What do you look for when you buy a computer? I’m pretty picky about what makes the best travel laptop. I’ve bought and traveled with several computers over the last few years, returned most of them, and reviewed some others for this site (scroll to the end for a review of a new Intel 2in1 laptop). I’ve learned a lot about what makes a good travel computer and wanted to share my best tips for how to choose a laptop–the holiday season is the best time of year to buy electronics because so many different devices are on sale!
Are you looking to buy a new computer for yourself or someone else this year? If so, here are some tips for buying the best travel laptop. If not, pin this post to save it for later.
- Size/Weight: I think laptop sizes of 11″ or 13″ are perfect for a travel computer–this size is a good balance of viewable screen size and light weight. 10″ or smaller computers and tablets can work if you’ll just be doing quick things like checking in on social media, but if you plan to do work on it or use it for more than a few minutes at a time, you’ll want to get something with a larger screen and keyboard. Laptops with very large screens (15″+) are heavy and best left home on the desk unless you really need the screen space.
- Processor Speed: For most basic uses (email, web, social media, streaming video), any modern computer processor will work. If you are doing serious photo or video editing or playing video games, you’ll need something that’s strong enough to run more resource-intensive applications.
- RAM/Memory: If you are just doing a few basic things like checking email or social media on the web, go for 4GB of RAM. If you are doing anything more serious like photo editing, etc. go with 8GB of RAM.
- Hard Drive: One of the most important reasons to have a computer with you on vacation is so you can use it to back up your photos. Even if you usually save your photos to a cloud storage service (Dropbox, iCloud, Google, etc), it’s good to have a computer with you to upload photo and files to it, especially if your hotel wifi goes down, etc. The size of the drive you need varies, but for most short trips 150GB (with at least 60GB free) higher hard drive is probably fine. If it’s your only computer, you’ll want a computer with a larger hard drive.
- Flexibility: Lots of laptops today are convertible–the screen rotates 360 degrees and you can fold it into various forms, to use it as a tablet, tent, or stand mode. This is a great feature for travelers because you can use it differently in different situations (tablet mode on a plane, stand mode for streaming movies, etc).
- Durability: Travel is really hard on computers. A strong, metallic build is better than a flimsy plastic shell that can crack. If you can, go into an electronics store to check out the device before you buy it to see how it feels.
- Battery life: It’s not always easy to keep it plugged in when you are out and about. Look for a laptop with a long battery life.
- Other Useful Features: Does the computer have a webcam for using Skype? An SD card slot so you can plug in your memory card? Enough USB ports? Backlit keyboard for typing in the dark? Is the keyboard big enough with a traditional layout–some small and budget laptop keyboards are cramped and modified, such that they are difficult to type on.
Travel Laptop Review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000
For the last few months, I’ve been testing out the Intel 2in1 Dell Inspiron 13 7000, and it has a lot of the features I look for when buying a travel laptop. It has a 13″ screen and full-size keyboard that’s easy to type on. It has a lighting fast SSD hard drive. At 128 GB, it’s smaller than other traditional computers I’ve used, but it has enough space to backup my photos and video files on a two-week trip. It has an Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM, which makes it strong enough to edit photos or video in Lightroom, Photoshop, or my GoPro software. It’s not the lightest computer I’ve used, but its one of the thinnest and it has a very sturdy build. The convertible 2 in 1 orientation is perfect for travel–I can use it like a tablet for browsing social media…
… stand mode which is good for streaming movies or using Skype.
It’s a solid travel laptop for anyone that works on the road, and a good price–and right now it starts at $650, a few hundred dollars less than I would expect to pay for such a powerful device.
What do you look for when you’re buying a computer?
#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.