Best Travel Laptops (2017)

Recommended lightweight travel laptops, from budget to high-end

Last Updated: September 2017

Portability, battery life, storage space and of course price are some of the key considerations when buying a travel laptop.

When it’s a device that will be with you on the road it’s important to consider raw specs like memory and processing power, but it’s equally important that your laptop is versatile and lightweight, easy to use, and that it can easily store everything you need (as WiFi or mobile data is never guaranteed, especially if you’re travelling abroad).

Smartphones and tablets may be convenient for basic uses, but ultimately you can’t beat having a fully capable computer with a larger screen, full keyboard, and more processing power. The following laptops are some of the current top picks for nomads, frequent travellers, or anyone else needing a good computer on the go. We’ll start with some affordable budget options before getting to some higher-end lightweight laptops.

— by Marek Bron & Matthew Schall

Budget Chromebook laptops

Get this if: you want an affordable ultraportable… and can make due with a simpler OS

Typical price range: $300 to $500 (or from about 300 Euro or GBP)

Want a no-frills inexpensive travel laptop? Then a Chromebook can be an incredibly tempting option, so long as you know what to expect.

Chromebooks don’t run a full operating system like Windows 10, but a more basic one designed around the Chrome browser. This does make them more efficient (and free of typical Windows bloatware) as well as a lot cheaper.

You can’t run professional-grade video editing software or Adobe Photoshop on them, and instead of Microsoft Office you’ll have to use the free Google Docs and Sheets apps (which can be used offline) or Microsoft’s Office Online for Chrome (this is online only). So long as you don’t mind this, a Chromebook could well be a perfect budget travel laptop for you.

For internet browsing, watching movies, basic photo editing, and everyday office suite use, a Chromebook will easily get the job done. With the ChromeOS file browser, you can also easily use it to back up files from your other devices (such as a camera). Many recent models have touchscreens and will run Android apps (much like any tablet), making them perfect travel companions.

Keep in mind that most Chromebooks only have 32GB or 64GB of storage space, which is less than the 128GB or 256GB typically found on ultrabooks. However, you do get a free 100GB subscription to cloud storage service Google Drive included with any Chromebook. You can also increase your local storage capacity if needed by adding a MicroSD card or USB drive.

Top Pick: Acer Chromebook R13

Price: $414.52  view on amazon

Acer has made some nice Chromebooks over the years, but with the R13 and R11 they truly start to feel like… well, proper laptops. Even though we are normally ultrabook users, we’ve been very happy to use the Acer Chromebook R13.

Why do we like it? For starters it’s just amazing value, with the 13″ version selling for under $400 and the 11″ version selling for around $300. Judged on specs alone it might not seem like the fastest machine, but since it’s optimized for Chrome it’s surprisingly snappy in day-to-day use. It can easily handle dozens of browser tabs open while playing music or videos or running many browser extensions in the background.

Mind you, it isn’t a premium laptop. The screen has a thick bezel that looks nowhere near as sleek as a Dell XPS or Macbook screen. The standard trackpad is quite clicky and not as buttery smooth as a glass trackpad found on many ultrabooks. You also won’t look your best on Skype owing to a very low resolution webcam. But given the price, you really can’t complain. This laptop can handle most things that most people need a laptop to do, it’s affordable, and it’s incredibly easy to use.

The Acer Chromebook has a touchscreen with a 360-degree hinge, which means you can fold it up and use it like a tablet. This is great for traveling as there’s often little space on airplane tray tables or in trains and buses, yet the tablet mode lets you easily watch a video or flick through your travel guide PDFs from your lap. Both the R13 and R11 let you run Android apps (this feature is currently in Beta). The battery life is between 9 and 12 hours, which again is ideal for travel.

The R13 model is the better and faster laptop overall, but the R11 is a lot more lightweight.

You should get the R13 if you like the bigger keyboard, 2 hours more battery life, a 1080p full HD screen, and a USB-C charging port (this lets you charge the laptop from a portable power bank with a USB-C port if you’d like).

You should get the R11 instead for greater portability and a lower price. The screen is only 720p but it’s also much more comfortable to hold in tablet mode.

