Picking up the best travel laptop might have been an easy task decades ago, there weren’t many laptops to choose from. You could just go right ahead, grab the cheapest on first sight and be good to go.
Why? For the most part they were slower than your current phone device, as big as you desktop and so heavy you’d already be tired from taking them out of the store. Not much to think about indeed.
The good news is….
Companies and technology have introduced to us a wide variety of choices today, in fact there’s just so many it’s become a nuisance to buy one! You got Apple’s ultrabooks, Google Chromebooks, Microsoft convertibles , ASUS detachable laptops and the list goes on.
Yes, laptops are much better suited for traveling today. Not only are there models specifically made for traveling but they are more likely to suit your specific needs in performance (gaming, editing, entertainment) while being portable at the same time.
Besides having great performance a few of these devices may come with extra cool features just for traveling while being relatively cheap, obviously no traveler wants to miss out on them.
How do you find the best travel laptops? What features should we look for?
Are you gonna do some heavy editing on the go? or just run basic programs? Are you a hacker running away from the FBI and need to program your way out? Do you just want to record or take gazillions of photos while you are traveling to show them off later? Are you are trying to finish a project to meet a deadline and avoid getting fired?
Yeah, a traveling laptop may be different for each of you. However, regardless of what you plan on doing all travelers should aim for a lightweight, cheap and with a long battery life laptop . But because of the thousands of choices you have today , it pretty much means you’ll spend tons of hours doing research, several days looking through websites and maybe even visiting a few stores to check them out yourself.
As difficult it may sound, there’s no need to look else where.
I spent several weeks looking for the best travel laptops! I’m sure none of you wants to be stuck with internet cafes. I myself would never want to put my personal info and my three dollar bank account at risk with them.
What will you find in this article?
The best travel laptops for every need, type of user and budget. I’ve also written a complete guide on how to pick the best travel laptop yourself and a few tips to consider for your trip.
However if your trip is tomorrow and you have a few hours to buy a laptop, then you can skip the guide (it’s quite long) and go over these choices to see which one will suit you best. If something isn’t clear or it’s your first time buying a laptop then reading the guide might come in handy.
Either way off we go.
Top 10 Best Travel Laptops
We all know the best travel laptop should be small, cheap, fast , with great storage, lightweight, rock solid, resistant to physical damage(if possible with a military design) and to top it all off with a long battery life.
Well, don’t keep your expectations too high. Laptops are better but not perfect even today. They have pros & cons but as long as you can find one useful for your trip and whatever you plan to do with it, it’s all good.
This list includes laptops for these instances:
- Users constantly on the move and who do not want any extra weight on their backpacks.
- Long Battery life and sturdy laptops for those going that will be on the move most of the time but still wish to stay connected.
- Portable mid performance machines to meet deadlines or just to keep working on the go.
- Connectivity & ports for those who need to collect data or simply connect cameras and external devices to store photos and videos.
- Just a portable machine for entertainment on the go : movies, simple games
- Disposable laptops for those who wish to stay connected, do basic tasks but don’t want to worry if their laptop will break/get stolen.
Best Travel Laptops under 500
Let’s start with what most of us are interested in: the cheapest and most portable.
1. Asus E200
Lightweight, Affordable, Good Performance for Basic Tasks, Long Battery Life
|2.2 lb||10 hours||4GB RAM||32 GB eMMC||Atom Z8350|
Display: 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) | Graphics:Intel HD | Wifi: 802.11 AC
Everything you can ask for a travel laptop is offered by the ASUS E200 with one of the lowest prices you can possibly find on the market today.
Although processor is of the lowest performance type there is: an atom based processor. It’s is actually good enough for web browsing, word processing, excel data sheets and other basic tasks you may have.
Having a low end processor comes with a huge advantage (besides the price): it gives you an extremely long battery life: +10 hours. Why would you buy a travel laptop with the latest of processor if you are not even going to use it anyway? Worst of all with a lot less battery life. You’ll be consuming far more power without actually using it.
Luckily despite being a low end and cheap laptop it has 4GB of RAM which is the minimum you need for multitasking and to not have issues when having several tabs open, a word editor and a few other basic programs. Just don’t go overboard, this isn’t your desktop or a 1000 dollar laptop. Don’t expect any photo or video editing with it without facing some lag.
One real issue might be the storage capacity which is only 32GB but nothing that can’t be solved with external SD Cards or using the Cloud for extra storage. After all this is a travel laptop only. However, if you are taking tons of high resolution of photos and storing them on your device then you might want to invest on an external hard drive or look into the other options below.
