The Best Travel Laptops to buy in 2018 – Buying Guide and Reviews

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The Best Travel Laptops to buy in 2018 – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Are you looking to buy a new portable travel laptop in 2018? If the answer is yes you have come to the right place. At Top 10 Travel our team of experts have spent hours reviewing the best laptops that are perfect for your next vacation or business trip.

Our Current Favorites

Don’t have time to read our in-depth article? The following are what we believe are the best Laptops in each of the main categories.

When setting out on a recent European vacation I decided it was about time I updated my trusty (extremely bulky) laptop. Since I bought my laptop in 2013 there had been so many improvements in the tech specs and quality of the laptops that are available. The team at Top 10 Travel spent over 50 hours reviewing a wide range of Laptops, Chromebooks and hybrid’s for some of the world’s biggest computer brands. We understand that not everyone has the time to spend on this kind of research so we decided to create a comparison table and buyers guide of the best portable travel laptops in 2018.

Comparison of the Best Travel Laptops

The following is a comparison of the 10 best travel laptops from different brands and using different operating systems. This list will help you identify which machines have the best specifications and which offer the best value. Once you have decided which laptop is perfect for your family vacation, holiday or business trip then you can purchase it for a great price at one of our partner online stores.
For more information on what to look for when buying a laptop for travel please read our in-depth buyers guide below, this will include information on price, weight and tech specs like CPU, storage and memory.

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Dell XPS 13 – Best Overall Travel Laptop 2018

Dell’s long-running XPS line of laptops has been appreciated by general users and the tech press for some time, and the new 2018 model has gotten lots of love as well.

Instead of focusing on having a single standout feature, the Dell XPS 13 seeks to achieve greatness through powerful performance across the board. Its Intel i7 processor is more than powerful enough for everyday applications, and even multiple tabs of web browsing while other programs are running.

There are some more glamorous features, such as the optional 4K display. Though this puts a bit of a dent in the battery life and will cost you more up front, the crisp visuals are stunning. In addition, the computer itself simply looks beautiful.

As with anything, there are a few drawbacks. Its battery life, though very good, is not in any way exceptional. With the 4K screen, it can comfortably run from 7-8 hours on a single charge: great for a day’s work, but maybe not a long flight. Without the 4K screen, the battery lasts quite a bit longer.

What makes this laptop so great for travel is the small size its designers achieved without sacrificing any important features. The 13” screen fits neatly into the same frame that was used for 11” models just a year or two ago, and the overall weight is very low—meaning that this laptop retains all the functionality and style you expect from this line while fitting comfortably into any carry on or overnight bag. The Dell XPS 13 inch is a great option for your next vacation or business trip and you can find a great bargain online at Amazon.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – Best Hybrid Travel Tablet and Laptop 2018

Since its initial launch, the Microsoft Surface line has made quite a splash. Its new iteration is no exception to this rule!

While the Surface started its life simply as a tablet, there are a wide variety of Surface options available now, some with fully integrated keyboards. The Surface Pro 4 is designed to function in 3 distinct modes:

  • Laptop Mode, which makes use of the integrated kickstand and the separate keyboard cover, is designed for full laptop-style functionality
  • Studio Mode, with a lowered kickstand and the separately available redeveloped stylus, for design and artistic purposes
  • Tablet Mode, where the device functions as a Windows tablet, albeit one with an ultra-fast Intel processor

The wide variety of options makes this appealing for those who both work and play on their computers, as well as for families or couples who plan to share a travel laptop. One of the biggest advantages of the device is how customizable it is for virtually any application.

Of course, the drawback is that many of the key features, such as the keyboard cover and the much-beloved stylus, are available as separate purchases. Building a package with exactly what you want can cost more if you want everything, but can actually save you money if you tailor your package to exactly what you want. You can get a few different spec versions of the Surface Pro 4 online at Amazon 

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Lenovo Yoga 920

Lenovo is one of the most respected names in high-end laptops for both serious work and plenty of play, and their Yoga series has been renowned as a travel laptop since its inception.

