5 Best Laptops For Journalists in 2020

Journalists don’t really need a high performance laptop. All you need is to stay on top of the news, connect with your peers and send data either through writing, audio or video wirelessly!

Most tablets and even phones can do all of that.

Even if you are into light video/photo editing, you can pick up the cheapest laptop on wallmart(as long as it’s not a chromeBook).

The problem is…

Durability…

Now one is saying you should go ahead and get a bulky rugged machine (unless you are thrown somewhere in Africa).

But a your laptop should be both portable and durable because unless you are just staying at an office editing stuff, most of your job and activities will require you to be on the move.

Also..

If you love writing so much to the point that people have started hating you for sending’ em longemails, then why not get a good keyboard too?

Unfortunately…

Stuff like this is never listed on the manufacturer’s site and trying to find the best laptops for journalists among might take days of browsing around the web.

I am aware there’s a few of you who do not have the typical journalist job. So we will also throw in a variety of choices.

 

Besides listing the best laptops for journalists I’ve found, I’ve also written a guide on how to make the most of your devices (including your laptop) to gather, edit and distribute news. With the proper production apps, techniques and the right software, you can capture quality content while working quickly under deadline (This info in the last section).

Recommended Specs for Journalists

Apart from a few exceptions, nearly all journalists will do a mix of the following:

  • Word Processing: MS Office
  • Light photo/video/audio editing
  • Web Browsing with several tabs open
  • Possibly use inDesign for those working as magazine staff

With that in mind, we have to focus on a laptop with the following specs:

RAM
4GB for word processing & web browsing.

8GB for zero lag when multitasking and opening any of the above software at the same time.

CPU
If you are just browsing the web or doing stuff in MS Office, any processor will do.

For any heavy lifting like editing: get a CPU made during the past two years. AMD Ryzen or any 8th, 9th and 10th generation Intel CPU.

Display
A Matte display will help to work under the sun and to avoid glares. High brightness levels (~500 nits) also help here.

Storage(Recommended)
Any Solid State Drive, helps booting up your machine in seconds and wake up instantly. Think about how useful that can be for you. 

Battery
A short battery life is an obstacle to the “pick-up-anywhere-and-write” mentality of a journalist.
A good laptop should give +10 hours of battery life which means a couple of days withour recharging it.

Portability & Design
Your laptop should be portable(max 13” and 3lb) and rugged(or aluminum made) enough to cope with the bumps of the road. These features are mostly found on ultrabooks above 700$ the MacBook Air is a prime example of what I’m trying to describe here.

KeyBoard
If you are a mostly a writer , you might wanna consider prioritizing your budget on the keyboard. How it feels to type out each letter and getting into a groove.
Now, you won’t simulate the experience of using a typewriter or a mechanical keyboard but you can get pretty close to it with some of the laptops I’m going to list.

Top 5 Best Laptops For Journalists

Although the selection process is a bit more complicated. I wrote a guide at the end of this section on how to make sure you get  all the features we just went over and why they can be more useful than you think.

If you think you can find a better fit than these 5 laptops, you can use the buying guide at the end to help you find more choices.


1. MacBook Air

Best Apple Laptop For Journalists

  Intel Core i5 

  8GB RAM LPDDR3

   Intel HD

  256GB SSD

  13” 1440×900 TN

  ~3lb

  +13 hours

The MacBook 13” is the first and most obvious choice for any journalist serious about journalism!

I could write pages about how perfect this machine is but I’ll just talk about the most important features.

When I first started my career, what intrigued me the most about its presentation back in 2009, was the outstanding looks and astonishing thinness. I realized it had a long battery life much later.

At first glance, obviously, it was hard to believe back then that a 3lb paper thin laptop could have all the power of the computers  made those days.

To my surprise, it was it was actually faster than most because it had an SSD on it too, a revolutionary thing back then.

Keyboard

I need to dedicate an entire section to its keyboard!

Ok I am writer by passion to the point that I have written short stories while working on a novel during my spare time. Why am I telling you this? Because that’s what I do mostly on my laptop be it for a novel or journalism: WRITING!