The technology being eMMC is of the lowest there is among solid state drivers but they still give you the advantage of having extremely fast boot up times and a much longer battery life than HDD or regular high capacity drivers (HDDs may not be ideal ideal for traveling unless you plan to edit/store projects, video or photos with it).
The display is average for most laptops of its size and has no IPS panel, it doesn’t have good viewing angles nor the best color accuracy either but since this is for traveling and not for actual work you will not even notice it.
However it does have great brightness levels which is far more important when you want to your whip out laptop anywhere without having to worry about daylight or bright lights hitting your screen an not letting you see anything on it.
Lastly it has every port you need for traveling : an HDMI for external displays, Micro SD Card Reader for extra storage and 2 USB ports for other peripherals you want to connect.
In short, for multimedia editing (photos or videos) you may want to look at the premium laptops sections, the performance from this one will not let you do so without being slowed down. But if you are a looking for a travel laptop for basic computing tasks: YouTube videos, web browsing, Microsoft office suite, light programming and simple gaming this is your best option while still being very cheap, lightweight (only 2.2 lb! ) and with a long battery life of more than 10 hours.
2. HP Stream 11
|2.6 lb||6 hours||4GB RAM||32 GB eMMC||Celeron N3060|
Display: 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) | Graphics:Intel HD Graphics | Wifi: 802.11 AC
For nearly the same price you also have the option to get the HP Stream 11. This is also a laptop with all the features you need for traveling. But here are a few differences with the ASUS shown above you should be aware.
On the good side the performance is a little faster being an Intel Celeron processor which is virtually superior to Atom based processor (which were built originally for tablets and other non-laptop devices), you may be able to throw some light photo editing with it (no video editing just yet) definitely not with Photoshop without having to face lag and waiting for a few changes to apply to your photos.
It also comes with 4GB RAM to make multitasking a breeze as long as you do stick with basic apps: several web browsing tabs open, streaming a video, word processing etc.
The storage remains the same as most laptops of its size: 32 GB eMMC though limited still quite fast for booting up your system. The display is nothing to write home about but it offers an anti glare finish to protect your eyes from reflections off the screen especially when you are using on the outside.
You also get every port you need with it: x2 USB ports, HDMI port and this time a full SD Card Reader (you will not need an adapter to connect a regular size SD card) and of course a headphone jack.
The battery life is decent but lower than the ASUS E200: 6 (maybe 8) hours. The main reason being of course it’s processing power is a bit more than the ASUS’s atom based processor.
Lastly, the Keyboard is of high quality and no users or reviews report a problem with it but the touch-pad is quite hard to use and may not register exactly what you want to do with it, nothing an external wireless mouse can’t solve either. Also this is for traveling and not for drawing you can easily put up with it nobody does serious work with a trackpad anyway.
Either way if you can trade a little less battery life for more performance, you get nearly everything you need from a traveling laptop for the lowest price on the laptop market. Try to find a better deal , you won’t, even today.
|4.9 lb||6 hours||4GB RAM||128 GB SSD||Celeron N3160|
Display: 11.6 1366 x 768 pixels | GPU: Intel HD Graphics| Wifi: 802.11 AC
If you have a little more cash to spare this one might be a better investment for traveling as it offers quite a lot of improvements over the last two options:
The performance is greater than the above two options due to its more recent Celeron processor , the 4GB RAM that comes with it and most importantly the addition of a solid state drive for storage. Unlike the eMMC storage (which is designed for mobile devices) device you get significantly faster boot up times as well as increase in performance across all of your applications.
And if the low storage capacity of the above choices didn’t rock your boat here you get a decent storage size which is 128GB enough to store around 25 HD Movies. You can also expand its memory by using the SD Card port for additional photos in case you ran out memory. And you even have the option to upgrade the RAM which should give you even more processing & multitasking power with a little more heavy games and light editing software (up to 8GB RAM).
You also get all the ports you need : x2 USB 3.0 Ports, HDMI, an SD Card Reader along with an Ethernet port for internet connectivity. Like almost every laptop here it also has great WiFi reception due to its 802.11 AC protocol, the latest one even in 2017.
Unlike most displays near its size, this one comes with an IPS Panel for better viewing angles and greater color accuracy. Which is expected as you need great viewing angles when using it as a tablet along with the touchscreen feature that comes with it.
