The 10 Best Travel Laptops
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in April of 2016. Travelers who need to stay productive or entertained while on the go have different priorities for their computing options. Some require something lightweight, while others demand a long battery life, and still others insist on a durable housing to withstand the turmoil of the journey. These laptops all have their specific strong points, so you should be able to find the right one for your needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 24, 2021:
A combination of factors weigh in the decision for a laptop for use on the road. In varying degrees, travelers need durability, portability, connectivity, and affordability, so we've tried to balance those here. As probably the most svelte of these offerings, the Asus ZenBook 13 took the top spot partly because of its premium design, including a mechanical hinge for increasing typing ergonomics. If pure power is what you're looking for, the Acer Swift 3 is awfully hard to beat, in spite of its remarkably low price. If you are willing to spend a little more, the LG Gram is a top-of-the-line machine that's not terribly expensive, but is about as light as full-size laptops get.
Alternatively, some less conventional portable computers are worth looking at if you're okay with a little different experience from normal. The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is about as small as a Windows laptop gets, and although it's underpowered for some tasks, its impressive portability can make up for it. The miniscule Lenovo Chromebook Duet is even smaller and lighter thanks to its use of the efficient Chrome OS. If you like the convenience of Chrome, but need something a touch larger, take a look at the highly capable Asus Chromebook C202XA.
March 05, 2020:
We feel like you can go two ways when buying a laptop for travel. If your itinerary is planned well and you have professional engagements to attend, you'll likely want something with a better build quality and higher performance, which is exactly what the LG Gram will give you. In that same vein, the Apple MacBook Air performs great and looks even better, and its straightforward and user-friendly operating system should make it easy to get through a day in the field office. The Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is another mid-range model that's extremely versatile due to its high-end stylus and convertible construction, and it's not too much of an investment to take with you on the road. Also on the topic of performance, the Asus Tuf is a great one to take along if you want to keep up with your 3D gaming when you're not at home.
The HP Elite x2 lacks a bit of performance as compared to standard clamshells and convertibles, but makes up for it with the convenience of a detachable keyboard that turns it into an all-purpose media machine. The Microsoft Surface Go is similar type of 2-in-1 laptop although it packs its powerful components into a remarkably tiny space and, in the case we highlighted, has a 4G LTE-A modem so you won't even have to use your phone as a hotspot.
On the other side of the spectrum, it's often wise to leave your high-end Ultrabook at home for the trip and take along something that won't hurt too bad if it's lost or stolen. Taken to extremes, this means you should consider the HP Chromebook 14 and Asus Chromebook Flip C214, though of course they don't support Windows and are only able to run apps from the Google Play Store. Nonetheless, if all you need to do is keep up with your email, submit documents, and watch the occasional video, one of these inexpensive models could be right for you. Finally, the Lenovo Flex 14 is a convenient convertible that only costs a few hundred and runs Windows and all 64-bit apps without breaking a sweat.
The Types Of Laptops Most Suited To Travel
To achieve such a compact and lightweight form, most manufacturers don't include a CD-ROM drive in their Ultrabooks.
Laptops come in many different shapes and sizes, from monstrous, 17-inch models that can fully replicate the desktop experience to tiny, 7-inch models that are essentially useless for productivity. When it comes to travel, three distinct types stand out as the best options: Ultrabooks, Chromebooks, and 2-in-1s.
Manufacturers design Ultrabooks with a focus on power and portability, two of the most essential needs for any traveling professional. Ultrabooks are slim and lightweight, and they have a high degree of processing power and an extremely long battery life. It is not uncommon to find Ultrabooks that allow for upwards of 10 hours of HD movie playback. To achieve such a compact and lightweight form, most manufacturers don't include a CD-ROM drive in their Ultrabooks. In order for a company to market their laptop as an Ultrabook, it must meet a set of stringent specifications set forth by Intel.
