The whole point of laptops is that they’re more portable and compact than a desktop PC, but the laptop market has grown so much that there are a number of specializations. Not just any laptop is going to be the best choice for travel, but there are more and more laptops that are built specifically with travel in mind. This guide can help you regardless of how much experience you have.
We’ll start by providing you with reviews for 10 of the best travel laptop models. We’ve included the most important specs for each travel laptop and then break down what you need to be looking for when shopping for a laptop, with a special focus on the features that you should prioritize for travel.
- Best Travel Laptop for 2020
- 1. Apple MacBook Air
- 2. Dell XPS 13 Silver Edition Touchscreen Laptop
- 3. ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop
- 4. Microsoft Surface Go
- 5. Lenovo Yoga C940-14 FHD Touch
- 6. Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible
- 7. Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop
- 8. HP Spectre 12-a008nr x2 Detachable Laptop
- 9. Acer Spin 3 Convertible Laptop
- 10. LG Gram 17Z990-R.AAS9U1 Laptop
- Travel Laptop Buyer’s Guide
Best Travel Laptop for 2020
1. Apple MacBook Air
The Apple MacBook has long been a laptop of choice for professionals in a wide variety of fields, and the Macbook Air is undoubtedly the choice you should go for if you want something more accustomed for travel than the best in class Macbook Pro. But don't let the 13 inch screen fool you. This is an Apple product through and through, and you can count on it to provide you with one of the best OS interfaces in the business and far better security than you'd find with a Windows laptop.
And you won't have to worry about packing up other accessories when you bring your Macbook Air with you. The track pad on the Macbook Air is especially strong, although the keyboard falls a little more middle of the road. And thanks to the inclusion of a powerful stereo speaker system makes it great for watching TV on the go.
2. Dell XPS 13 Silver Edition Touchscreen Laptop
Investing in a travel laptop doesn't have to mean investing in a laptop with weak hardware. The Dell XPS is a travel laptop built with the needs of serious professionals in mind. Most importantly, that's reflected in the specs on display. The Intel Core i5 processor is powerful enough to offer decent gaming performance in addition to meeting the productivity needs of most business professionals.
The exterior design of the Dell XPS 13 is just as consciously designed with the needs of high end productivity in mind. The brightly backlit keyboard makes it easy to read even when you're trying to work on an overnight flight, while the anti-glare coating on the screen provides vibrant and legible results suited to everything from long late night layovers to bright public parks. It even offers a touchscreen for more casual navigation. This travel laptop is sturdy too. With its aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass screen, it can definitely take a hit.
3. ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop
The ASUS ZenBook one ups both the Macbook Air and the Dell XPS 13 by packing in an eighth generation Intel Core processor. That constitutes a major step up in terms of performance, even if it does share the Core i5 architecture. And ASUS has even packed a discrete graphics card into this laptop. So while it's capable of handling heavy multitasking, it's also great for watching movies on the plane or playing a quick game in the downtime.
Further enhancing your entertainment experience is the inclusion of a sound system designed by acclaimed stereo manufacturer Harman Kardon. This travel laptop is also generously equipped with ports, and it makes use of the latest Wi-Fi protocol so you'll get consistent connectivity even in faraway lands that might have spottier wireless hot spots. The IPS display promises a viewing angle of 170 degrees.
4. Microsoft Surface Go
The Microsoft Surface series of two in one laptops comprises of some of the best devices available to consumers, but their compact size and ability to shift seamlessly from tablet to full laptop makes them an especially great choice for frequent travelers. Moving from work to play is as simple as flipping the screen. And the Microsoft Surface Go goes even smaller than before, with a weight of just over a pound.
And this is a laptop that's been designed to run on Windows 10 by the producer of Windows 10. It comes with Windows 10 pre-installed in Safe Mode and even comes with a trial subscription to Microsoft Office 365. And as you might expect from a Microsoft product, the design quality is phenomenal here. The design looks great and feels great, and that extends to everything from the design of the responsive touch screen to the effective keyboard.