I love writing, as you can see the size by the size of “short” review. Even my colleagues hate me for my formal & long emails!

What I can tell you from using the Air since 2009 and still doing so in 2020 is that typing on this thing is very addictive!

As if every hit is a small smack of satisfaction.

You will never get into the mechanical groove of typing on a   typewriter like Jack Kerouac or Ernest Hemingway or Hunter S Thompson but I think this keyboard provides a semblance of the same thrill.

Anyways this keyboard is legendary and this was the feature that just kept me buying the newer and newer models.

There’s on a huge caveat on this whole keyboard thing though.

2017 MacBook Air:

I am talking about the MacBook Air  model that Steeve Jobs himself introduced in 2008, which kept the same design until late 2017. Later models after that seemed to have opted for an even thinner design (which reduced the keyboard’s travel distance) and made it a bit harder to type on.

Although the new keyboard aren’t bad, you can still get a better keyboard if you get the older model I’m talking about. If you want them cheaper, they are being sold in Amazon as refurbished (which are essentially New and in the Mac business , refurbished and New have about the same meaning). Plus there’s a 90 day warranty for you to try it out and see if the refurbished one you got is as “good as new”.

Another option, in case the 13” Old MacBooks run out, is to go for the 11” Models (which was discontinued several years ago).  It is even more portable and easier to carry around not just around the city, but around the office too. If you just want to move up and down the floors and you don’t trust your screen lock with the password you put in, you can just grab this thing with two fingers and take it with you.

I was never a big trackpad fan (because let’s face it, the trackpads are much more cumbersome than a nice and responsive mouse)  but the trackpad here made me throw my mouse directly into the garbage can to never be seen again (it stopped working anyways).

Battery life

The battery life was nothing short of amazing , in fact, I think it lasted me about 15 hours at some point in time. I was moving from several offices to several cafes for two days in a row without access to power sockets and I know it went as high as that.

Performance

The speed of their CPUs is enough for even photoshop and light video editing on the move.Essentially all you need (even for light video editing) is a core i5 with 8GB RAM.

If you are working as a magazine staff especially with InDesign, resolution and color gamut are important features so the MacBook Pro should be more of your style.

Although the Pros are expensive, the magazine department should supply you with one or give you the cash to buy one. If that’s not the case, then you can customize yours to a configuration you can afford or just opt for refurbished ones.

What about storage?

You won’t need huge amounts of storage if you are a journalist or working towards your MA, 128GB is plenty.

Unless of course you are doing tons and I mean tons of video news stories and you’re unwilling to use an external storage drive.

By the way, most programs in journalism will only involve lots of essay writing and even the vocational part of the course will require smaller text files than essays.

Last Words & Advice:

If you enter any work room at a stadium, something like 9/10 laptops in there are Macs and yes all of those guys are journalists. So you may as well follow the trend, you forgot your charger? need a CD-DVD external Drive? It may just be two seats away!

Before I forget, If you’re going to be out and about with this laptop, please take good care of it. They are easily identifiable and highly desirable – I’ve known a few journalists who’ve found themselves targets of crime after getting their laptops out in public places.  Me? My MacBook was stolen while I was taking a nap…it was fast. So I know I was targeted for a few days before the assault!

If you opt for one, it’s also a good idea to save files online and to ensure you have anti theft and “find my laptop” software installed and turned on. I have put all those details on the last section for you to check later.

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2. Surface Pro 7

Best 2 in 1 Laptop For Journalists

  Core m3 , Core i5, Core i7

  4GB-16GB RAM

  Intel HD/Iris

  128GB-1TB PCIe NVMe SSD

  12” IPS 2736×1824

  1.7lb and above

  +11 hours

I tried the Surface Pro of a couple of colleagues a few times. At firt glance, it seemed to be sort of tablet with the power of a full blown laptop that’s even more portable than the Air.

But you can actually turn into a laptop if you attach the keyboard Taking it out of the bag, setting it up and magnetically attaching its keyboard was a cool experience.  So it’s more like a writing device transformer.