Chromebooks share some similarities with Ultrabooks, though the two are vastly different. Unlike Ultrabooks, Chromebooks don't have a high degree of processing power, though they do often share a portable form. Chromebooks are budget-friendly, long-battery laptops that are ideal for web browsing, movie viewing, and basic productivity, such as using a word processor. This makes them great travel laptops for consumers who just want to watch movies and keep abreast of happenings on social media. Another major difference worth noting about Chromebooks is that they use the streamlined Chrome OS. As with Ultrabooks, Chromebooks often sacrifice CD-ROMs for a more compact, easily portable form.
2-in-1s, sometimes referred to as convertibles or hybrids, are probably the most versatile laptops. These bridge the gap between traditional laptops and tablets. 2-in-1s come in two different styles: foldable and detachable. Foldable models have a screen that rotates all the way around until its back touches the back of the keyboard, in which configuration they look very much like tablets, albeit thicker and more cumbersome. Detachable models have a screen that completely detaches from the keyboard, making them practically identical to a tablet when detached. There is some overlap between 2-in-1s and the previous two styles, since 2-in-1s can also fall into the Chromebook or Ultrabook category.
What To Look For In A Travel Laptop
As with any laptop purchase, the right model for one user may not be the right choice for another. Every user will place different demands on their PC, hence they will need to look at different specifications. Despite this, there are two things that are important to every person looking for a travel laptop: battery life and size. These are the two most essential properties to consider when looking at the different models available. Once you have found a few different models that meet your needs for battery life and portability, you can begin to look at other features you may desire.
The goal is to find a travel laptop with an acceptable amount of processing power and a reasonable battery life.
When it comes to portability, you must balance a compact form with your productivity needs. Carrying around a laptop in your backpack or briefcase with a small 10.1-inch screen sounds great in theory, but such a small screen can hinder productivity. For example, if you need to look at intricate schematics, a small screen can be very problematic. Smaller laptops also have smaller keyboards, which can result in slower typing and more typos. For the average user, a travel laptop with a 12- to 13-inch screen is generally the perfect size. These are large enough to allow for unimpeded productivity, yet small and lightweight enough for easy transport.
Finding a model with the a long battery life is often a balancing act between processing power and price. The more processing power a laptop has, the shorter the battery life will generally be, unless your are willing to pay a lot of money, in which case you can find a powerful laptop with an exceptionally long battery life. The goal is to find a travel laptop with an acceptable amount of processing power and a reasonable battery life. Just remember, most manufacturers' battery life claims are under ideal conditions, such as video playback only with no additional processes running. A laptop with a marketed battery life of 10 hours, will probably get six hours of real-life usage.
Helpful Tips To Extend Your Laptop's Battery Life
Buying a laptop with a long battery life is just the first step. There are many additional settings you can tweak to ensure you are making the most efficient use of the power you have. A laptop's screen is one of its biggest power draws, and keeping your screen set to maximum brightness all of the time is one of the surest ways to quickly drain your laptop's battery. Dimming your screen brightness to match your surroundings has a two-fold benefit. Not only doesn't it significantly increase your battery life, but it can also help reduce eye strain. Setting your PC to automatically turn off the display after a few minutes of inactivity will also help extend your battery life.
Laptops generally come with three power plan levels: high performance, recommended, and power saver, but these can be further tweaked for total customization.
Turning off unnecessary hardware and software can result in significant battery life improvements, too. If you aren't currently using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, turn them off. You can do this individually in your computer's settings, or just click the airplane mode button, which will turn off both simultaneously. Closing any unused applications is also helpful. To make your life a little bit easier, adjust your laptop's startup settings so that only necessary applications launch when you turn on your device. This way you won't have to manually close every infrequently used program every time you start your computer.
Another easy tweak to improve your battery life is to adjust your power plan. Laptops generally come with three power plan levels: high performance, recommended, and power saver, but these can be further tweaked for total customization. For example, you can set your laptop to immediately enter battery saver mode once your battery level hits 90 percent, rather than the default setting of 10 or 15 percent. You can also adjust things like the maximum processor state and video playback settings when on battery, all of which can affect how long your laptop's battery lasts.