It remains quite portable just a little over 3lb not as portable as other options shown here but there is a reason behind it: it has a military based design meaning its solid, with a strong frame and can easily take the constant physical damage or abuse of traveling when being constantly on the go. Despite all the extra bells and whistles still maintains a pretty decent battery life: 6 hours.
For a little more from your budget you can get all of the extra perks compared to the other affordable options above: a better display, a touchscreen tablet feature, a better overall performance, a solid & sturdy design and a greater storage capacity. Not a bad deal at all.
4. Acer Aspire
|3.3 b||4 hours||4GB RAM||500 GB HDD||Celeron 1017 U|
Display: 11.6 1366 x 768 pixels | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 400 | Wifi: 802.11 a/b/g/n
If you want to land another reliable model with nearly every feature of what the Lenovo above offers but with greater storage capacity for any type of library (music, video or photo) you want to bring across your trip, this old model will do.
The main reason why I picked the older model over the modern versions is the fact that users do not report any blue screen, troubleshooting issues and everything seems to work just fine. The processor has nearly the same performance as the Thinkpad shown above along with the same RAM capacity. It lacks an IPS Panel and offers an average display for laptops of its size. Basically everything remains the same but the storage capacity.
. On the flip side it has way more connectivity than any option shown here: x3 USB ports, HDMI, VGA which is for external displays as well, Ethernet port and an SD Card Reader.
The only two downsides are the speakers which have pretty low quality but nothing a pair of headphone can’t fix and the battery life is below average: 4 hours. If you don’t want to end up with several SD Cards all over the place for whatever you plan on bringing to your trip, then this may solve all of your problems there isn’t a higher storage capacity notebook of its size and overall quality as this one (at the same price) even today.
|1.72 lb||11 hours||4GB RAM||64GB eMMC||Atom Z8350|
Display: 10.1 1366 x 768 pixels | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | Wifi: 802.11 AC
Lastly among the cheapest machines, the T10X laptop series from ASUS has been a popular device for travelers for years. Mostly because they are detachable laptops, very lightweight and at the same time remaining quite cheap. In other words, you can get the best of both worlds with this one: a tablet and a laptop at the lowest price available.
The performance isn’t the greatest obviously since this is a tablet too. The expected Atom based processor along with the 4GB RAM however will still give you a decent performance for all your basic tasks ( web browsing, word editing, reading, watching videos, etc ). It can easily handle several tabs open in Chrome or Firefox so no need to worry if you forget to close a few tabs here and there (like we all do).
The storage capacity , although not high, is not bad either especially for a tablet. The more expensive model comes with 128GB.
The display is nothing amazing and remains average like most convertible or detachable laptops but the brightness levels are quite strong , a must to be used as a tablet on the outside below the bright sun.
Although not many may find it useful, It’s worth mentioning it also comes with a pen stylus which is quite accurate and on par with devices with higher prices for those interested in drawing, taking notes or simply using it for entertainment.
The display size is only 10.1 inches as opposed to the 11.6” that we’ve been showing so far consequently the keyboard is quite small which is fine for entertainment and web browsing, so on, but if you require to do any real work with it a bluetooth keyboard will give you better productivity and you’ll take less time to finish whatever you have to type/write or do with it.
On the flip side, you get the best perks from a tablet like laptop for traveling: extremely long battery live (11 hours) and feather-like weight (1.7lb).
If you are into hybrid windows laptops, do not want to spend a thousand dollars just for your trip and as long as you stick with basic tasks: documents, light photo editing, web browsing, etc, you will find the ASUS T10X series as the best match there is. With the portability and battery life it offers, it will also follow you everywhere during your trip.
|2.17 lb||7 hours||4GB RAM||16 GB eMMC||Celeron N3060|
Display: 11.6-Inches HD anti-glare (1366 x 768) GPU: Intel HD Graphics| |Wifi: 802.11 AC
CPU: Intel Celeron N2840-N3060 (2.16 GHz) | RAM: 2GB-4GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 16GB eMMC |
For those who are really going to stuck with simply web browsing and word editing, you can find a Chromebook far more useful and even cheaper. Why? They offer just the necessary performance for these two tasks reducing the cost significantly as well as giving you long battery lives and great portability.
The price in particular makes them an even better choice for those who feel the need to buy one they won’t be afraid to lose or break during their trip.