Powered by an 8th generation Intel i7 CPU, the machine has some serious processing speed. In addition, it is incredibly lightweight and easily convertible from laptop to tablet and back again. However, one of the prime features may be one that isn’t as quantifiable: how comfortable it is to use.

When you’re on the road or on a flight, comfort is key—and it’s sometimes difficult to come by. The Lenovo Yoga 920 provides comfort in abundance, and is also designed with aesthetics in mind. Its metal design, while looking nice, also provides a more important feature: greatly enhanced durability, which is highly important for travel. All that metal does attract fingerprints a bit more than plastic, though!

In addition to the great features of the base model, there’s also an optional 4K screen, and in addition to stylus—which is quickly becoming legendary in the tech world for seamlessly reproducing the feeling of writing on paper—is much more affordable than many similar devices.

The speakers in this laptop, made by JBL audio, are also of a much higher quality than those you’ll find integrated into most travel laptops. That being said, they are sometimes muffled by the keyboard, depending on which configuration you currently have the device in. They work best in Tent mode, which is ideal for viewing movies.

All in all, this is an excellent device bringing together the best of tablets and laptops for both work and play, and is exceptionally durable. While the optional features don’t cost as much, the high quality of the base model does result in a higher price that may be off-putting to some travelers. You can get a great bargain on the Lenovo Yoga 920 online at Amazon

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Asus ZenBook – Best Business Travel Laptop 2018

The Asus Zenbook is one of the flashier laptops I’ve reviewed recently, with an eye-catching design. What shines most about it, though, is its incredibly small size. This travel laptop seeks to be truly revolutionary by being as portable as possible.

It’s not just about portability, though. The design incorporates several features that make it perform, such as a fully metal chassis for increased durability and plenty of power in an Intel i7 processor. This is a 7th generation i7, though, meaning it does not harness all the power of the ultra-new 8th generation, which is still somewhat rare in all but the very highest-end laptops.

The machine has decent battery life, but is not exceptional on this front. The 7th generation processor technology has a bit to do with this—while you won’t notice a significant performance lag when running multiple programs or browsing in multiple tabs, this does drain the battery life because of the additional processing power required.

That being said, Asus has offset the problems of a slightly shorter battery life with a unique fast charging capability that gets the laptop back up and running quite quickly after its battery is drained.

All in all, the high across-the-board performance of this device from respected manufacturer Asus, along with the aesthetically pleasing, durable, and ultra-light design, makes this laptop a winner in my book. Check out the latest prices and the full range of Asus Zenbook’s online at Amazon.

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Google Pixelbook – Best Chromebook Travel Laptop 2018

The Pixelbook, manufactured and sold directly by Google, seeks to be the highest-end Chromebook around. While Chromebooks were seen primarily as a budget choice only when they were first launched, improvements in the OS quickly allowed for premium Chromebooks a bit of market share.

The Pixelbook’s incorporation of a stylus (which, unfortunately, you’ll have to purchase separately) is its biggest feature, taking it to a place where it can compete with Apple’s Pencil and the best convertible Windows laptops. However, the Pixelbook is not cheap, running in the same price range as premium Windows and Apple OS convertible laptops.

However, the device incorporates several other key features, such as easily accessible and usable voice and text search with Google Assistant. You can activate this either with the now familiar “Hello, Google!” or an integrated Google Assistant button on the keyboard.

The device also features full access to the Google Store, meaning that all the same Google apps downloadable on tablets or phones can be accessed directly on this premium travel laptop. In laptop mode, the apps can be run separately and move around the screen like windows on a Microsoft or Apple computer, but in tablet mode the apps can only run in full screen.

The ultra-responsive touchscreen is another key feature, that makes the experience of using this laptop quite similar to using an Android tablet or phone—though it can do a whole lot more with its i7 processor and higher RAM.