Top Chromebooks

Acer Chromebook R13 and R11
Excellent value and our personal top pick. Has touchscreen and Android support.
Price: $414.52
Asus Chromebook Flip 10″ and 13″
With touchscreen and Android support. Choose between tiny 10″ or full size 13″.
Price: Out of stock
Samsung Chromebook Pro
Has touchscreen and Android support, and includes a digital pen for drawing and writing.
Price: $549.99 $525.95   -4%

 

Best ultrabook laptops

Get this if: you need a high-end laptop that lets you be highly productive on the road

Typical price range: starting around $800 but up to $3000 (or starting around 700 Euro or GBP)

Ultrabooks are high-end laptops that have the best combination of power and portability. As such these lightweight laptops tend to be the favorite tool of many nomads, remote workers, photographers / videographers, and other high-end users.

Despite typically weighing about 3 pounds (1.35kg) or less, ultrabooks tend to have impressive processing power for their size. They use faster and less energy-consuming SSD storage, though it’s worth noting that this tends to have a lower capacity than laptops with HDDs. If you need to store lots of very large files, consider getting a separate external portable drive.

Most ultrabooks advertise between 6 to 12 hours of battery life, though as always expect to hit the lower end of these estimates if you put it through a lot of intensive use.

If you do a lot of video editing, image editing, or a lot of multi-tasking, then an ultrabook is almost certainly the best type of travel laptop for you. But even for regular office and internet use, you may wish to consider an ultrabook if you’re a demanding user.

Apple originally established the ultrabook category with the first Macbook Air. But this product line is no longer being updated, and the Apple Macbook Pro is more or less seen as its replacement. Apple laptops have been getting more expensive while technologically lagging behind Windows 10 ultrabooks, so this makes them less tempting than they once were. Windows 10 ultrabooks are now a better deal (OS preferences aside).

Top Pick: Dell XPS 13

Price: $794.29 view on amazon

Yes, Dell make those dull PCs you use at work. But they also happen to make one of the sexiest consumer ultrabooks around.

The screen on the XPS is gorgeous with only the thinnest of bezels around the display area. Even though it’s a 13.3 inch size screen, it fits within the typical space of a 11” laptop, making this a wonderfully space-efficient and portable device.

To make the edges so thin, the webcam did have to be placed pretty awkwardly. Instead of the usual top-middle position, it’s tucked away in the bottom-left corner, which produces some unflattering chin-heavy angles. That said, this is the only minor flaw in what is overall a wonderfully designed laptop. An aluminium casing and a carbon-fiber interior give this laptop a sturdy and durable feel, while the keyboard and glass trackpad are a joy to use.

The Dell XPS comes in many different flavors. The base configuration costs about $800 and gets you an Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, and you may find these specs more than sufficient for common uses. As a demanding user you can also choose from plenty more powerful configurations. You can also get an XPS edition with a touchscreen, though since this isn’t a convertible laptop the utility of this is debateable (if you’ll be travelling with your XPS, it’s better to go without a touchscreen and save some battery life).

The Dell XPS is one of the thinnest and fastest lightweight ultrabooks around, making it one of the best travel laptops you can buy.

Top ultrabooks

Dell XPS 13
Comes in many configurations; this is the most basic one with an Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, and 128 GB storage.
Price: $794.29
  Asus Zenbook
Perhaps not as slickly designed as the XPS, but has great capabilities for its price.
Price: Check on Amazon
  Macbook Pro
Premium priced, but its beautiful 12″ Retina display is a perfect mid-size for travel.
Price: $1,299.00 $1,238.00   -5%

 

2-in-1 convertible laptops

Typical prices: starting around $800 but up to $3000

Get this if: you like the increased flexibility and easier use for entertainment purposes

Convertible laptops can be used both as a normal laptop and as a tablet. Some of the Chromebooks mentioned earlier are also convertibles, able to essentially double as an Android tablet. To round out this guide, we should mention some Windows 10 convertibles as well.

There are times when you need a full laptop, but other times a tablet is vastly more comfortable, and now you can have both! I used to sit in airplane chairs all crunched up with my laptop in dinosaur arms position, but now I can just fold up the keyboard and hold the screen like a book. Much better.

It’s great to have a device that can easily function as ebook reader, video player, sketchpad, and more — but which can also transform into a full laptop with keyboard when needed. The only downside to convertibles is that they tend to be less powerful than regular ultrabooks, due to obvious size/design limitations. If you need to do a lot of video editing or other intensive tasks, maybe they’re not for you, but they can handle other tasks quite well.