You’ll certainly will have to worry much less about locks, leaving it in your room for a few minutes, security measures, etc. Why go that far? Because most stuff will get stored in the cloud and since the storage capacities are quite low (this one is pretty low: 16GB only) , you’ll be less likely to save anything important on it (which is good, keep your bank account or any important info away from your travel laptop!).
This Chromebook in particular can be configured with specs to match the models shown above or to match your budget.
The processor and RAM can be just as good as the options above (but you’ll have to pay the same price as them) and well below (2GB-4GB RAM & and two different Celeron Processors), either way for web browsing , streaming videos, playing a few games from the app store and word editing and as long as you limit your number of tabs/applications open, the lowest configuration shouldn’t present any problem. But if you go for the 4GB RAM upgrade, you’ll match the performance from the ones above.
Weight and battery life vary among Chromebooks and their configurations (and price). The lowest one with 2GB of RAM merely weights 2.17 lb and has a battery life of more than 7 hours. Which are average for Chromebooks but definitely not for laptops which can have a lot less.
On the flip side, this one has great sound quality, a comfortable keyboard, despite its size and all the ports you’d get from a regular laptop: a USB 2.0 slot, a USB 3.0 slot, HDMI port, SD card reader and a security lock slot.
While photo & video guys might want to stay away from it. A Chromebook is a great deal for anyone who’s limited to web browsing, word editing, all the google applications ( maps, docs, drive, etc) and any other task that doesn’t require you to install a specific software however if you have an access to an internet connection you can have quite a lot of fun with all the apps available on the store (a lot of them for free). Just be sure not to overspend on a Chromebook since that’s the whole point of rolling with one for traveling.
Premium Travel Laptops
There’s not much to say about the following laptops other than their price is quite high, they have enough performance for ultimate multitasking between basic apps, video and photo processing and some of them can even play games in 3D as long as configuration settings remain low while being portable with long battery lives, certainly worth every penny. So I’ll just focus on the pros & cons and what they can do with respect to traveling rather than discussing what the specs mean since pretty much all have the same power and performance.
I’d made sure to pick the lowest configuration for each but you can upgrade it to however you wish if you have even more cash.
7. New Macbook
|2 lb||10 hours||8GB RAM||512 GB SSD||Intel Core M5|
Display: 12-Inch IPS 2304×1440 | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | Wifi: 802.11 AC
CPU: Intel Core M5 (up to 2.7 GHz) | RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 512 GB PCIe-based SSD
This is the most thinner and smaller laptop out of this bunch yet with a decent screen size and display: 12.5” and with more resolution than most laptops on the entire list, the infamous retina display. I would call this the perfect travel laptop for photography. You get enough storage to never run out of space for the myrid of photos you have to take and the ones you have to get rid of as well as enough performance not to feel any hiccups when using most software for editing. If you want to edit a few videos professionally you may need to look somewhere else on this list, but for basic editing whatever multimedia file you are trying to edit you can safely use this small little monster, even Photoshop.
Other salient features are the USB- type C port meaning you can recharge it with any phone adapter and may not even need to pack your power adapter. Although the type-C port offers you with a myriad of connectivity from a single port with a single adapter, you get to miss all the other ports: HDMI for external displays, SD Cards and external peripherals. This is the price you pay for the high performance and portability this one has. However with the USB Type C adapter or buying up to date devices you can fix this issue.
At 2 pounds and with 10 hours of battery life, you’ll be sure to have this one next to you everywhere and at anytime. Which is good as you don’t even want too many eyes to look at it during your trip, it’s pricey.
8. MacBook Air
|3.0 lb||13 hours||8GB RAM||128 GB SSD||Intel Core i5|
Display: 13.3-Inch, Glossy 1440 x 900 resolution| GPU: Intel HD Graphics| Wifi: 802.11 AC
CPU: Intel Core i5 (up to 2.7 GHz) | RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 128GB PCIe-based SSD
The air offers you many more advantages for a travel laptop than the new MacBook shown above and for a few hundred bucks less as long as you can put up with a few caveats.
It has far more performance than the New MacBook due to the processor mostly. The display size is the perfect size: 13.3” however the resolution isn’t nearly as good as the new MacBook and its actually the only feature stopping it from being the perfect laptop altogether as it excels in nearly other department: ports&connectivity, performance, battery life (+13 hours) , lightweight (3.0lb), ultrafast storage (256-512GB SSD) and with one of the best keyboards on the entire industry (if not the best).