The Keyboard is OK, I would label give it 4/5.  There are two types types of keyboards to attach though: one is touch responsive (meaning you’ll have to hammer on a flat piece of plastic with no buttons) and the other one is more like a real keyboard. I was refering to the latter of course, I found it somewhat flimsy but it still worked and was OK to write on.

Performance

For writing alone and a few photo editing here you can choose any mode, the cheapest one is the Core m3 version, which is still plenty for all of that.

Core i5 and above are more desirable for better multitasking and throw in some video editing.

Core i7 with anything above 8GB RAM should be avoided, they’re ultra expensive, have less battery life and they’re useless.

 


3. 2020 Lenovo ThinkPad T490 

Lenovo Laptop For Journalists

  Core i5-8265U Up to 3.9 GHz

  8-40GB DDR4 RAM 

   Intel HD 620

  256GB-2TB SSD

  14” TN FHD

  3.41lb

  10 hours

ThinkPads are probably the most popular brand for pen-testing, cyber security and yes hacking. The reason is simple: they can handle Linux Distros more easily than any other model.

Because you aren’t password cracking with this one but writing scrips/executing them you should just opt for a simple “thinkpad model” and avoid any dGPUs , fancy fingerprint sesons and crazy resolutions. All of that, it’s goint to make the laptop heat up massively when running several VMs.

Lenovo is the only brand that can be put on equal foot with the MacBook’s design and durability.

By design I mean the keyboard, trackpad’s ease of use and the long battery life and by durability I mean how long this thing will last you.

Not all lenovos are created equal though. I’m only refering mostly to the thinkPads and the Yogas .

KeyBoards

If you ever come across an office full of journalists and have a chance to try all their laptops, you’ll notice the extra effort Lenovo puts into their keyboard design and find them superior across the entire range of Windows Laptops.

What I am listing here is a ThinkPad which has a superior keyboard design than the Lenovo Yogas  which has leaned more towards portability. The ThinkPads’ keyboards remseble desktop typing with high raised keys which means great tactile feedback when typing.

On the other hand, the Yogas are usually touchScreen UltraBooks with HD resolution and decent keyboards.

Photo or Video Editing?

Both the ThinkPads and Yogas have a processor and the option to add 8GB RAM so they can both handle it.

Which one should you buy?

Obviously the ThinkPads unless portability is mor important.

However, if you are used to thin feather weights ultrabooks then you should consider the X1 Carbon before the Yogas.

If you decide to get a ThinkPad also be sure to get the ones with full HD(1920×1080) screen resolution, the full HD along with +13” screen size will make a huge difference in the amount of workspace area avaialble for writing.

Linux Compatibility

Another huge perk of the Lenovo ThinkPads is their seamless compatibility with Linux Distributions. If you don’t know what I’m even talking about, then just ignore this section and jump right into the next Laptop.

Anyways, in case you want to install both a Windows/Linux Combo or a full blown Linux Distro on your thinkpad, the hardware compatibility is nearly 100%. The ThinkPads will work right out of the Box with most Distros.

Why is that useful you may ask?

Well you can use this feature to install TrueCrypt. This enables you to have a hidden operating system as well as a dummy OS.  You can boot to do normal stuff on the dummy OS and do any sensitive journalism  on the hidden OS. I’ve included more details of this and how you can also install Prey and KeyLogger to recover your laptop if it ever gets stolen.

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4. Dell XPS 13 9630

Best Dell Laptop For Journalists

  Core i5-8265U

  8GB RAM DDR3

   Intel UHD 620

  256GB SSD

  13” full HD 1080p

  2.7lb

  ~8 hours

Another laptop with premium design is the Dell XPS 13. It’s just as thin as a MacBook Air and some models are even lighter with more speed. 

The trade off here is power for battery life, the Air has an unbeaten 13-15 hour battery life. The Dell XPS will get you around 6-9 hours and is not as thin but it’s still a Windows Machine!

Another reason why the battery is almost 1/2 the Air’s is the resolution but full HD means reading text is easier.

