Whether you’re after the best laptop for travel because you work on the go, or just to keep up with your favorite TV shows, laptops for travel are a different breed from the computers you use at home.
The best travel laptop will have a few essential characteristics:
I travel with a laptop a lot of the time and have done so for many years.
I mainly use my
laptop to work, but also to keep in touch with friends and check the ever-present social media networks. So while I’m certainly
no technical expert when it comes to the best laptops for travelling, I’ve spent enough time using one over the years to understand what makes a perfect device.
If you’re on the hunt for the best traveling laptop, this article pulls together my firsthand experience from years of writing on the road.
Best laptop for travel and work? Best laptop for travel blogging? Or best budget travel laptop for Netflix or binge-watching? This guide will help you choose.
Before we even get into what makes the best laptop for travelers, let’s make sure you actually need one in the first place.
These days, smartphones and tablets can do much of what a good travel laptop can do – so perhaps a laptop isn't even necessary.
Do you need your laptop to make a living? If you're a writer, photographer, blogger or journalist, then yes, you need the best laptop for traveling, period. The same goes if you're location independent or have an online job.
That said, although I find a laptop
for travelling important, I don't always take it with me. At times I
move my documents onto a portable flash drive and just take that
along, using other computers along the way. If I do take one, I want to make sure
it's one of the best laptops for traveling I can buy.
That said, there are a number of excellent reasons why you might need one:
Once you've decided you need a computer for travel, you’ll need to determine your requirements. There are plenty of top
travel laptops on the market, but we all have different needs, so
consider the following factors before making your purchase.
The best computer for traveling will be useless if it's not the right weight or size.
Carrying around a giant, heavy laptop is tiring, and if you want to use it while you’re on the plane, you’ll need something that meets the carry-on weight requirements and that fits on the folding tray table.
That said, you don't want something so tiny it's basically useless and could easily be replaced by a phone.
The good news is that the best laptops to travel with come in a range of sizes, and these days there are some excellent small travel laptop options that have plenty of power.
In terms of screen sizes, laptops tend to range from around 11-17 inches. For the best travel computer, I’d recommend something around the 13-inch mark – you’ll get a decent-sized screen, yet your laptop will still easily fit into your carry-on or backpack. This size will also be lightweight.
When you use your laptop at home, it usually sits in the same spot, or at most you might move it from room to room. But when you’re traveling, you’re always on the go, pulling your laptop in and out of your bag and then putting that bag in and out of trains, planes and automobiles. This is why the best laptop for travelling has to be sturdy.
If possible, grab yourself a good
solid case that offers additional protection, preferably something that is waterproof and dustproof.
Most laptops come with one of three main operating systems – Windows, Apple OS X or Chrome (Android) OS. I'm no techie so I won't get into the technical advantages, but as a consumer, I can say that these days, Windows still seems to be most common; however, Apple is not far behind and it's hard to deny the popularity of a Macbook. Laptops operating on Chrome are tend to be a bit cheaper and not capable of a huge range of tasks.
I have a Macbook which I just love, even though I'm equally accustomed to Windows. Learning one or the other isn't complicated but if you're used to one system, you may want to stick with it.
Apple devices are incredibly user-friendly and you can seamlessly share your documents between devices. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive. It's a choice: in my personal opinion, my Macbook Air is the best lightweight laptop for travel.
The advantage of Windows, on the other hand, is that compatible laptops are made by many different brands and that helps keep prices down, which is ideal if you're after a cheap travel laptop.
You’ll also need to consider the storage space on your laptop.
In terms of storage, laptops either have hard drives or the smaller Solid State Drives (SSD). Storage tends to range from as low as 128GB, right up to more than 2 TB in capacity.
Some laptops even come with both the standard hard drive and an SSD – this is because SSDs tend to be expensive. However, the great thing about having both is you get the best of both worlds, more storage and a cheaper laptop. Keep in mind though that you will be working with two different drives, and that's not necessarily easy or practical
The other option of course is to rely on using cloud storage. This is all well and good, but it does mean you'll need a powerful internet connection, which isn't available everywhere.
Another option is to have a hard drive which you plug into your computer and which has all your working documents and files.
Whatever you decide, don't be stingy when it comes to storage. Even if you plan to use the cloud, you should make sure you have enough local storage capacity, either in your laptop or in an external hard drive.
The best travel laptop to travel with is, in the end, is the one that will give you all the usability you need without breaking your back – or your bank.
If you're looking for the best laptop for business travel or the best laptop for travel bloggers, battery life will be an essential factor in your purchase. This is particularly important during those times you don’t have access to power, like on a long-haul flight.
Macbook’s tend to have great battery life at around 14 hours; at the other end of the scale, you'll find plenty of cheap options that only last a few hours.
While laptop battery life is constantly increasing, the batteries themselves lose their ability to store power over time.
This is a good time to introduce a few technical terms that are important when it comes to buying the best computer for travel.
The Computing Processing Unit (CPU), or chip, is basically the brain of the computer, the part of the computer that executes the various programs and allocates tasks to different parts of the computer. This is arguably the most critical part of your laptop.
At the time of writing, the Macbook Air operates on an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, for example – but that's not important. What IS important is that in your search for the best computers for travel, you buy the one most suited to your needs. If you're doing a lot of work that takes speed and efficiency, like working with photos or video, you'll want the latest and best computer chip.
There is another type of memory: RAM, or Random Access Memory. It's the immediate memory your computer accesses and which temporarily stores the information your computer needs to obey your immediate commands. Without enough RAM, your computer won't work quickly and you'll be left waiting and frustrated.
Like for CPU, the best travel computers have plenty of RAM, from 8-16GB onward. Anything too low and you'll be crashing your computer each time you try to give it a command.
In an ideal world, we all want the best lightweight travel laptop with the longest battery life, heaps of storage and a great CPU and RAM. We often have to compromise, though, especially if we're on the hunt for a budget travel laptop.
If you're running your business from your laptop though, you'll appreciate spending extra to get the best money can buy.
listed a few options you might consider for the best computer to travel
Now that you know what to look for in the best small laptop for travel, there are still plenty of reasons to travel without one should you so choose.
A final word of warning: if
you are taking your laptop with you, look through your hard drive
before you go and delete any sensitive material. Many countries have censorship
laws and are becoming more savvy at ferreting out the information contained in
your electronic files. Don't take a chance!