Do you run your business from your laptop while traveling the world? Are you looking for the best, fastest, most portable travel laptop with all the bells an whistles? Me too. (Which by the way, if you're a nomadic entrepreneur, join our Digital Nomad Business Owners Facebook group.)
I've basically got two essential pieces of equipment that I run all of my online businesses from, and those are my laptop and my cell phone. So I don't skimp on either. If you're looking for the CHEAPEST travel laptop, then this article is not for you. Go buy a Chromebook on clearance at Best Buy or something. But if you're looking for the BEST travel laptop, so was I. And I'm going to save you a lot of time and energy doing research because there are not really that many options to choose from. Especially if you're like me and want the best of many worlds: speed, memory, storage, display, battery life, weight, and durability. That narrows our list down to about five choices. Four choices if you want Windows 10 like I did, but I'll show you a Mac too.
Here's our criteria for choosing a travel laptop:
- Weight: less than 3 lbs.
- Speed: Intel i7 Quad Core or equivalent.
- Storage: 512 GB or higher SSD.
- Memory: 16GB or higher RAM.
- Display: 13″ or larger with minimum 1080P resolution. Could care less about touch screen but it'll probably have one.
- Battery Life: Minimum 8 hours.
- Durability: Not entirely made of plastic.
- Extras (not required but preferred): Backlight keyboard, Min 3 USB ports, dedicated graphics card.
Best Laptops for Travelers, Digital Nomads, Freelancers, and Mobile Entrepreneurs
There must be tens or hundreds of options, right? Wrong. It seems like the laptop world is dominated by new models of the same cheap laptop from last year with slightly more storage and RAM. The kind of laptop your granddad might use that comes installed with a free trial of Norton Anti-Virus. But we're digital nomads.. business owners.. entrepreneurs.. leaders of the free world… and that $400, 6lb, Celeron Processor Acer won't do for us. And as fast and powerful as some of those Alienware laptops are, they're just way too big and heavy to travel with. So here are the laptops that I've narrowed down as the top picks for mobile entrepreneurs. Please leave your feedback and/or your alternate laptop suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
Quick Note: If you miss having two screens when you travel, also check out our article on Best Portable Laptop Monitors. Or to save you a click, I'll go ahead and tell you that our top pick is the ASUS MB169B+ 15.6″.
#1) TOP PICK: Lenovo Yoga 910 (Windows 10)
First on the list is the Lenovo Yoga 910. I bought the version before this about a year ago and I love my Lenovo Yoga 900. The Yoga 910 that I feature here is my top pick because if in the event that I had to replace my current laptop tomorrow, I'd replace it with a 910. Here are the specs.
- Weight: Starting at 3.04 lbs (1.38 kg) .24 lbs heavier than my 900 but I'll let it slide
- Speed: Up to the 7th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-7500U Processor (2.70GHz 4MB)
- Storage: Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
- Memory: Up to 16GB DDR4 2133 MHz
- Display: (TOUCHSCREEN) 13.9″ FHD (1920 x 1080) or UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS Multitouch with integrated camera
- Battery Life: Up to 9 hours with local video playback
- Durability: Made of Aluminum
- Extras: Backlight keyboard, 3x USB Ports, Fingerprint Security
The only thing I don't like about my Lenovo Yoga is the huge power adapter that's connected to the plug itself. It oftentimes doesn't fit into tight outlet spaces or it falls out of loose outlets because it's so heavy. But I solved that problem with a small extension cord that I carry around with me always. See my list of 9 Random Items That Come In Handy For Digital Nomads While Traveling. The specs also advertise “3 USB ports” but they fail to mention that one of the USB ports is pretty much permanently utilized by your power adapter, which leaves just two left. But that's been fine for me.
