Previously we discussed essential protocol for keeping your laptop safe and in tip top shape while on the road. We dug through security measures, weekly maintenance techniques, and the best accessories to come equip with. But there was one glaring omission from the article which absolutely must be addressed. Which laptop should we travel with?
Since we’re talking travel here, likely long-term, we’re targeting a lifestyle based on carrying as few material items on our person as possible. Then there’s the factor of unpredictability to account for. Between delayed flights and last minute hotel bookings, we’re never 100% on where the next power outlet is going to be. Then, of course, there’s the freelancers, work wherever type of folks. They’ll require a trusty CPU to process much more than just emails and internet streams.
So that leaves us with three main categories for the ultimate traveling laptop: Portability, battery life, and performance ability. They’re arguably listed in order of importance as well, so we’ll build on each category as we go through them, i.e. the first section will recommend laptops purely on portability, the second section will cover laptops with the longest battery life that are also quite portable, and so on. With the meta tangent out of the way, we’re all set to tackle the big question. How do we choose the right travel laptop?
The term ‘travel laptop’ immediately springs images of the tiniest computers available. Travelers are free spirits, and as such, they’d rather not be weighted down any more than necessary. So the first check off the ole viability list is whether or not the laptop is both lightweight and compact. This means zero extra hassle when packing and dragging your belongings around. So what laptops on the market best fit this criteria?
Chromebook: Their weight ranges from 2.5 to 3.3 pounds and they’re small enough to fit on your dinner plate, not that we’d recommend eating them. They’re dirt cheap as well, stripping you of only $150 to $250. But at that price, you’re really getting the bare minimum: No OS, just basic internet browsing, and word processing.
Asus Zenbook UX305CA: At only 13 inches wide and weighing only 2.6 pounds, this Zenbook matches the Chromebook in portability. And at $700 it comes fully equip with Windows 10 and 8 GB ram. While its performance isn’t as high as more expensive brands, you’ll have a difficult time finding an equally lightweight, modestly powerful laptop at this price.
LG Gram 14Z950: Only 2.1 pounds and 14 inches, the LG Gram comes coated in carbon magnesium so it’s quite durable despite being ½ inch thin. It’s a bit more powerful than the Zenbook due to an i7 processor, but its ultra-thin body means little room for a long-lasting battery.
An extensive battery life is the most important factor for many travelers out on business. Batteries that can chug through an entire day without charging are a godsend when boarding lengthy flights or bus rides. Laptop batteries usually come in 4-,6,- and 9-cells. A higher number of cells indicates a bigger battery which means a longer charge but more weight. Laptops with sealed-in, unremovable batteries can last around 10 hours at best. Laptops with removable batteries are great too though since you can charge a spare to keep around in case of emergencies. Here’s three options for those who put battery life as priority number one.
Toshiba Protege Z20t: A lesser known entry that manages 10 and a half hours on battery! It also meets the compact category with flying colors at 12.2 inches wide and 3.3 pounds. You can detach the screen for use as a tablet replete with a stylus for added versatility. Bids start at $1,000.
MacBook Pro MJLQ2LL/A: One of a few laptops where you needn’t sacrifice portability for battery life. This MacBook Pro can run on high performance for around 9 hours straight. Plus its only 14 inches wide and features removable batteries. Not bad if you can shell out just under $2,000.
HP Pavilion 13-s128nr x360: The king of the three, its battery life has been recorded at almost 12 hours! It’s also equip with a 128 GB SSD to help prevent crashes during long periods of usage. It’s only 13 inches wide but a tad hefty at 3.8 pounds. Light, reliable, and in the ballpark of $750. Not bad.
Now, high-performance may be required if you’re looking to run demanding software, perhaps for your freelance CGI career, or to hit max frames on PC games. Whatever your reasons, you’ll need a strong processor, namely an AMD or Intel processor. AMD’s are less powerful, but cheaper overall while Intel’s are designed for high-end gaming. Since we’re discussing this is in the realm of travel, we’ll cover high-performing laptops that are 11 to 14 inches wide. Just know this: The bigger laptops are bound to be more powerful as more space is needed for all that hardware to run.
Skylake Core i5 Laptop: A 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor paired with 8 GB of SDRAM guarantees it can handle demanding programs without frying your hard drive. The hard drive, by the way, an HDD, holds up to 1 terabyte. This combined with the touchscreen makes the Skylake Core a competent tool for graphic designers who work on the go. And the kicker? A low $650 price tag, 12.9-inch width, and 3.8 pounds of weight make this the perfect budget pick for freelance businesses.
Dell XPS 13: The right conglomeration of everything discussed so far. Its processor is an Intel 6th Generation Core, guaranteeing quickly executed commands. The battery life is unbelievable: 12 hours for the non-touchscreen version. It’s also small enough to join the ‘ultra-portable’ class, despite a dense 5 pounds, since it’s only 11.9 inches wide.
Alienware 14 ALW14-5002sLV: One of the most hard hitting 14-inch laptops on the market, upping the ante with an Intel Core i7 4700MQ processor and 16 GB DDR3L SDRAM. The memory storage is equally phenomenal due to the 1000 GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive doubled with an 80 GB SSD. The $1,300 asking price is downright reasonable in light of its capabilities, although the monstrous 11.5 pounds of weight isn’t so fun to travel with.