I know I know typing out each letter and getting into a groove is a criteron of more importance than power and looks…

Keys on this thing are wider and fatter, each click gives a nice feedback but the Keyboard isn’t as good as the Air’s nor the Lenovo’s but nothing that’s going to stop you from writing. In fact, it is far better than the average windows laptop (leaving Lenovos to the side of course). The font of every letter is very accentuated like they are demanding to be hammered with vigour; powered by whisky, tobacco and a pretty close deadline!

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5. 2020 Newest ASUS Chromebook

Best ChromeBook For Journalists

  1.6-2.48 GHz Intel Celeron N3060

  4GB RAM DDR3L

   Intel HD

  32 GB eMMC

  11” HD Anti Glare

  2.2lbs

  10 hours

  Chrome OS

Lastly, the smallest of the fries, though the biggest of them!

This folks is a ChromeBook that on the advice of the owner of this site I bought a few months ago and I have zero regrets.

It’s my back up machine for any trip/mission/quest that requires a lot of bumpy roads and Indiana Jones like adventures.

While you could grab a cheap laptop from Walmart or Target for these types jobs, as you can tell by the picture it has a clear and disctinct feature : it’s reugerized and apparently has been tested against bombs and landmines: “military grade design”. Obviously, that’s an exageration. But yes, the reugerrized part does keep it quite resistant to drops and mishandlings.

I’ve thrown this ChromeBook into my Sofa or bed as if it were a pillow and one time it even ended up below my bed, it’s still fine without a scratch.

This is definitely the best option for a journalist who’s always on the road and has a good desktop/premium laptop back home or at the office.

A cool thing about chromebooks and being on the road is that  using cellular data from your iphone or just a Wifi connection will allow it to store everything on the cloud, where it will be safe and sound from thieves and hackers.

What about other software?

There’s plenty of software that can be installed on a ChromeBook as long as it is on the Google App Store. Lightroom, PhotoShop, Word,Excel, PowerPoint have been there for ages.

Developer Mode:

There’s a tutorial on this site on how to set up a Linux Distro using Crouton with Developer Mode. If you don’t know what sorcery I’m speaking, I’m basically telling you that you can install a Linux Distribution on it and have all the open source software avialable to it and all of that for ~200$ bucks.

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How To Buy The Best Laptops for Journalists

First of all not all those who graduated in journalism will  dispatch to  the middle east or at the worldcup games trying to the land the best stories. 

But you probably will have to do something with such events at some point and fall into one of the four categories below or a mixture of them: 

Journalism Student

As a student, besides portability, the main concern is storage.

I studied for a journalism MA and agree with what most people say today: you won’t need a huge amount of storage unless you’ll also be doing lots of video news stories and even then you can also store them on external hard drive. 

The academic part of journalism will likely just involve lots of essay writing and the vocational part of the course will often require even smaller text files than essays.

Working for a newspaper as a writer
If you’ll be sitting at a desk, portability goes out the windows. It’s imperative however you spend all your budget on a good keyboard. MS Office doesn’t require anything special from a laptop.

Staff magazine working with InDesign
Here you need to consider Display and Performance to avoid feeling slugish as you multitask with other programs and several tabs open as your souces.

Blogger/Web Content
Probably the most demanding role since it might require you to edit videos, photos and audio. Although it is only a light editing, you still need to worry about RAM and CPU performance. Check the laptops for blogging post for more info.

Journalist on the road
You need not worry about anything else but portability and build quality. This is often found in premium/business class laptops such as the Lenovo ThinkPads or MacBooks.

Performance

CPU & RAM

Word Processing/Blogging
The thing is that it is very unlikely you’ll only be using Microsoft Word alone. You probably have to multitask with an internet browser at the same time to get all diferent types of sources(audio,video,data).

The processor (CPU) isn’t important. In fact, any CPU  that’s not labeled with an Atom or Pentium processor will do.

However the amount of RAM is a must(for multitasking): 8GB as the minimum.