Top Pick: Microsoft Surface Pro

Price: $999.00 $779.99   -22%  view on amazon

Microsoft’s laptop helped define the 2-in-1 convertible category, packing a ton of performance into a tiny lightweight 0.8kg / 1.7 pound device. If you’re looking for a mid-price option, then starting at about $700 it’s a great choice.

Ultra-thin and with 9 hours of battery life, it’ll easily last you through a long journey. The Surface Pro may look like just a regular tablet, yet it has a full keyboard, video out (to connect it to a monitor), USB ports, microSD card reader, up to 1TB of storage, and runs the full version of Windows 10. At 780 gram, it’s lighter than any ultrabook. The only downside is that the attachable keyboard relies on having a flat surface, so it’s not quite as easy to use casually on your lap as you would with a full laptop.

Note: the Surface is sold both with and without keyboard. If you need the keyboard, make sure it’s included!

Top convertibles

Microsoft Surface Pro
More of a tablet than a laptop, it’s one of the lightest devices.
Price: $999.00 $779.99   -22%
HP Spectre x360
One of the top Windows 10 convertibles currently available.
Price: $1,571.95

 

Note: this post contains some affiliate links. I get a small percentage fee of purchases made through them (at no extra cost to you), which helps me do more in-depth posts like these.

 

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38 comments

  1. Hamid Reply November 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

    tnx for the article
    would you plz update de prices of laptops?

    • Marek Reply November 27, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      They are automatically updated every day.

  2. Nancy Bryant Reply November 8, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Love chromebook! Been using it for years now being a traveler and an online worker at the same time. Price is just right, lightweight, great speed and functionality. Planning to get a new unit. Since it still tops the list, will stick to chromebook :)Thanks for sharing!

    • Marek Reply November 8, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      It’s crazy how much functionality you now get for your money with a Chromebook. I think it really hits the spot for many users!

  3. Liam Wright Reply October 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    I like ultra book as they are lightweight. Love the asus zenbook. If you are a traveler you must care for battery life.

  4. Ryan Biddulph Reply October 7, 2017 at 2:10 am

    Hi Marek,

    Excellent review dude.

    I am in love with my Acer Chromebook.

    Being a digital nomad for the past 6 years, I have tried a few laptops. The Chromebook beats them all, for its lightweight nature, fabulous functionality and yep, the price does not hurt either.

    Toss in its speed – no hard drive to bog things down – and if you have a halfway decent internet connection you can get so much done with this super fast, light lappy.

    Thanks for sharing Marek.

    Ryan

  5. Isaac Reply September 20, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Hey, Merek and Mathew. Great post there! I can vouch for the Chromebook when it comes to portability. Those little machines can be light yet reliable. Yes, they do not do much but who needs huge processing power and ram while travelling?

  6. Kate Reply August 23, 2017 at 9:23 am

    OK now, I need help. I have a HUGE 17 inch gaming computer (i7) and I was thinking of selling it as it is 3 kg heavy. What would you recommend? Keeping it or selling it? I am travelling around the world starting this March- going to hot and cold places(- Alaska, Patagonia,) etc. I will be working during the trip using videoconferencing tools and skype for business. So, my priority is good audio and lightweight. I can spend up to 1000 euros. (if I sell my old one the difference will be affordable)

    Thanks a lot.

    • Marek Reply September 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

      3kg is a lot! Unless you absolutely have to play games while you’re travelling, I would personally sell it and get something lighter. I’ve just updated the article above with some new recommendations, so you may wish to give it another read. On a budget of 1000 euros, an XPS would be pretty great. It doesn’t have a dedicated GPU though so it’s pretty useless for gaming (unless it’s 2D games or very basic 3D games).

  7. Mike Lee Reply August 22, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Perfect post since I am looking for a nice laptop to buy. Although I always like Chromebooks from the point of view of travel, the new 2-in-1s that are in the market are really attractive and quite user friendly too. I was leaning towards the Yoga but will check out the Surface Pro after reading your recommendations. Thanks

  8. Alison Reply July 27, 2017 at 5:38 am

    My roommate and I will be traveling around the world for a year. Going from trouist destinations to rugged not well known spots. I’m buying a high quality camera for excellent photo quality and video. We’ll also be wearing Go Pros most of the time. I’m needing a computer that can survive my trip of freezing temperatures to treks across a desert. But it has to be able to offer an app or application that allows for video and picture editing and creating a movie. Any recommendations would be highly welcomed and very much appreciated. Price is not an issue.