This is a power travel laptop useful for those doing photo editing with pretty much any software and most video editing software as well. You can even play a few games in 3D as long as you stay with a reasonable configuration. All of this for below 1000$ dollars if you stick to thethe lowest configuration.
The battery life and thin design will make sure you’re never bored when traveling for the longest periods of time as it will easily fit in any backpack you have and always with enough battery power to be used anywhere and anytime.
Although breaking it is very unlikely (it has a solid and sturdy design that can take quite a few drops) , nearly every country has an apple store where you can go ahead and get it fixed which can’t be said about its windows counterparts.
Unless you need the ability to do a lot of intensive video editing, the Macbook Air is one of the best & high performance laptops for travel.
Best Hybrid Travel Laptop
9. Surface Pro
|2.7 lb||6 hours||4GB RAM||128 SSD||Intel Core i5|
Display: 12.3-Inch, 2736 x 1824 resolution| GPU: Intel HD Graphics |
Wifi: 802.11 AC
CPU: 3 GHz Intel Core i5 | RAM: 4GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 128GB PCIe-based SSD
This is the ultimate hybrid best travel laptop. While there are dozens of hybrids online, unlike cheaper tablet mode laptops the Pro will feel solid and rigid in all its sides and the hinges stay strong and well built for you to switch back and forth between laptop and tablet without being scared of breaking it.
Despite being a tablet you can also get one of the highest performance machines depending on your budget, well past the Air and other high performance ultrabooks. The display resolution is greater than the Retina display, the color accuracy is more than 100% of the sRGB and has great brightness levels too.
The TouchScreen feature along with the stylus are highly accurate and sensitive, drawing taking notes and even editing with the touchscreen and the stylus will feel as natural as possible.
The list goes of functionality can go on and on but the advantage of having the Pro is the performance and portability all packed into for any intensive application you need to do while traveling be it : 3D Design, image or video work and you can even throw some 3D games on it (with low settings as it doesn’t have a dedicated GPU).
It merely weights 2.7 lbs and has +6 hours of battery life despite all the extra features it offers.
Of course this doesn’t come without a drawback: the price, it can get quite expensive but as long as you stick with the lowest configuration you can still rip off all the benefits of having one. But if you plan to do some heavy editing and light 3D work on it stay with 8GB RAM and an intel core i5 at least. If not, you can still have a good time with the cheapest version by using the tablet mode for entertainment and high speeds when you need to work with the laptop mode.
Best Travel Laptop For Work
10. DELL XPS 13
|2.6 lb||10 hours||8GB||128 GB SSD||Intel Core i5|
Display: 13.3” HD Screen (1920×1080 pixels) | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | WiFi: 802.11 AC
CPU: Intel Core i5-6200U 2.5 GHz Processor | RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD
Lastly the ultimate travel laptop along with the air. Lightweight (2.6lb) , long battery life (+10 hours) as well as high performance (configurable up to i7 core processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB). If you need to do any intensive editing on the go this is it. Plus you get can get the best displaying features from it: 13.3” inch, the infinity edge display and the full HD resolution (or QHD resolution if you have any money left).
Like the Air, it’s extremely thin and with a solid aluminum build all around it while making your typing comfortable due to the carbon based finish around the keyboard.
You also get thunderbolt 3 connectivity with this one so you can have it connected to two external displays at the same time when you finally reach your destination for a more productive work-space area.
If you however need a far more powerful machine with near desktop level performance for intensive 3D editing and video editing with the most demanding software out there to meet a deadline or a project you must complete while on a trip. The XPS 15 will give you all the same perks of the XPS 13 shown above while still remaining relatively portable for you to bring anywhere during your trip.Which you should, at that price you don’t want to leave it out of sight for even one minute.
How To Buy The Best Travel Laptop
A travel laptop is all about durability, portability. Performance is option. Nonetheless here’s what you need to know when shopping for one yourself.
Generally all travel users should do fine with any configuration regarding laptops. If basic tasks such as web browsing, word processing, checking your email, taking photos , using the webcam,etc, is all you’re after then you don’t even need to look at the performance specs.
However if you like to edit your photos while your on a trip, then your laptop will be a little slow. As long as it’s some minor editing for your own photo trips, then it may be a little slow but nothing that can’t be tolerated. Culling through thousands of high resolution photos you’ve taken however will be slow.