As with all Chromebooks, offline functionality is more limited, but this has improved somewhat with the release of Google Store accessibility. With constant improvements to Google Drive and the search engine giant’s suite of productivity and office apps, this device is great for both work and play.

While the Google Pixelbook’s high price tag may put off some travelers who previously saw Chromebooks as a budget choice, there are several key features here that make this fully convertible laptop/tablet great for work and play on the go. In addition, its metal construction greatly enhances durability, yet also keeps weight and size down for easy portability. You can pickup the latest Google Pixelbook Travel Laptop online at Amazon.

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Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible – Best Affordable Travel Laptop 2018

Acer, a manufacturer known for its Chromebooks (computers running the web-based Google Chrome operating system), recently unveiled one of the first fully convertible touchscreen Chromebooks. Feedback from critics and users has been great so far, but how does it function as a travel laptop?

Ultimately, your opinion on the R 13 will come down to your opinion of the Chrome operating system. While Apple OS and Windows essentially do the same things in different ways, and programs are largely compatible with both, the Chrome operating system utilizes web-based apps and runs quite a bit differently.

Some love the Chrome operating system for its simplicity, elegance, and constant connectivity. Others don’t like it as much and find its limitations in terms of software annoying.

In terms of hardware, the R 13 is quite impressive. In addition to its full convertible construction, and highly responsive touchscreen, it offers solid storage and processing times. Particularly impressive is its long battery life. Though it doesn’t offer as much multitasking power as the models sporting an i7 processor, especially the newest 8th generation i7 processors, its 11+ hours of run time mean that you can get plenty of work done (or watch several of the latest movies on a flight).

At a much lower than average price point, the Acer Chromebook R 13 is a great way to get a lot of the key features of travel laptops on a smaller budget.

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Apple 13” MacBook Air

The latest rendition of Apple’s ultra-popular MacBook Air laptops looks resplendent in its 13” iteration. Like the Dell XPS, the 13” screen on the newest MacBook air fits into a much smaller and lighter housing than was previously available even for a series of laptops designed exclusively for maximum portability—meaning that this Air is more portable than ever before.

Its inclusion of the latest processors and high RAM makes it just as functional as it is portable, and its classic MacBook housing is as durable and aesthetically pleasing as ever.

As with a good number of Apple products, the high price tag is the main drawback, with the base model of the 13” air running almost as much as the biggest packages available even for other premium laptop models.

However, that high price tag brings not only the hardware advantages inherent in this latest generation of the already renowned MacBook Air series, but all the connectivity features that make the Apple OS system so enticing to such a wide number of people.

If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, the integration of phone and tablet with your laptop are even more pronounced. While this feature existed on previous iterations of the MacBook Air, it is enhanced in the latest generation.

For getting serious work done on the go, while not worrying about concerns like weight and durability, the Apple 13” MacBook Air is one of the top options on the market. That being said, it is best for those who are already familiar with Apple’s OS or who use other Apple products, as this is when it brings the biggest advantages to users. Check out the latest prices on the flagship Macbook Air from Apple online at Amazon.

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HP Spectre X360 13

The HP Spectre has long been one of the top players in the laptop world, especially in terms of Windows computers. The newest iteration of the flagship 13” model is no exception to this rule.

It seamlessly improves on previous generations of Spectre innovation without changing too many of the features that users already know and love. Its improved processors and availability with very high RAM keep it running very quickly even when multitasking, and its storage space is often considered phenomenal even when compared with other premium options.

In addition, the latest generation of the Spectre is lighter and more durable than ever, which is saying something considering that the entire line was designed with travel in mind. On top of that, the X360 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing laptops around, sleek without being too flashy.

The real shocker, though, is that the latest iteration of the HP Spectre X360 is widely regarded as the thinnest laptop in the world!