InDesign/Photo/Video/Audio Editing
Assuming you are not making movies or professional video editing, for any of these applications to run without any hiccups shoot for:

Intel Core i3 U series+ 4GB RAM for basic editing
Intel Core i5 + 8GB RAM will let you edit at a more professional level
Intel Core i7 processors are overkill for this level of editing.

Storage

Unless you’re  almost a professional video editor or you hold thousands of long videos, storage capacity isn’t really something to worry about. Why? today most laptops have more than enough space to store every file you’ll be working with during your entire lifetime.

It’s the type of storage that you should think about:

HDD(Hard Disk Drive)
Most laptops over 350$ have an HDD  with 1TB(1000GB), this is plenty to several hundreds of video clips and high resolution photos.

SSD(Solid State Drive)
Although SSDs only have 1/4 of the storage capacity (256GB) of HDDs. The three main advantages for journalists are:

  • Insanely fast boot up times 
  • Longer battery live
  • More resistant to physical damage (less risk for data loss) 

Display

There are only three features to look out for in displays:

Resolution (optional)
Highe resolution displays give you more screen space than actually having a bigger display.

768p: these are fine if you just want to blog,write or type on the go
1080p or full HD: this is the sweet spot for both multitasking and multimedia editing (photos/videos/audio), allows you to have more tools/buttons at your disposal and multiple windows next to each other. 

Brightness

One of the features not listed by manufacturers and the most important one if you plan on using your laptop outdoors. Though you can easily find out by reading Amazon’s customer reviews or going with third party testers like LaptopMag. 

Anything over 300 nits is enough, 500 nits is superb and will let you edit/write outside on a sunny sunday. The surface Pro 4, is one of the few laptops that have such brightness levels.

Anything less than 300 nits will be too dim to work with at plain daylight.

Matte Display vs Glossy

This is an issue if you are constantly working on bright settings. Matte Displays/Anti Glare screens are the way to go if you want to protect your eyes from constant glares.

Battery

This is obviously the most important feature for a journalist constantly on the move. There might be no places to recharge yours !

Although battery lives are listed by manufacturers, they can be innacurate. They’re usually tested by playing videos with low brightness, obviously, to advertise the longest battery life their model can output.

Which laptops have the longest battery lives?

Usually laptops with low end processors, low resolution displays, solid state drives and of small size.

ChromeBooks

ChromeBooks fit all this criteria. In fact, they have the longest battery lives recirded. Unfortunately not many are able to put up using apps or the cloud instead of using old fashioned software installed.

Premium UltraBooks

Among laptops MacBooks and a few premium Windows Laptops such as the Dell XPS series have extremely long battery lives while remaining very lightweight. Let’s not forget the Lenovo ThinkPads. These usually have the a CPU with a U label (Intel Core i3-U7210) and a solid state drive.

KeyBoards

Nothing will beat the typing speed of a full sized conventional mechanical keyboard. Unfortunately this is impractical to achieve in laptops since they can take quite a lot of space in terms of thickness.

Unlike mechanical keyboards, laptops’ keys have low travel which in some instances makes typing very uncomfortable due to lack of feel when pushing down each key.

Which laptops have the best keyboards?

All MacBooks and Premium Lenovo Laptops (ThinkPads) have the best keyboards out there.

Laptops below 500$ usually cheap out on build components and design which end up with lousy and weak keyboards (they may flex when you push down the middle).

Premium Ultrabooks, nearly all of them, have excelent keyboards along with the backlit feature (700$).

Security

Laptop & information theft (trough hacking)  is pretty common among journalists. There’s not much you can do with the hardware, no such thing as a laptop with a perfect GPS system for you to track it. Even tracking my phone with the built-in find my iPhone feature was a nightmare and at the end I couldn’t get it back.

Tracing a Laptop

But there’s software that may help you locacte your laptop anyways.

Prey is available in Linux,Mac and Windows. Just like mobile devices, once installed you can trigger Prey remotely to run which in turn gives you the ability to activate an alarm on your laptop, see its location, display a message on the screen or lock it down. 

