When you’re looking for a laptop for traveling, there will be different criteria than for a laptop for use just at home or the office.
It isn’t just about sheer power or capacity, but also about weight, versatility, battery life, and ease of use on the road. And when you can’t always be assured of a good connection to the cloud, your device needs to easily store everything you need on the go.
I’ve put together an overview of some of the best travel laptops, whether you’re traveling to explore the world or traveling for work.
I’ve been location-independent for over 10 years now, which means I either work from home or from coffee shops, airports, hotels, coworking offices, and other places all over the world.
My experience has shown me that not every device is equally suited to traveling or for working remotely from anywhere.
If you’re planning, say, an adventure trip or backpacking experience, you may be able to get away with using a simpler device. A budget travel laptop or Chromebook will be ideal for doing trip research, staying in touch with family, or doing some light work.
But if you need to do some serious work on the road, it’s essential to have the right gear. Read on for our top tips for best travel laptops in 2023.
Travel for work
If you’re a business traveler, digital nomad, or a content creator, consider an ultrabook laptop like a Macbook Pro, Dell XPS 13″ or Surface Laptop 3. Ultrabooks offer the best combination of performance and portability.
Travel for fun
For holidays, backpacking trips, road trips, or long-term travel consider traveling with a budget travel laptop like an Acer Spin or HP Spectre x360. Alternatively, consider a Chromebook or a travel tablet.
Best travel laptops
Are you a professional user? Then you’ll probably want to look at the latest ultrabooks, which are high-end laptops with the best balance between power and portability.
These lightweight travel laptops — such as the Dell XPS, the Microsoft Surface Laptop or Surface Book, and the Apple Macbook Pro or Macbook Air — are the favorite tool of many nomads, remote workers, photographers, videographers, and other pro users.
These ultrabooks can handle anything you throw at them — with high-fps hardcore gaming perhaps the only exception.
If you plan to travel internationally, a premium brand such as Apple, Microsoft, or Dell can be advantageous. These tend to be more reliable and will usually have a better global warranty. With Apple, you can even walk into any Apple Store around the world (even at airports) and solve issues regardless of which territory you purchased your laptop.
Quick Overview: Best travel laptops overview
Dell XPS 13"
Best premium PC travel laptop
- 10th generation Intel Core processors
- Super thin bezel screens
- Only 2.7 pounds (1.23kg)
- Best lightweight high-performance laptop for Windows
New Macbook Air (M Chip)
Best battery life + performance
- M chip is faster & uses less power
- Up to 20 (!) hours of battery life
- Up to 2TB storage
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
- 11th generation Intel Core processors
- 13.5” touch screen with 3:2 ratio (more vertical space)
- 3.4 pounds (1.54 kg)
Acer Spin 3
Best cheap travel laptop
- 11th Gen Intel Core processor
- 14" touch display - can be used in 'tablet mode'
- 3.7 pounds (1.70 kg)
- 13.3 Inch Anti-glare FHD 1920 x 1080 Display
- Latest 8th Gen Intel i5-8250U 1.6 GHz Processor
- 2.7 lbs (1.23 kg)
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Best pro travel tablet with keyboard
- 2-in-1 (use as laptop or tablet)
- 11th Generation Intel Core processor
- 1.7 pounds (770g)
Macbook Air (New M2 Chip)
Price Starting at $999
- Industry-leading battery life (18+ hours)
- 8-core CPU
- Bright 500 nits Retina display
- Weighs 1.29 kg (2.8 pounds)
- Apple warranty and support
- Won't run Windows-only apps
Apple has been transitioning from Intel processors to its own M-chips. These allow for much higher performance while drawing less power, giving the new Macbook Air and Macbook Pro an unprecedented battery life of 18 to 20 hours. These new chips are also insanely fast.
If you’re OK with using the MacOS operating system, then the latest Macbooks are some of the best travel laptops you can buy at the moment.
I myself switched from a Dell XPS to using a Macbook Air M1 as my main laptop and it’s incredible how even video editing runs blazingly fast on this entry-level Macbook. This $999+ laptop will routinely defeat a $2000+ previous-generation Macbook Pro. In 2022, Apple released the updated M2 chip.
When comparing Apple’s latest laptops to any PCs, keep in mind the specs are not always equivalent. For example, the 8GB of shared memory on a Macbook is used in ways that may feel more like having 16GB available.
Thanks to their speed and long battery life, the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro are among the best laptops for travelers or for digital nomads working remotely. The Macbook Air 13″ will probably suffice for most users (it’s fanless and about $300 cheaper), but consider the Pro if you regularly use the heaviest applications, such as video editing.
Since these laptops now run on ARM architecture, they don’t run Windows on dual-boot anymore. If you’re a gamer, you will also get better performance on a PC gaming laptop. That said, the Macbooks with M chips make for amazing travel laptops.
Dell XPS 13″
- High-end 'it does everything' laptop with superb performance
- One of the thinnest screen bezels (makes it more portable)
- Latest 10th gen processors
- 4K and OLED versions have slightly less battery life
If you’re looking for a professional travel laptop that runs Windows, then look no further than the Dell XPS. It has a great combination of low weight and high power, letting you do serious work from anywhere.
Firstly, it has a remarkably thin screen bezel, which looks great but also means it’s smaller and more portable. The XPS 13, for example, has a 13″ sized screen, but the chassis size is similar to a thick-bezel 12″ laptop. The 15″ version has a chassis closer to a normal 14″.
If portability is most important to you, then consider the 13 inch XPS. At 2.7 pounds (1.23kg), it’s belongs to the lighest class of powerful travel laptops.