I've recommended the Lenovo Yoga series so many times to so many different travelers that I had to put it first on the list. Heck, I'm writing this from my Yoga right now…
#2) Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Windows 10)
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is such a sweet looking device and so lightweight that you could carry it in your SCOTT eVEST and not even know it was there. I was very close to choosing the Surface Pro before I bought my Yoga. It came down to those two devices. The Surface Pro has an incredible battery life, it's super lightweight, and it's fast (if you buy the top model). But ultimately I went with the Yoga for three reasons: (1) I liked the feel of it better. Although slightly heavier, it felt more durable and it had a permanently attached keyboard that I preferred typing on over the Surface's detachable keyboard. I use my laptop primarily (99.99% of the time) as a laptop and not as a tablet. (2) I wanted the bigger screen on the Yoga. (3) Spec-wise, since I didn't care about the Surface Pen (which is super sweet though) or the removable keyboard, I felt like I got more bang for my buck with the Yoga for almost a grand less. But I told you that I don't skimp on my laptop purchases, and I meant it. That's why price was the last factor on my consideration list. Ultimately I wanted a Laptop first and a Tablet second (or not at all) and the Yoga was more appealing to me in that regard.
All that being said though, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a great pick for travelers. And that new Surface Pen looks amazing. 4,096 pressure points? That's incredible and you know it. Watch this video about the Surface Pen below.
If you're a graphic designer or artist you may want to consider the Surface Pro 4 just for the Pen. Aside from the Pen though, here are the specs:
- Weight: Starting at 1.69 lbs (768 g)
- Speed: Intel 7th Gen Core m3, i5, i7
- Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
- Memory: Up to 16GB RAM
- Display: (TOUCHSCREEN) 12.3″ PixelSense Display with 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) Resolution, 3:2 Aspect Ratio, and 10 point multi-touch
- Battery Life: Up to 13.5 hours video playback
- Durability: Made of Magnesium, Detachable Keyboard of Plastic
- Extras: Backlight Keyboard (extra $), Surface Pen (extra $), 1x USB port
What I don't like about the Surface Pro 4 is the detachable keyboard that feels flimsy to type on, the fact that there's only 1 USB port, and the 12.3″ screen, which I wish was at least another inch bigger.
Okay, thanks Michael Scott, but not now. We've got laptops to discuss.
#3) ASUS Zenbook UX303UB-DH74T (Windows 10)
Look under your chair. Everyone get's a brand new ASUS Zenbook UX303UB-DH74T!!!! Oh how I miss Oprah. But luckily Ellen took the reign as Queen of Daytime Television. I once sat in the audience of the Ellen show and everyone left the studio with a copy of Elton John's Diving Board (2013) and a $100 Gift Card to Walgreens. Plus Elton John surprised everyone at the end with a two-song performance. But that's neither here nor there.
What were we talking about again? Ah yes, the ASUS Zenbook UX303UB-DH74T, another great choice for a lightweight portable travel laptop. Let's dive straight into the specs.
- Weight: Starting at 3.2 lbs (1451 g)
- Speed: Intel® Core™ i7 6500U Processor
- Storage: 512GB SATA III SSD
- Memory: 12GB DDR3L 1600 MHz SDRAM I could personally go for 16GB but not everyone needs it, especially since this laptop has dedicated graphics card memory.
- Display: (TOUCHSCREEN) 13.3″ 16:9 IPS Quad-HD+( 3200 x 1800) glossy
- Battery Life: Up to 8 Hours Battery Life
- Durability: Made of Aluminum
- Extras: NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 940M with 2GB DDR3 Graphics Card, Backlight Keyboard, 3x USB Ports
What I love about the ASUS Zenbook UX303UB-DH74T is that it has a dedicated graphics card, which helps when you're gaming, video editing, or doing certain graphic work. But on the flip side, if it had more than 12 GB of RAM in general, you could allocate some of that towards your graphics programs. That's what I do with my Yoga, but I basically just run Photoshop, Illustrator, and Camtasia as far as graphic or video editing programs go.
There's actually not much I don't like about the Zenbook. I think it's an all around solid choice for a travel laptop on par with the Lenovo Yoga.