And if you do plan on doing significant video and photo editing for work or , then you’re not really looking for a traveling laptop but a high performance portable machine, then sticking with 8GB RAM and intel core i5 should be sufficient to have both a portable machine and one that doesn’t give you any hicups when using photoshop or video editing software.
Storage is going to be an issue for all of you. Most cheap & portable travel laptops do not come with enough storage. the most you can expect is 64GB. You can solve this issue by buying several or maybe just one SD Card which can hold up data up to 128GB, this should solve any issues you have with storage along your trip. Just stick it in to the slot and make it your new “internal hard drive”.
If you hate having SDs all over the place or if you are an amateur photographer that easily fills up several gigs of memory daily, then you can go with a laptop with a regular spinning hard drive which can go up to 500GB for travel laptops but keep in mind these are not resistant to physical damage, if your trip involves a lot of jostling and constant movement then this might not be a good route. If you can try to get to aim for an SDD, they are more resistant to all physical damage including temperature falls and movements. Having a large storage capacity will drain your battery life as well, the SDD having the least impact out of the two.
Alternatively, all of you can use the Cloud if SD Cards are not sufficient but if your internet connection is quite slow and you actually need to store several Gigabytes (tons of photos) daily, then that may take forever.
SD Card Reader
Speaking of SD Card slots, make sure your choice has a regular SD Card slot meaning you can fit in all types of SD Cards: MiniSD, MicroSD, etc. Even if you have to use an adapter, it doesn’t work the other way around.
You’re going to need a few USB ports, at least one for an external mouse. Most portable cheap laptops have awful or not so great touchpads. Plus you will find them useful to transfer your files and to use an USB SD Card Adapter if your laptop doesn’t have one or only can read miniSD and not the full size SD Card reader. USB 3.0 ports will give you the fastest data transfers for photos, videos or any data in and out of your laptop.
will allow you to connect your display to any HD TV.
There become more and more obsolete. You won’t find them on small sized laptops that easily. Nearly everyone is using the cloud along with small sized laptops or chromebooks. Not only will they drain your battery life faster but they’re also make your backpack more heavy since you need to bring DVDs to actually use it. Just use change the format using a third party software then upload them to a streaming service such as NetFlix or a Cloud Service.
Design is only important if you are a traveler constantly on the move having your laptop everywhere with you.
If you are that type , then you would benefit frmo rugged laptops with solid and sturdy military based design. If you happen to throw around your laptop and leave it anywhere
I don’t mind this, as it lives in my daypack and is generally treated well, but if you’re expecting something rugged, this isn’t it. If you’re the type that tends to just throw things in a bag, i’d recommend getting a case of some sort.
This a nice feature that some brands have included in their models, it basically senses when your laptop is on free fall and tris to protect your data before the impact takes place. A must have for those on the outside everyday with their laptops.
I put my travel laptop in my backpack along with my clothes and with my other gear. It sees dust, salt air, extreme temperatures, bad road conditions, small spills and much more. In a nutshell, I my style of travel needs rugged laptops. Apple laptops have been known to be good, but I would not put them in the rugged category, especially keeping in mind their product and service costs. Based on past and current usage, I can say Dell laptops and Asus to a certain degree make very sturdy laptops.
A kensington Lock
Most laptops come with one. They won’t prevent your laptop from being stolen completely but will discourage anyone who has a few seconds to grab it (coffee shop, library, hotel room, etc) while you are away for a short period of time. Keeping it locked at all times will reduce the chance of it being stolen.
Obviously the lower the size the better for your trips. You should also find out how thin your laptop, a thin laptop will easily fit in any backpack add into the mix that its a small laptop, it might even fit in your coat’s large pocket.
11”: these offer the best portability but with the lowest performance as well . The keyboard can feel cramped and may not have the same unless you’re willing to throw in quite a lot of money (not worth it for travel).
13”: The best size in terms of performance and portability ratio. Typing is not as uncomfortable , not too small to feel cramped with they keyboard and you can have enough for performance to run pretty much any application with decent speed. They can offer great battery life but can be quite expensive.
17”: The worst size for traveling, you’re going to have a hard time with this one not just with airport security but also during your trip as it may feel too cramped to fit in the limited space with your seat. They offer the best performance for any projects or deadlines with sophisticated applications such as 3D Design and multimedia but the battery life will not let you do much with it. A 15” laptop will offer about the same performance with greater battery life and smaller size, check out the del xps 15. You get a full sized keyboard with both sizes including a numerical keypad for fast excel data input.