    • Marek Reply July 29, 2017 at 11:18 am

      How hot will those deserts be and what kind of freezing temperatures? Extremely low temperatures can affect battery charge and the liquid in an LCD display can even freeze, and at very high temperatures the CPU on an average laptop can easily overheat. It’s not a topic I have honestly done much research into myself as I’ve travelled in non-extreme environments, but you may wish to search around for ‘hardened’ or ‘rugged’ laptops.

  9. Jessica Reply May 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Hi
    I am looking for general travel equipment list which will allow me to manage a blog (including editing films etc). So a good laptop but also if you have any advice on best cameras for shooting film while on the road and taking images that would be amazing. Any other advice such as chargers, portable drives and so on would also be appreciated. In short what would your recommended perfect digital blogger tool kit be for working on the road. Thanks Jessica

    • Marek Reply May 19, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Hmm, maybe the gear list is something I should cover in a separate blog post. For serious work and editing video, I would highly recommend a high-end laptop such as Surface Pro 4, latest Macbook Air, or Dell XPS 13. I’d pair it with a 2TB portable drive, like the ones by Western Digital or Seagate, to ensure you have plenty of space to save raw footage.

  10. David Meyer Reply April 27, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m looking for a light-weight laptop to work on the go, basically for writing blog posts, e-mails, social media and Youtube. I’m interested in buying MacBook Air but I think I should go for Chromebook for my needs. What would you suggest?

    • Marek Reply April 27, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      It all depends on your budget! Chromebook is fine for such basic tasks. I love ultrabooks as they have a better screen, keyboard, processor, etc. and can do so much more – but it also costs more. 🙂

  11. Jephiter Reply April 10, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Bottomline for finding a travel laptop is that it must be lighter and efficient energy saver. This will reduce your load while traveling.

    Thanks for the article.

  12. Gary O Reply February 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    When I was looking for a new high-end laptop I almost went for Dell XPS 13 last year. But it was a bit too pricey so “settled” for another model, ASUS ZenBook UX305CA. It’s great as well.
    Gary O recently posted…Lenovo Yoga 710 80V4000GUS Notebook ReviewMy Profile

  13. Sara Reply August 22, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Hi,

    I am just starting college and want something that will satisfy both my “college needs” and my blogging. I am especially looking for something lightweight, with a good processor (i5 or i7) and good memory. I also have a £650-ish budget… I would like a new laptop but I am willing to try a second hand laptop. Could you, please, either recommend some good laptops brands or advise me where I can find a reliable source selling second hand laptops?

    Thank you!

  14. Daniel Reply August 15, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Hi there,
    I am planning on going on a trip to china, Australia and Hawaii for a total of 10 months (a gap year). I also still have one year of high school to finish and will need a laptop for that do you guys have any recommendation for a good lightweight travel laptop with lots of battery that I can also use for my last year of high school before I leave. My budget is around 500-600 euro’s I live in the Netherlands so preferably a non american site so I dont have to worry about shipping and electricity issues with the laptop. I prefer a windows computer however would it be smarter to buy a cheaper chromebook?
    thank you for any information

    • Korinna Reply August 16, 2016 at 6:40 am

      Hey Daniel,
      you can also try to go for a more expensive laptop (with a good quality) and then go for a used one. In this way, I just recently got a used Macbook Air for only 500€!
      Think about it 🙂
      Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
      Korinna recently posted…Rwandese Traditional MusicMy Profile

  15. Elizabeth Reply August 13, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Hi there, thanks for this informative post. I’m going to Africa and need to something light weight and simple. Do you think the chrome book would be a good fit ? I will mainly be blogging, using Facebook and email.

    • Marek Reply August 14, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Yeah a chromebook is great for that – lightweight and simple 🙂

  16. Korinna Reply June 27, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Hey Marek,
    nice compilation! Never heard of Chromebooks before but the concept sounds quite interesting. I will go on a 6-months trip soon and I’m looking for an ultralight laptop that I can take with me. I’ll need it for working on my blog and for simple image editing. Not more, not less. I will bring an external hardware anyway. Should I give it a try or you’d say for image editing better go for an ultrabook?
    Thanks in advance!
    Korinna recently posted…Which food you need to try when you come to Hong KongMy Profile

    • Marek Reply June 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      For simple stuff, like adjusting contrast/brightness, cropping, etc. a Chromebook can be just fine (Chrome OS has a very basic image editor included and you can find apps for it too). For anything more serious I’d be more inclined to recommend an ultrabook. There’s a big price difference obviously so if budget is a concern, a chromebook can be a great option.

