We are on the road between six and nine months out of each year. We also have the luxury of being able to do both our travel writing and business consulting work from wherever we are in the world. After eight years of making airplane tray tables and adorably small cafes our office(s), we’ve got a unique perspective when it comes to travel tech. Additionally, since our laptops are crucial to our success as location-independent professionals, we constantly are evaluating new technology.
That’s why we love laptops. By their very nature, laptops are travel computers. But that doesn’t mean that all laptops are ideal travel companions. We’ve selected the five best travel laptops based on what we feel are the most important qualifications: portability, quality, performance, and user experience.
Apple’s most recent addition to its line of laptops continues a tradition of innovation and craftsmanship. Like the trend-setting MacBook Air before it, the MacBook is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Some of the features we love:
• Diminutive 2.08-pound package includes a gorgeous 12-inch retina display, full-size keyboard, and a bleeding-edge multi-touch trackpad.
• High-performance mobile chip that doesn’t require a fan, which means no annoying “whirring” noise.
• Software and “eco-system” experience that is elegant and user-friendly so you don’t spend precious travel time trying to make the computer work.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft hit a sweet-spot with its new laptop/tablet hybrid. The company has created the perfect way to experience its touch-friendly operating system, Windows 10, without giving up a physical keyboard. Some of the features we love:
• Outstanding build quality and durability, which is critical for a travel laptop and something that is often lacking in PCs.
• Near desktop-level specs in a remarkably thin and light package, so you get portability without compromising performance.
• Integrated “kickstand” with an over-engineered hinge that allows you to choose almost any angle to work. (This is perfect for the odd spaces in which we end up creating content.)
Apple MacBook Pro
Despite being a bit heavier than the other members of the MacBook line-up, the MacBook attracts lots of fans because of its large screen and beefy computing power. Recent updates to the MacBook Pro have lightened it up while still making it a heavyweight in the area of performance. Some of the features we love:
• Slim profile and large (13- or 15-inch) retina display are perfect for working on the go (or watching a movie in transit).
• A battery that lasts 10 hours, which can be a lifesaver if your intercontinental flight happens to be on an old plane with no AC outlets at the seat.
• All the productivity features (such as split screen apps, multi-touch gestures, and desktop switching, to name a few) that are packed into Apple’s powerful operating system, El Capitan.
Viewfinder Tip: Don’t be lured into buying a cheap laptop for your travel needs. Consider the cost of long-term ownership.
Dell XPS 13
Dell has delivered an Ultrabook (the PC industry’s term for highly portable computers) that sets the bar for PC makers. Innovative choices in materials and genuinely disruptive movement in the display make the Dell XPS 13 the standard-bearer for the category. Some of the features we love:
• High-resolution “infinity” display that, true to the hyperbolic branding, provides 13-inches of screen in the footprint of an 11-inch laptop.
• Carbon fiber composite body that helps the full-featured machine weigh in at just 2.8 pounds.
• Intel Skylake processor (i3, i5, or i7) means all of the portability without any sluggishness.
Apple iPad Pro
We may be stretching the idea of laptop by including Apple’s new, larger iPad. But thanks to a smart keyboard cover and 12.9-inch retina screen, the iPad Pro is stretching the capabilities of a tablet, so it now stands as a worthwhile replacement for a traditional travel laptop. Some of the features we love:
• High-precision, pressure sensitive Apple Pencil with ability to recognize tilt means easy note taking and even easier sketching.
• Computing power nearing laptop-level performance in a highly portable 1.57-pound tablet that you don’t have to put away during take-offs and landings.
• Robust app portfolio gives you rapid access to just about any software you need to be productive on the road.
What is your pick for best travel laptop?