If you don’t require a workstation laptop with monstrous size performance that needs to be plugged or get charged every hour. You should go as cheap as you can in case you lose or break it, you won’t be as dissapointed. Chromebooks and 11 inch laptops are the cheapest you can find in exchange for a lack in performance however.
Each operating system has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to operating systems for traveling:
Windows: obviously almost any application and any software will be readily available and compatible with your laptop. You also get tons of choices from different manufacturers since the market is still flooded with windows Machine.
Macs: they offer high quality in terms of durability and performance. You won’t find any cheap and low quality choices plus you also get the best support frmo the entire industry. No matter which part of the world you go, if you can go to the nearest apple store over there they can fix your laptop or replace in case if its broken and uneder warranty. The downside is the’y’re overly expensive and are very targeted by thieves overseas.
ChromeOS: They offer the longest battery lives, the cheapest price and are the safest to use overseas sine everything is stored (mostly) in the cloud in exchange for low quality performance and lousy storage capacities. You won’t feel dissapointed if you ever happen to breka it or lose it during your trip since they aren’t expensive at all plus you’re info will be protected in the cloud. But you’ll be limited to word processing, simple apps (must be online) and web browsing.
Linux: if you don’t even know what linux is, it’s time to consider it. Linux just like ChromeOS can revive pretty much any old laptop you have and make it perform as if it were a modern one. The OS is relatively simple and your applications will not run slow (basic ones). The downside is it requires some expertise and few computers are compatible with it especially with the Wifi Card. A little research will save you tons of trouble.
A few tips to keep your laptop safe and sound:
- Locked inside your luggage when touring out for the day
- Use a kingston security lock, if not just lock it onto something in the airport, hotel room, etc.
- Get a decent bag that can protect your laptop against rain, moisture and hard impact. You’ll be surprised how fragile laptops are after your trip.
- Expect your laptop to be below a wheel bag if you decide to store it with the airplane’s storage. Get a proper cushion bag.
- Try to aim to for a thin and extremely lightweight so you don’t have to use the airline’s luggage storage.
- Get a laptop below 17” to avoid security problems. If you ever happen to lose yours and they manage to find it, they will make you wait several days or a week before you can get it back.
- If your laptop and information is of extremely importance get a lojack for tracking yours if it gets stolen, police will track it and find it in no time.
- Don’t access critical info with public wireless networks. If you do, it’s easy for the owner or anyone using the network to spy on your web browsing activities including your bank accounts and other vital info.
Travel laptops can offer great battery lives as long as their performance is low and do not have many bells and whistles with the display. It’s kind of counter intuitive to expect great battery lives from them since they can get quite cheap. You an expect a full day of work from a few of them without having to recharge it as long as you stick with email, web browsing and movies while traveling.
A laptop that uses a usb charger can keep you working many days without going needing to recharge it or waste time looking for an outlet. If you are a business trip in need to meet a deadline and must use your laptop continuously or if you simply want to be entertained with yours without interruption, you can also get a USB battery pack, essentially works a cell battery in addition to your laptop’s internal battery.
Small size travel laptops will give you the worst keyboards since they are too small to fit one in without having to reconfigure the keys or reduce in size or/and because manufacturers go cheap on their design which also affects the keyboard quality along with the touchPad (some might not even register your clicks correctly). This can easily be avoided if you do your proper research and read reviews about what the keyboard is capable of and if theres any drawbacks from them.
If you have large hands you will also have a difficult time with 11 inch laptops, I myself don’t but your mileage may vary. 13” laptops are the perfect size for keyboard quality but you still need to do your research especially when going extremely cheap.
When shopping for travel laptops, especially the smallest sizes, their wifi technology might not be the latest nor a recent one but any of them will do 802.11 b/g/b, n, ac. However if you find one with AC Wireless conenctivity and if you value range of connectivity along with speed (who doesn’t) you can opt for that one, it’s the latest and fastest protocol used today.
Alternatively, if Wifi access will be limited during your trip, a Chromebook can give you 4G wireless data access.
While medium sized and large laptops do not suffer from display quality. Low size laptops do, and these are the most popular among laptops. They can only offer HD resolution for the most part with a few premium laptops offerin full HD, IPS displays (for better viewing angles and color accuracy) and touchscreen features along with good brightness levels. The latter may be a good investment for photo editors but a larger screen size laptop will give you better quality and performance for editing overall.
Otherwise the low brightness levels and HD resolution coming from cheap options, should pose no problems as long as you are out of the sun and bright areas and the resolution itself is enough for that screen size.
