by Marcus Muller of Travelmag.com
Whether you need to work during your travels or simply want to stream movies while you’re away, a quality laptop is an indispensable accessory. TravelMag,com have looked into the range of options currently on the market and selected what we consider the best travel-friendly laptops that cater to a range of budgets and needs.
Our selection is primarily based on reviews by influential tech magazines and other leading authorities such as Techradar, Laptopmag and The Wire Cutter. As well as basing our decision on overall performance, we also gave strong consideration to factors specifically relevant to travelers, such as weight, battery length, and display brightness.
Best overall laptop: Dell XPS 13 (2020 version)
The Dell XPS 13 regularly tops the rankings for “ultraportable” laptops. It weighs just 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg), is very thin (0.58 inches/14.8mm) and its battery is made to last more than 12 hours from full charge. Combined with fast performance and a fantastic display level, the XPS 13 is our top recommendation for travellers. The only small downside is the audio, which is sub-optimal due to Dell putting the speakers on the bottom of the laptop. However, since most travelers use headphones to receive audio from their laptops, it’s not a significant shortcoming.
CPU: 10th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB
Ports: 2x USB-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, microSD card reader
Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.58 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
Price: From $1249
Best budget-friendly overall laptop: Acer Swift 3 (2019 version)
If the Dell XPS 13 is a bit too expensive for your tastes, the Acer Swift would be our next – and significantly cheaper – recommendation. It’s a bit heavier (3.05 lb) than the XPS 13, but with a decent 10-hour battery life still very travel-friendly. Its display is broadly speaking very good, although not as sharp as the XPS 13, and together with its powerful performance is enough for us to say that the Acer Swift 3 is, on balance, the best-value-for-money laptop on our list.
CPU: Intel 1.5GHz Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Intel UHD 620
Screen: 14-inch IPS (1920×1080)
RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB
Ports: 1 USB-C 3.1, 2 USB 3.0 Type A, 1 HDMI, SD card,
Size: 12.7 x 9.0 x 0.59 inches | Weight: 3.05 pounds
Best MacBook: MacBook Air 2020
For those who prefer MacOS, the new MacBook Air would be our top choice. While its performance isn’t as strong as on the very best Windows laptops, it’s certainly good enough for the basic needs (web browsing, Word, Netflix streaming, etc) of your average traveller. The MacBook Air also has a very good display and pretty much the best sound experience you’ll find. It’s also noteworthy that the new keyboard feels much better to type on compared with its recent predecessors. The battery should last at least 9 hours from full charge, and with a weight of just 2.8 pounds the MacBook Air is also one of the lightest laptops on the market.
CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core i3-1000NG4 | Graphics: Intel UHD 620
Screen: 13.3-inch (2,560 x 1,600)
RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
Best Chromebook: HP Chromebook x360 14
If most of your laptop activity revolves around online browsing, a Chromebook might be a good and far more affordable alternative to a traditional laptop. Instead of Windows, a Chromebook runs Google’s operating system, which is similar to the Google Chrome web browser. While you won’t be able to download programs as you can on Windows, Android apps are now available on all new Chromebooks via the Google Play Store. Of the numerous Chromebooks available today, the HP x 360 14 is the top pick of most experts. It’s light, offers a long battery life, and the performance is comparable with much more expensive standard laptops. The only downside is the display, which is a bit too dim in a bright setting.
CPU: 1.83GHz Intel Celeron N2940 | Graphics: Intel HD
Screen: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080)
RAM: 4GB | Storage: 16GB
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, MicroSD slot
Size: 13.54 x 9.45 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3.74 pounds
The best convertible laptop: HP Spectre x360 13
The convertible laptop (also called a ‘2-in-1’ laptop) can transform from laptop to tablet and back again thanks to a 360-degree hinge that allows for rotating the laptop’s screen all the way around, flat against the bottom of the keyboard. If you watch a lot of movies on planes or trains, a 2-in-1 can be converted into ‘tent mode’ (see picture) for a better viewing experience. The HP Spectre has received excellent reviews overall and is our favorite laptop in this category. Compared with other convertibles, it’s pretty light and small with a 13.3-inch touch screen, and the battery lasts at least 14 hours. Performance and display ratings are excellent, too.
CPU: 1.3GHz Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus
Screen: 13.3-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160)
RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB
Ports: 1x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, microSD card reader
Size: 12.04 x 7.66 x 0.67 inches | Weight: 2.87 pounds
There you have it. Happy traveling to you.