#4) HP EliteBook x360 (Windows 10)
Here's one more solid choice for a powerful travel laptop. The HP EliteBook x360 is lightweight, has plenty of memory, and boasts an impressive 16.5 hours of battery life. And it comes with a stylus pen if you're into that (although it doesn't have 4,096 pressure points like the Surface Pen). Here are the full specs:
- Weight: 2.82 lbs
- Speed: Intel 7th Gen Core i7-7600U Kaby Lake Processor (2.8 GHz, up to 3.9 GHz, 4 MB cache) + Intel HD Graphics 620
- Storage: 1TB PCIe Gen3 SSD
- Memory: 16 GB of DDR4 memory
- Display: (TOUCHSCREEN) 13.3″ diagonal FHD (1920×1080) BrightView LED UWVA ultraslim Touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass
- Battery Life: Up to 16.5 hours
- Durability: Made of Aluminum
- Extras: HP Active Pen, Spill Resistant Backlight keyboard, 2x USB Ports, Fingerprint Security
What I like about the HP EliteBook x360 is the battery life, which is nearly twice as long as some of the other models mentioned here. What I don't like is that it's HP. Honestly, I've never been a fan. But I'm also stereotyping a company based on the last HP computer I owned back in 1999. So perhaps they've come a long way since then. I haven't personally tested this laptop but I've read positive reviews other than users saying that the screen is dimmer than one would hope.
#5) Apple MacBook Air (macOS)
I'll be straight with you and tell you that I don't do Apple. The first and only Macintosh computer I've ever owned was a 1986 Macintosh Plus. And I rock Android over iOS on my smartphone. At this point in my life and career, it'd be a tough sell to get me to switch to a Mac. But I'll admit that I'm opened minded to it, and I revisit the idea with every laptop upgrade, but I never do it. All that being said, this is an article about the best travel laptops, so how could I leave the MacBook Air off the list? Here are the specs:
- Weight: 2.96 pounds (1.35 kg)
- Speed: Configurable to 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache
- Storage: Configurable to 512GB SSD
- Memory: 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory
- Display: (NON-TOUCHSCREEN) 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy with up to 1440 by 900 resolution
- Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
- Durability: Made of Aluminum
- Extras: 2x USB Ports, 1x Thunderbolt 2 port, Backlight keyboard
What I like about this laptop is its weight, battery life, and durability. What I don't like is that it's a Mac. And what's with the 8GB RAM and only 512GB hard drive? You can do better than that Apple. All that being said though, if you're hooked into the Apple ecosystem then you'll probably want to consider the MacBook Air for your travel laptop needs. But let's face it, if you're a die hard Apple fan, you already knew that.
What are the runners up?
There were a few other Windows 10 Laptops that you may want to consider that I'll list below. You might consider these runners up if you can sacrifice an extra pound of weight or a little less battery life to save a few hundred bucks.
#6) HP Pavilion 15 (Windows 10)
15.6″ screen / i7 / 16 GB / 1TB / DVD +/- / Windows 10 / 3.4lbs
#7) Dell Inspiron i7359 (Windows 10)
13.3″ screen / i7 / 16 GB / 1TB / Windows 10 / 3.7 lbs
#8) Acer Spin 3 (Windows 10)
15.6″ screen / i7 / 12 GB / 1TB / Windows 10 / 3.9lbs
#9) LG Gram (Windows 10)
15.6″ screen / i7 / 16 GB / 512 GB / Windows 10 / 2.4 lbs
#10) MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-034 (Windows 10)
15″ screen / i7 / 16 GB / 1 TB / Windows 10 / 4lbs
So who won? What's the top pick for travel laptops?
You already know that my top pick is the Lenova Yoga 910 but we've all got different needs and priorities in a laptop so yours may be different. Depending on your work, you may benefit more from having the Surface Pro because it makes for a better tablet with its removable keyboard and Surface Pen. Or maybe you'd benefit from the dedicated graphics card in the ASUS Zenbook UX303UB-DH74T if you do intensive graphics work or video editing. Or lastly you might be an Apple user, to which you're probably not reading this anyway and already bought a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
What's your top pick for a travel laptop? What laptop have you had success with on the road? Leave your feedback in the comments section below.
How about some more great travel buyer guides?
- Best (And Cheaper) GoPro Camera Alternatives for your Travel Action Camera Needs
- Best Portable Travel Camera Drones for Backpacking Photographers
- 21 Gifts For Dog Owners Who Travel
- Who Makes The Best World Globes?
- What is the best shoe for traveling with only one pair?
- Best Umbrella for Travelers, Backpackers, and Nomads
- How To Maximize Your Cell Phone’s Battery Life While You Travel
- Best Portable Laptop Monitors for Travelers & Digital Nomads (2017)
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