For those who need to be productive on a trip, you can check out accessories you may need from this post. Guy is an expert on making your travel laptop a travel desktop!
There’s no point of having a laptop for travel if your information is at risk or your laptop gets stolen. Here a few tips I’ve gathered that you may want to try to stay safe:
- Back up all your files to USB devices: all the important info, your swiss bank account info too as well as any useless files are better off at home on USB sticks. The storage capacity will be reduced significantly giving you better performance and your personal info will stay away from thieves.
- Encryption: you can encrypt all of your files if you plan to bring them with you too. Sure the best hacker in the world can break it but its very unlikely he stole your laptop for your precious CIA/FBI info.
- Cloud Storage: You can always move all your files to a cloud based storage and access/download them whenever you need to see them and delete them if you have downloaded them or used them.
- Remote access: It’ll allow you to access your main computer no matter what part of the world you are. Of course your PC has to be on at home and someone has to check the dog hasn’t unplugged it or pressed any buttons.
- Repair Disks: It never hurts to bring your USB/CD Drives to format/fix your system in case it stops working. Also bringing your OS in CD format as well as the important software you need on the go. That’ll be safe proof in case your laptop stops responding and can’t be easily fixed along the way.
If you really need your laptop to be on at all times, these tips should help you get the most out of it:
- Airline adapters are mostly available for business or first class flights. Use sites like Seatguru.com to check what’s available for you: wifi access, power outlets and more stuff.
- Another way to keep you on is to buy a second battery (assuming your laptop can switch cells).
- Keep your settings to power save moed and lower screen brightness to a point where you can tolerate it. Disable Wifi access if you are not using it too.
- You can always get a USB stick as a modem to connect your laptop to 3G or 4G Wireless Services, most laptops do not come with one installed.
- Get a surge protector especially when traveling overseas. Power connections outside the country are not safe and as stable you may burn your laptop if its staying plugged it all night.
- Make sure your travel laptop has a built in transformers, almost all of them but if you happen to buy an older model is wise to check.
Should I go for a tablet, iPad or a Laptop?
Lastly, for those who are their first time traveling with a laptop. It’s useful to go over what a tablet vs laptop can offer in case you may just need the former rather than the latter.
If you are packed with a deadline, definitely a laptop is your only choice for word processing, data processing, image processing, designing , presentations, etc. You can’t do most of these tasks with a tablet or an Ipad at least on time and comfortably. You won’t be able to back up your work properly either.
Any program or application designed for a laptop or computer will be stripped down of functionality and advanced features in its tablet mode version. Not the best for productivity either. Photoshop can’t be run on an Ipad or Tablet.
A touchscreen feature is not the fastest way to type onto it but you can always buy an external keyboard with it (bluetooth) then again that’d be the same as bringing a full size “detachable laptop”.
The large screen is also a must for photo or video editors or anyone who needs to do some heavy multitasking. Anything will always look better on a laptop as well as editing/design and working with multimedia or building/laying out databases or spreadsheets.
Tablets can only handle one app at a time. If all you’re doing is typing or web browsing this is fine but for getting rael work done on time, you need a laptop for the better multitasking they have even if they are low-end and with low performance relative to others
PortabilityFor anyone needing to collect and store data while doing fieldwork or constantly on the move giving presentations and showing products to new clients, a tablet is the best choice. Laptops will always be heavier, bulkier not ideal for field work.
If you were getting a full sized heavy bulky gaming or business class laptop, then obviously you would have a great time with one as opposed to any other device on the market. However, since you’re traveling your laptop will more likely to be small, cheap and with low performance with low battery life. This is the department where tablets win, you an still surf the web, wriet emails, check the news, watch movies, listen to music and even throw some gaming apps with it. Is it the best time wasting device (entertainment) for long trips and the fact that it will easily fit anywhere will keep you entertained when you least expect it.
Tablets are far cheaper than laptops, unless you go out and try to get every accessory with yours. This will break the advantage of buying a tablet and the portability it has as well.
You won’t have to rely on Wifi signals with a tablet, you can always get a wireless network such as 3G/4G to stay connected in places where the facility your in doesn’t have an internet connection or has a password.
If you can deal with the lack of portability from laptops, then they’re the best choice for every instance especially if you stick with reasonable performance and small sized laptops. If portability is of extreme important to you however, your best travel laptop is a tablet!
- I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.