However, there is a tradeoff. For some users, this won’t matter a bit, while it will be an absolute deal breaker for others: the Spectre X360 is not available with a touchscreen. Before buying this laptop, ask yourself how much you will really use the touchscreen. If the answer is not much at all, and you want a very premium laptop experience, the Spectre may just be the best possible choice for you.

The pricetag, as with all premium models, is fairly high, and the best features like enhanced RAM will cost you a bit more. The maximum portability, though, is more than valuable for many users who choose to go with the Spectre. While the lack of a touchscreen is a big deal to some users, the amount of work and play you can do on this machine is often truly breathtaking. You can find great bargains online with Amazon.

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Asus Chromebook Flip

Asus is one of the most respected laptop brands around, and they bring their well-known panache to the world of convertible Chromebooks designed with maximum productivity on the move in mind with the Asus Chromebook Flip.

The big advantage that this device has over many similar offerings is its ultra-sleek yet highly durable design. In addition to their high standards for hardware, Asus has long been known for designing incredibly durable machines.

In addition, Asus’ Chromebook is truly fully convertible, while many other manufacturers simply slap a touchscreen on a laptop and call it convertible. This device functions perfectly in tablet, laptop, and tent modes, and has a powerful enough processor for true multitasking. This feature makes it perfect for all types of travel.

The biggest downside is the keyboard—not that it’s badly made, simply that it’s so small. However, it’s something you’ll get used to over time, and when you consider how easy it is to toss the Flip into any bag for a quick getaway, you can see the inherent value in this trade-off.

While not one of the most budget friendly choices in the world, the Asus Chromebook provides a lot of quality that other Chromebooks lack without the absurdly high prices of some premium laptops. This is one of the best ways to save money while still retaining high functionality and premium features, if you decide that the Chrome OS is for you. View the latest prices on the Asus Chromebook Flip online at Amazon.

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Apple 12” Macbook

Apple’s latest series of standard MacBooks packs in plenty of functionality. While not as incredibly lightweight as the latest Air models, the MacBook does offer some other advantages—most notably its increased storage space. Additionally, the weight and size difference can be mitigated simply by buying a version with a smaller screen, such as this 12” model.

This is one of the most powerful multitasking machines I’ve ever reviewed with its 8th generation Core i5 and i7 processors, and on top of that it has all the seamless operation and media readiness that you expect from Apple. That being said, the price for Apple machines is always a bit higher.

However, this is one of the top choices when it comes to truly getting work done on the road, and the increased durability and next generation hardware mean that your investment will stay protected and relevant for quite a long time to come. Buy now online at Amazon.

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Travel Laptop Buyers Guide

Buying a laptop for travel is no easy task. The ideal machine is highly functional and highly portable, and durability is a major factor as well. Then come the personal preferences: operating systems and functionality and features designed for certain tasks.

Deeply understanding what goes into travel laptops and how to use their most important features is the best way to determine exactly what you individually require in a laptop.

Operating System (OS)

Best Travel Laptops - Operating Systems Windows Android Mac

The operating system is the major piece of software that determines how the computer’s user interface—essentially, everything you see and manipulate on-screen—functions, feels, and looks.

Like a lot of things in the world of computers, you’ll see these terms abbreviated a lot. User interface is often expressed as UI, and the operating system is often referred to as a computer’s OS. This can get a bit confusing, because Apple’s operating system is also often called OS, though this is a shortened form of Apple OS or Mac OS.

Essentially, there are three major operating systems that come pre-installed on computers: Windows, Apple OS (also known as Mac OS or simply OS), and the Chromebook’s unique OS. These are further available in multiple versions, but all of the laptops reviewed in this article come with the newest version of their operating system. I don’t recommend buying an old OS—key security and functionality features will be critically out of date.

There’s plenty of debate out there about which operating system is best, but the truth is that it comes down to personal preference. While brand loyalty is a big thing in the computer market, I prefer to look at specific products instead of brands, as this is the way to get the best product for you.