On the other hands, KeyLogger will record everything that’s happened with your laptop if it was temporarily stolen or used by someone else. 

Operating System

If Security is of utmost important to you then you should also consider which operating system to roll with. Each has their own advantage and disadvantage:

Windows

In terms of hacking and data theft, windows remains the most vulnerable OS. To put it simply, the fact that it is compatible and open to nearly every application you want to install makes it more vulnerable to hacking.

Mac OSX

Unlike Windows, Apple has a more tighter restriction on what applications get to be compatible with their OS. They’re also constantly running updates in the background to patch up any security holes. Although it is still vulnerable to viruses and malware, it happens to be much less than Windows.

Linux

Linux is the only OS where you can tweak its usability/functionality to your liking. If you are quite adept with programming and a Linux User, then you’ll get better Security than Windows. If not, it can be far more vulnerable to hacking than Windows itself.

Software for Security

There are a few interesting ideas I’ve heard among journalists to make sure they never lose their data:

Decoy OS + Hidden OS

Basically two OS installed on a laptop.  An open OS that boots automatically, a decoy OS that boots if you enter the decoy password at boot, and a hidden OS that boots if you enter the hidden OS password.

You can use the Dummy OS to do your normal regular stuff and the hidden OS to do any sensitive journalism.

The reason for the decoy and hidden is if the computer is searched by foreign governments and you are required to hand over the true password.

Even better would be to also install a hidden linux OS as well as a hidden windows OS, but I don’t think this is possible at this stage.

What is TrueCrypt anyway?

More like was. TrueCrypt was basically a source-available free software to encrypt disks in a file or encrypt  a partition of a whole storage device. You can use trueCrypt to do the shanda I described before, the two OS on  a single machine.


Other Apps & Software

Here’s a bunch of app & software you may want to consider:

Photoshop
Picture editing apps are also very useful for journalists, particularly when in need of good quality pictures to accompany content uploaded to a website or blog.

Camera
Undoubtedly, some of the most useful apps for journalists are video apps. If you aspire to have a career in broadcast media (especially TV) or online, creating video content will be absolutely essential. Sometimes, however, you will not have access to a professional camera or all of a sudden, an important event might happen in front of your eyes. Thus, you need to be prepared – downloading a couple of video apps certainly won’t hurt.

Audio
Audio apps are just as important as video apps, especially if you have a passion for radio! Even if you don’t, recording audio is essential and you will need to do it AT LEAST once during your journalism career (my bet is much more)! Here are some of the most useful audio apps for journalists:

Social networks
are an integral part of journalism today. They are some of the best news sources, they are your connections to the world and a platform on which to get your work noticed. It is absolutely essential to be familiar with them and create profiles on as many as possible.
Most aspiring journalists today have their own blogs, where they have the opportunity to showcase their work and share articles and stories with the world. One of the best blog websites is WordPress, and you can download the app as well. This is handy for keeping track of how many people have read your content, in which parts of the world it was most successful, and much more.

Other Accessories To Consider

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.4
Canon 28mm 1.8
2 extra batteries for the 5D plus charger
Memory cards (lots of them)
Laptop case (waterproof)
Portable hard drive USB drive (no external electricity needed)
Notebooks (Moleskin, several of them, but not the bulky ones, the ones that fit in the back pocket)
Pens, VBall (Well guess I got issues since I only like using one kind)
Audio recorder (USB transfer)
Card reader
Cleaning equipment for the camera (blower, swipe, etc)
Cheap Nokia phone where the batteries last forever
Elastic electrical tape
Several USBs
The bag is a Fjällräven 30L with two great side pockets for easy access. Reinforced bottom so that it doesn’t soak up the humidity. Plus I take the padding from another camera case and put it in the bottom.

Conclusion

If you are just limited to writingon the go, consider that getting a laptop isn’t a necessity. You could also use your mobile device on screen keyboard to type on the move. Or even attach an external keyboard such as the one shown here and be done with it.

However laptops are the most versatile computers for journalists who need to be able to report, write, photograph, shoot and edit video and adapt content for a variety of media and applications.