[IMGCAP(1)]Most people appreciate having choices. But along with having choices comes having to make decisions as well. The proverb, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” applies just as aptly to technology as it does to other things.

A case in point is the trend to have only a single computing device. The trend probably started with laptops that served as “desktop replacements.” Every day, most of us move around, even if it’s not far, so it’s not difficult to understand why laptops have been outselling desktops for the past several years.

[IMGCAP(2)]Today’s laptops often use the same processors as many desktops. And even a smartphone has enough power to do many of the tasks you and I perform every day. The latest statistics show tablets outselling laptops. There are so many choices in portable devices that many of us feel we have to limit ourselves to one or two devices to cover all our needs.

But that’s not necessarily the right approach. Just as a hammer isn’t the right tool for every job, a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet isn’t right for every circumstance. This becomes even more obvious when you have to pack up and leave the office. So what do you take?

Your smartphone is a no-brainer. In the past several years, texting has become so ubiquitous that many people are very comfortable using the virtual keyboard on a smartphone or tablet to do extensive text and number entry. And there are loads of apps for your smartphone.

I’m not one of those people. Little virtual keys and fat clumsy fingers don’t make for a great combination.

When I need to travel with a productivity device, I’m lucky. I have a steamer trunk full of devices, including several flavors of tablets, as well as a beautiful Lenovo T431 Ultrabook. Since I got my first tablet, it’s been my traveling companion of choice. If all I’m going to do on the trip is watch movies, listen to music, and read and answer e-mail, until recently I’d take an Android tablet. The ones I have are less expensive than my iPad, so if it’s lost, stolen or broken, it’s less expensive than a new iPad.

But until recently, if I had writing to do on the trip, the tablet was ditched in favor of the laptop. While I have Bluetooth keyboards for all the tablets, I still find it easier to travel with a real laptop, rather than an assemblage of components.

But that’s changed. Now, most of the time, I travel with a Chromebook. Chromebooks look like ultrabooks. They are thin and usually lightweight—around two pounds. The one I use has an 11-inch screen, but it also has a laptop-style keyboard that I find easy to type on, and I’m not a particularly good typist. And compared to an ultrabook, they are very cheap. The Acer I have now costs about $250, and you can still find one of Acer’s original $200 models if you look. That’s not a lot to have much of the convenience of an ultrabook, and if it gets lost or stolen, or bites the dust on a trip, it’s a much more palatable loss than the $1,500 Lenovo laptop.

Chromebooks do have a downside that may be off-putting. A Chromebook doesn’t really have an accessible operating system. The user interface is Google’s Chrome browser, and the Chromebook offers the greatest utility when it is connected to the Internet and uses Internet-based applications like Google’s office apps or apps downloaded from the Google Play store.

On the plus side, Chromebooks do have some internal storage. You can keep most of your files in the cloud and work on them when you are connected to the Internet but also keep a copy on the Chromebook. And Google’s office apps (and a number of others) are also built right into the Chromebook.

Chromebooks are sold by an increasing number of vendors, including Acer, Samsung, HP, Lenovo and Asus.

Technology costs less than ever before, and the payback in increased productivity is more than ever. One size doesn’t fit all; neither does one device. So the next time you’re in Best Buy or Staples, and you’re wandering the aisles with a bit of extra cash in the budget, give a thought to adding a Chromebook to your technological inventory. Yeah, it’s another hammer, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find a nail or two to use it on.

A former editor of Accounting Technology, Ted Needleman writes frequently on technology-related subjects. Got a question on how to use a particular bit of technology? Reach Ted at tedneedleman@gmail.com.

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