      • Korinna Reply June 27, 2016 at 10:44 pm

        Thank you very much for the quick reply! I will have a look at the app store to see what is available there.
        In general I wanted to dedicate my 6-months trip to improve my photography skills, especially to switch to the RAW format. I guess there won’t be s possibility for that on a Chromebook?

  17. [email protected] Bharat Reply June 27, 2016 at 6:25 am

    Wow there no cheap laptop where i can edit my youtube videos? I’m going to Thailand & Philippines very soon on a budget & just wishing 11.6 Inch Acer Aspire Chromebook could edit videos…

  18. Rai Reply June 26, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Marek! As a student, I own a Macbook Pro 13″. I’m planning on travelling around the world after my graduation. Would it be okay to travel with that or should I switch to Air while I still can? Haha.

    • Marek Reply June 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      There’s nothing wrong per se with a Macbook Pro if you already own one. Though if I were buying a laptop specifically for travel, I’d easily go for the Air, as it means about 800 gr less weight. Whether you want to switch depends on how important you feel this is. For me, travelling light is super important, especially on a long term trip. If you could still sell your laptop second hand and maybe put in a bit of extra money for an Air, it could be worth it. 🙂

      • Korinna Reply June 27, 2016 at 10:36 pm

        Hey Rai,
        I recently took my Macbook Pro 13″ on a 10-days backpacking trip, I can tell you that thing was a pain in the ass.. if you are able to change, do it 🙂 I mean of course it depends on the kind of travelling you do: will you have to walk a lot with your backpack? How long is your trip?
        Good luck with your decision anyway 🙂

        • Hapa Reply September 19, 2016 at 10:44 pm

          It would help if you explained how the MacbookPro13 was a pain in the ass for you.
          I, personally, think Macs are a pain in the ass overall, but others would benefit from an explanation.

  19. carlos sims Reply June 2, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Wow there no cheap laptop where i can edit my youtube videos? I’m going to Thailand & Philippines very soon on a budget & just wishing 11.6 Inch Acer Aspire Chromebook could edit videos…

    The main thing be doing on internet is uploaded pictures on facebook & replying to messages, emails, watching videos, movies, surfing the internet. I don’t see why i can’t upload pictures & videos (Edit videos to) on 11.6 Inch Acer Aspire Chromebook
    ?

    • Marek Reply June 2, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Uploading pictures or videos works fine on this type of laptop. There are some (very basic) video editing apps for Chrome OS as well, so you can edit video on them if you want. I just wouldn’t strongly recommend it as it’s slow and cumbersome on this type of device. I suppose it depends on what you mean with ‘edit videos’ though. If it’s just selecting a part from a video and exporting it to youtube, that’s much more doable than having a big timeline full of shots with lots of transitions and effects. Rendering will be very slow in that case and there are no programs like Adobe Premiere or GoPro Studio that let you do more sophisticated video editing on a Chromebook.

      • carlos sims Reply June 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        I can only imagine it taking 2 hours to upload a video to youtube on this computer but it ok. Sorry to ask this dumb question but what do you mean by cumbersome? lol.

        By edit i mean just delete some parts in my video (That i mess up on) & then uploaded it to youtube. That all i’ll be doing.

        • Marek Reply June 3, 2016 at 6:47 pm

          Yeah for simple edits like that, it might be just fine. The computer just might take long to save the file after you’ve edited it. Uploading can take long but this depends on the WiFi, so it’ll be the same no matter what laptop you use 🙂 Cumbersome means inefficient/complicated

          • carlos sims June 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm

            Yea i’ll be edit my videos in Thailand & Philippines but i hear the wifi is good in those country, but not great like here in USA but as long as it upload than that be ok even if it takes hours, maybe i be out & about or on beach or something…

            How well these the wifi work for you in Thailand & Philippines?

  20. Gabi Reply April 20, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Great way of start thinking what the f. should I buy!!! Thanks a lot for doing part of my homework!!
    Gabi recently posted…que no se muestreMy Profile

  21. Linda Reply March 31, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Wow!, this post couldn´t be more perfect. I am in a huge need of a new laptop but still haven´t decided for which one to go. Great help!

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