Best travel laptop

Laptop Computers

Travel laptops are characterized by their compact size and lightweight qualities, although the best examples are highly powerful and capable of very demanding tasks.

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Which travel laptop is best?

Ultraportable laptops are becoming increasingly popular as more people forgo the office to work from home or travel back and forth. With the ability to wield a formidable amount of power and performance in a machine thinner than a textbook, tasks that require large amounts of processing power can be performed as you sit sipping on a latte in a cafe. Our top choice, the Dell XPS 13 9310, is a powerful, yet compact solution that is durable enough for life on the move. 

What to know before you buy a travel laptop

Battery efficiency

If you mostly use your laptop at home or the office, battery life may not be a major consideration, but it becomes highly important as soon as you take it on the road. Busy cafes or workspaces may only have a few power outlets to go around, and with important deadlines looming, an extra hour of battery life could make all the difference. A lot of far-flung destinations have problems with power outages and other technical reliability issues. The best travel laptops have the right balance of performance versus efficiency for working on the move.

Mac vs. PC

There was a time when Apple products greatly outperformed PCs in terms of build quality, but these days, PCs are quickly catching up. Windows fans will find some excellent options from brands like Dell, HP and Lenovo that are both durable and aesthetically pleasing, as well as being generally more versatile than their Apple counterparts. 

With that said, every component of a Mac is optimized for performance and many people prefer high-spec Macbook laptops for the overall user experience.

Storage

Travel laptops usually have flash-based SSD storage, which is lightweight, fast and has no moving parts. Fewer moving parts means it is less likely to fail if knocked or dropped. 

Most mid-range models come standard with a 256 GB SSD drive. Machines with 512 GB or 1 TB capacities are available, but the larger SSD drive can greatly increase the price. As a solution, some people opt for a smaller SSD drive, then purchase an external hard drive and cloud storage for securing large files.

What to look for in a quality travel laptop

Size and weight

Generally speaking, a travel laptop should be highly power-efficient, lightweight and have a screen size of 14 inches or less. Most modern travel laptops weigh between 3-4.5 pounds.

While a laptop’s footprint is largely dictated by screen size, its height makes a big difference in portability. The best travel laptops measure around 0.6 inch at their highest point when closed.

Processing power

Most ultraportable laptops use processors with U chip classifications. U chips are used for improved power efficiency in laptops. Y series chips are less capable, but are a good fit for those who use a laptop to perform basic tasks and for whom battery life is paramount. Check the benchmark tests for a laptop before buying to see how well it performs in practical use.

Build quality

A travel laptop must be durable enough to withstand the knocks and stresses associated with life on the road. Manufacturers often cut corners on components to reduce prices, so look for a laptop with the highest-quality components you can afford. Laptops that use a metal chassis generally have a better overall build quality and are more robust by design.

How much you can expect to spend on a travel laptop

A new entry-level travel laptop can be purchased for as little as $500. However, there is a world of difference in performance between these and high-end laptops. A midrange model should be sufficient for most working requirements and ranges between $500-$1,250. Premium systems can cost well-above this price.

Travel laptop FAQ

Should I consider a convertible laptop?

A. Convertible laptops are highly popular and with good reason. They are usually lightweight, versatile and great for both work and leisure. However, they are generally not as durable as regular laptops, which is an important consideration, especially if you rely on your computer to earn a living.

What are the pros and cons of touchscreens?

A. Touchscreens are great for people who are used to working with smartphones and tablets. Touchscreen laptops are undoubtedly useful for expressing creativity and using a stylus pen. However, they are usually more expensive than regular laptops. Touchscreens can be more difficult to read in direct sunlight, and they also use a lot of processing power which quickly runs down their battery. 

What are the best travel laptops to buy?

Top travel laptop

Dell XPS 13 9310

Dell XPS 13 9310

What you need to know: This ultralight and ultraportable laptop is loaded with features that can handle even the most demanding tasks while on the move.

What you’ll love: This machine has excellent build quality and is machined from a single aluminum block. Specs include an Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 13.4-inch full HD touchscreen with a slim bezel.

What you should consider: The webcam is rather low in quality for a high-performance laptop in this price range.

Where to buy: Sold by Dell and Amazon

Top travel laptop for the money

Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go

What you need to know: The Surface Go is a good workhorse laptop that is more than capable of handling most day-to-day tasks.

What you’ll love: While it lacks some of the high-spec features of its more expensive cousins, the entry-level Surface Go performs well with a compact 12.4-inch display, Intel Core i5 processor, up to 8 GB RAM and a variety of ports including the multipurpose Surface Connect.

What you should consider: With only 128 GB of storage, you may find yourself relying on peripheral hard drives and cloud storage when saving large files.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Apple MacBook Air M1

Apple MacBook Air M1

What you need to know: First released in 2008, this flagship ultraportable MacBook utilizes Apple’s latest M1 processor.

What you’ll love: Performance and battery life are much better with this latest generation MacBook Air, making it a solid choice for digital nomads. Its tapered, all-metal design is among the most compact available and despite all the upgrades, it remains an exceptional value for money.

What you should consider: While its overall build quality is excellent, it is not nearly as sturdy as the more expensive MacBook Pro.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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