5. Lenovo Yoga C940-14 FHD Touch
The Yoga C940 is the Rolls Royce of the travel laptop market: a portable laptop that's also powerful. And surprisingly, the price tag is relatively affordable considering what you get for it. Impressively, Lenovo has packed in the latest generation Intel Core i7 chip, although they didn't fully exploit that by making use of a discrete processor. But while this laptop may be focused on the more productivity minded consumer, it can be used for some light gaming as well.
And we haven't even started talking about the touchscreen yet. The Yoga was one of the first hits of the two-in-one-market, and the formula still works years later. At this point, Lenovo is just making minor refinements with each passing year, as their build quality and aesthetics are already solid enough to compete with the Microsoft Surface or Apple MacBook Pro. But the inclusion of a combination hinge/soundbar is frankly genius.
6. Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible
Now that we've gotten one of the best premium travel laptops out of the way, let's talk about the opposite end of the spectrum. The Acer Chromebook R13 gives you more bang for your buck by running off of the cloud-based Chrome operating system. The local storage capacity may be limited to only 32 GB, but cloud storage solutions can offer many times that free of charge.And the quad core processor offers performance that exceeds the $300 asking price.
But there's no doubt that the Acer Chromebook is a travel laptop built more for the needs of economy users without high demands than for power users. But if you spend most of your time working in email clients, web browsers, and word processors, Google offers about everything you could need. And with the exceedingly long battery life and quick boot speeds, it's a laptop that will always be ready to respond to your needs.
7. Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 Convertible Laptop
Lenovo's budget answer to the Yoga is half the price, but it's not just half the value. While the $500 price tag means that Lenovo has had to cut corners, they make clever use of their limitations here. The AMD chip at use here is respectable, and it gets you better use out of your integrated graphics card than a comparable Intel processor could.
And if you want a lightweight travel device that straddles the line between a tablet and a laptop, this is one of the best options at your disposal. All the key ports you could expect to find are available with this laptop, and they've also packed in a fingerprint reader for an added layer of extra security. Also included is the TrueBlock privacy shutter design that blocks your webcam completely.
8. HP Spectre 12-a008nr x2 Detachable Laptop
The HP Spectre is another laptop that tries to provide you with convenience at a low price, but it manages to deliver some of the best specs for the price. Don't get us wrong. This isn't exactly a heavy duty laptop, but it should work capably for the day to day needs of most professionals and serve as a great entertainment laptop on top of that.
And in a move away from the traditional 2-in-one design, HP has taken a different approach: making the keyboard fully removable so this device can work just as capably as either a tablet or a laptop. But this is an incredibly slim laptop. With the base removed, this laptop sports a full weight of less than two pounds, putting it only above a few of our best laptops on the list, and it promises a 10 hour long battery life.
9. Acer Spin 3 Convertible Laptop
If all of these i5 processors aren't to your taste, you can get a laptop with a convertible design and a Core i7 for well under a grand. The Acer Spin 3 runs off the eighth generation of Intel architecture, and it includes other helpful features like a fingerprint reader and backlit keyboard.
And the convertible design here is more than just a gimmick. The surface here is very responsive, and the battery on the stylus allows for easy charging and consistent performance on the go. The Active Stylus can even be used in conjunction with your fingers for more sophisticated gestures.
10. LG Gram 17Z990-R.AAS9U1 Laptop
A lot of companies have tried to market laptops that offer the best combination of form and function, but none have arguably achieved it as well as the LG Gram. It keeps its weight under three pounds even with the comparatively massive 17 inch screen, and it still promises a max battery life of half a day.
LG has gone serious with the hard drives here, but that means more storage space than any of the other laptops on our list. You'll get a full terabyte of storage space with the LG Gram. And all of that storage space comes on a pair of SSDs, so it will be quick and durable too.
Travel Laptop Buyer’s Guide
So what distinguishes a laptop for travel from a more traditional laptop? Ultimately, it doesn’t come down to hardware but convenience. The best travel laptop is going to prioritize a lightweight physical frame along with a more lightweight OS designed to accommodate your busy life. Unfortunately, that means that laptop hardware will take a hit to get those advantages.
Suffice to say, the best travel laptop is a very different beast from the best gaming laptop or the best laptop for photo and video editing. Below, we’ll break down the important features to pay attention to in terms of priority so you can do a smarter job of shopping for travel laptops.