The basic configuration starts at about $1000, but there are better options with more processing speed, hard drive space, and so on. Since I do a lot of video and photo editing, I used to own an Intel i7 chip option with 1TB of harddrive space. But if you mainly use your laptop for office applications, you could make do with a cheaper Intel i5 configuration. You can view the different configurations at Dell.
All configurations have an insanely bright 500-nit anti-glare screen. When you’re using the XPS indoors, you may wish to tone down the screen brightness as it’ll be very strong. But at maximum setting, it’s ideal for outdoor use, as even in a very bright environment you can still easily see the screen. You can choose between touch or non-touch displays; the latter will give you a little more battery life.
While it depends on which apps you use, the battery life can be up to 12 hours.
The Dell XPS 13 can handle pretty much anything, though if you use a lot of 3D applications or want to do some (light) gaming, consider the Dell XPS 15, which has a dedicated graphics card and bigger screen, while still being nicely portable.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
- Microsoft's flagship ultrabook
- Up to 15 hours battery life
- Great performance
- No Thunderbolt 3 port
Microsoft produces its own devices under the Surface brand, serving as a flagship offering for Windows PCs. There is a wild variety of devices carrying the Surface name, which can be a bit confusing. But if you’re after a full-blown laptop there are two products to check out.
Firstly, there is the Surface Book 3, which offers 2-in-1 functionality. It may look like a normal laptop, but you can fold over or detach the screen and use it as a (rather oversized) tablet. This can be great for travel when you want to use your device in a more casual position. However, one downside is that the screen part is quite chunky, due to housing the processor and other essential components.
Arguably a better option is the Surface Laptop 5, which may not have 2-in-1 functionality, but is a more traditional ultrabook with a slim design. The Surface Laptop is similar to the Dell XPS in terms of capabilities and is more streamlined than Microsoft’s Surface Book. The battery can last a good 15 hours depending on use.
One reason why some travelers prefer the Surface Laptop is the screen, which is in 3:2 aspect ratio, instead of widescreen. This gives you extra vertical space when scrolling documents, or for placing your various toolbars.
The Surface Laptop 4 is better than the previous iterations in a number of areas. It has battery fast-charging (80% charge within 1 hour) which is perfect for travel. It also uses USB-C, letting you easily get an additional charge from a powerbank.
Acer Spin 3
- Great value for money
- 2-in-1 laptop (also use as tablet)
- Updated with 10th Gen processors
- HD space limited to 256GB
- Fairly standard 1080p display
Looking for a more budget-friendly option? Then the Acer Spin 3 has got you covered. It’s been updated with 10th Generation Intel processors in June 2020, though the previous 8th gen Acer Spin version is still for sale, potentially at clearance prices.
(A bit confusingly, the 3 in Acer Spin 3 is a brand name, not a version, so both are called the same. Acer Spin 5 is a different 15.6″ laptop and not a newer edition.)
The Acer Spin 3 is a convertible 13″ laptop, meaning you can use it in tablet mode, tent mode (for media viewing), or like a regular laptop. It comes with a stylus, which is great for note-taking and creativity apps. There’s a review of the Acer Spin 3 here.
It has a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 functionality for easy connectivity and charging.
The most basic model sells for $499 with the most specced out version going for $799. If you’re looking for best value for money, you may want to consider the $699 configuration, which gives you a fast i5 processor and 256 GB of SSD storage space.
Or maybe a tablet?
Tablets have a lot more functionality than they used to, so they may well do everything you need them to do while being wonderfully compact. If you just need to do light work, they might well do the trick.
While we’re focused on the best travel laptops, for completion’s sake here are two highly capable tablets to consider as well. Both the following picks can be optionally used with an attachable keyboard.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
- 2-in-1 (use as laptop or tablet)
- Runs Windows 10
- Very lightweight at 1.7 pounds (770g)
- Keyboard or stylus cost extra
- No Thunderbolt 3
When it comes to full-featured Windows tablets, Surface Pro 8 leads the pack. It is a perfect choice for professional users or for the more demanding general user. It has a 12.3″ touchscreen that comes with a stylus and optional foldable keyboard, letting you turn it into essentially a mini laptop.
At 1.7 lbs (0.77kg) it is ultra-portable, yet for such a small device it still packs a real punch. It has a quad-core processor up to i7, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD storage. But for most people, the $899 Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is probably sufficient, so long as you’re mostly saving files to the cloud.
Sadly, the keyboard isn’t bundled, so you’ll need to spend an extra $129.99 on the Surface Type Cover. But it’s worth it, as it turns this into an everything-device that can serve equally well as a small laptop or high-powered tablet.
The latest edition comes with USB-C, letting you easily attach peripherals or get some extra charge from a USB-C powerbank.
The Surface Pro’s extremely low weight but impressive capabilities and full Windows support make this one of the best travel devices around.
New Apple iPad
- Super lightweight at 1.07 lbs (483 grams)
- Perfect as entertainment/reading device
- New iPad OS allows file browsing and USB peripherals
- Small form factor unsuitable for serious work
As far as tablets go for casual use when you’re traveling for fun, there are just so many options to consider. But a great choice is to stick with the original inventors of the tablet and get an Apple iPad. It has a nice-size 10.2-inch screen and at 1.07 lbs or 483 grams, it’s light as a feather.
It’s attractively priced (under $300) and works amazingly well as an e-reader, browser, entertainment device, and for using travel apps. But its functionality can also be extended in ways that make it a productive device as well. Attach a keyboard with trackpad and you can easily write some travel journals or do a bit of light work. With the stylus accessories, you can draw, scribble notes, or edit photos more effectively.
The new iPad OS has opened up the system considerably, letting you browse and copy files, and attach USB devices or SD card readers. This makes it perfect as a lightweight back-up solution for your travel photos and other important files. The device was updated at the end of 2022.
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