontinental flight. It also fits nicely onto the small seat tray on a plane.

“It’s a very good gadget for the 10 hours you spend on a plane flying to the US,” says Heike Scholz. “It’s also good for keeping kids quiet in the back seat of a car.” Mr. Scholz publishes a blog on mobile phones and views the iPad as something to lean back with and enjoy. But on journeys she says it only makes “some sense” to bring one along.

“Travellers don’t want to bring lots of luggage with them on a journey,” says Mr. Scholz. Most tourists already pack a mobile phone, a camera and a video camera with them when they visit the sights. But the iPad cannot replace those three items as it does not take photos and you can’t use it to make a phone call.

Scholz also says the iPad is not great as a tour guide. “I don’t think anyone will pull out their iPad in front of Cologne cathedral to read about the building.” And no—one would take one to the beach as the display might get scratched by sand.

Joerg Wirtgen, however, believes the iPad is less vulnerable than a laptop or netbook. The iPad does not have a hard drive that can break with one jolt as information on the iPad is stored on a flash memory chip.

But the iPad does have a few major disadvantages compared to conventional mobile computers. It cannot display Flash—based programs, thus making it incompatible with many internet websites and applications. It does not have a USB port and if its memory is full while you’re abroad you cannot download information to a stick and free up space.

If you plan to spend your evenings on the hotel balcony admiring your snapshots of the day you will need to buy an extra photo adapter in addition to the cost of buying the iPad. The adapter allows you to transfer still images and videos onto the iPad.

Another potential source of extra costs for holidaymakers is surfing the internet with the iPad using its UMTS card. Roaming charges can be very costly abroad. As of July 1st the EU has limited the amount phone customers can be charged while surfing the internet away from their home countries but beyond the EU’s borders there are no such rules.

To protect yourself from the surprise of receiving an enormous telephone bill when you return home limit yourself to using the iPad’s WLAN function or buy a micro SIM card for the country you are visiting. These cards are usually much cheaper than paying roaming charges.

Mr. Wirtgen also advises using prepaid flat rates to avoid large bills. Micro SIM cards are available in every country where the iPad is sold but conventional SIM cards can be cut down with a scissors to fit.

Some iPad applications work without an internet connection such as the navigation app, which according to Apple spokesman Albrecht, works in conjunction with GPS. There is also the iPad’s mirror function: just turn it off and hold it up to your face.

Keywords: Apple iPad