How big is your laptop and how much does it weigh? That’s going to have a huge impact on what constitutes the best travel computer. Somewhere between two and three pounds is pretty standard, but the sleekest travel laptops (like the Surface Pro and LG Gram) weigh well under two pounds. If you’re traveling regularly, you’ll want to take a look at your luggage and see how bulky and heavy you can go while not interfering with your routine. Also consider what you’ll be using your laptop for. Form factor can have a big effect on hardware specs, so it can also determine the power of a laptop.
One of the best advantages of a travel computer is that it will be there for you whether you’re just getting off a red eye flight or in the middle of a conference, and if you’re looking for the best travel laptop, you can expect something in the range of 8 hours of battery life to 12 hours of battery life. Just keep in mind that the battery life listed can vary depending on the programs putting a strain on the battery, and more powerful hardware specs tend to mean that the battery will suffer. Ultimately, you’ll have to make a compromise between battery life and performance.
The rivalry for decades has been Windows vs. Mac. That’s still true, and the arguments are essentially the same as they’ve ever been: the importance of great design vs. access to a more open and customizable operating system design. But there’s an increasingly popular alternative in the form of Chrome OS.
Chrome OS is something of an odd duck. Rather than sport the traditional software design of Windows and Mac OS, it handles almost all of its operations in the cloud. That creates a much more limited experience, but it’s one of the best options if you want a skinnier and more immediately responsive laptop for travel.
Price is the biggest consideration in what type of hardware you can pack into your laptop; but laptops, and especially more compact travel laptops, are also limited by their form factors. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat the internals of your laptop for travel as a primary consideration, but it does mean that you should temper your expectations some.
- We’ve talked at length about how important the CPU is for any laptop, and it should be your top consideration when looking for the best travel laptop too. Unfortunately, the size of a travel laptop will limit you from the best options available. You can generally expect to find an Intel Core i5 processor when shopping for a laptop for travel. The best travel laptops sport a Core i7, but they’re rare and will generally cost a hundred dollars or more.
- The GPU may be important for gaming, but a laptop for travel isn’t going to be the best choice if you’re a gamer. Instead, almost every laptop on this list is going to come with an integrated graphics card. That helps you save time and money, but it does mean the GPU has to share memory for the CPU. If you do want better graphical performance, you may want to look to laptops that sport an AMD processor, since they do a better job of coordinating with integrated graphics cards. Intel may make the better CPUs, but AMD rules with graphics.
- Memory is typical shorthand for RAM or Random Access Memory. And you can generally think of memory for a computer as pretty similar to how human memory works. When your CPU is likely going to need to access repeated content, it will be stored in the RAM for easier and quicker access. Memory reduces the strain on the CPU (and the GPU, if you’re using an integrated graphics card), generally resulting in quicker loading speeds. It’s good for gaming but also for multitasking and editing software.
- How much room do you have to hold files? That’s what storage space will tell you. The amount of storage space should be a consideration but not a huge one. Replacing the hard drive of a computer is a pretty simple and quick process, but you can also find easy results with an external hard drive or cloud storage. This is the approach taken by Chromebooks, and it might be the best choice for those trying to travel light (and cheap).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Laptop to Buy in 2020?
What constitutes the best really depends on your budget and what your expectations are. All of the above options are great choices, but you can also check out our more general guide to the best laptops of 2020.
What is the Lightest Laptop in 2020?
Nothing can match the Microsoft Surface Go, the younger brother or the Surface Pro. Even with the advantage of its small screen and relatively modest specs, the fact that it weighs barely over a pound is an achievement.
What is the Lightest, Most Powerful Laptop?
Want a combination of power and portability? We suggest you look to the Microsoft Surface Pro or Microsoft Surface Go. They provide a great design and some of the best value available in the two in one market.
Is a 5 Pound Laptop Heavy?
Let’s put it like this.: we probably wouldn’t suggest you use a 5 pound laptop for travel. While heavier laptops can be a great choice if you need something powerful, most of the laptops on this list sport a design weighing three pounds or less.
If you want to find the best laptops for travel in 2020, you won’t find a better place to start than our guide. And if you want to seek out more performance based laptops like the MacBook Pro or Surface Pro, be sure to check out our guide to the best laptops in 2020.