When it comes to choosing the OS that works for you, I recommend sticking to what you know.

Weight and Size

Weight and size are two of the biggest considerations when it comes to buying a travel laptop. Obviously, you want something small enough to easily pack, but a larger screen does have its benefits, such as the ability to multitask and to see images and text in greater levels of detail more easily.

There are plenty of laptops out there with huge screens and high-end graphics cards made with very visual applications, such as gaming and graphic design, in mind. Unless you’re a huge gamer or a professional designer, you probably don’t need a screen like this—or the added expense of the graphics components inside—for travel. Microsoft Word and Netflix still look great on a slightly smaller screen.

CPU

Many tech writers and thinkers refer to the CPU (short for Central Processing Unit) as the computer’s “brain.” It’s also helpful to think of the CPU as a movie director—while the other components, from RAM to graphics cards, all have an important role to play, the CPU is what controls and commands them all, and lets them function together to make your computer work.

The CPU is one of the biggest things that will determine your computer’s speed. Luckily, more powerful CPUs don’t add much weight to a computer—but they can make a computer quite a bit more expensive.

Hard Drive and RAM

Along with the CPU, the hard drive and RAM capacity will be two of the key specs you should consider when buying a travel laptop. Though both measured in gigabytes, which is a measurement of storage space, they perform very different functions. Let’s look at each in turn.

Hard Drive Capacity

The hard drive is essentially the computer’s long-term memory. This is where files and applications are stored, and where they can be accessed for use or viewing. Hard drive capacity is often abbreviated as HDD, for Hard Disk Drive.

Most hard drives have more space than average users will ever need. For example, 500 gigabytes to 1 terabyte (equivalent of 1,000 gibabytes) is fairly common. However, if you are going to store a lot of photos, movies, or games directly on your computer, high storage is a must.

There is another sort of storage I’ll also talk about. Often called an SSD, a Solid State Disk is not technically speaking a hard drive, but it fills the exact same role. Solid state drives often have lower overall storage capacity, but are much faster—meaning that your computer starts up more quickly, and files open more quickly as well.

RAM

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is like the short-term memory of a computer. This is where bits of files and code are stored temporarily to allow virtually instant access. While it doesn’t affect your computer’s storage capacity, more RAM means your computer will run more quickly, because the computer can temporarily store bits of code in order to immediately recall them.

Travel laptops are often stocked with anywhere from 2 to 8 gigabytes of RAM. Lower RAM is perfectly serviceable for applications such as web browsing and typing, but dealing with large amounts of data, playing games, viewing photos and video, and running multiple programs at the same time will require more RAM to keep your computer running as quickly and smoothly as possible.

To Touch or Not to Touch?

Touchscreens are more and more popular these days. While indispensable for smartphones and tablets, touchscreens are often seen as more of a bonus option when it comes to laptops.

Some see touchscreens as absolutely essential to the work and play they do on the computer while traveling, while some others think of them merely as a fad or gimmick. In my opinion, it comes down to both personal preference and the type of work you’re doing.

For example, if you do art, design, or photo manipulation for work or pleasure, you may find intuitive touchscreen controls to be easier to use than the mousepad and keyboard. If, on the other hand, you’ll mostly be typing emails, the touchscreen may not be a necessary feature for you.

Of course, simply having a touchscreen isn’t a bad thing, even if you don’t use it—but touchscreens do usually drive up the cost of the computer overall.

Conclusion: Finding the Right Travel Laptop for You Personally

Understanding how all these specs balance each other is important when choosing which travel laptop model you want, and then choosing which package you want from that model’s likely very wide variety of options.

The best way to do this is by trying out different laptop OSes and  reading up on what different storage and performance specs really mean for you. It’s also worth going and trying laptops out in the store, though you can usually find much better prices online!

All in all, when looking to purchase a travel laptop, you need to focus on your wants and needs rather than what’s trendy or what seems like the best across the board. For example, if you’re only going to use your computer for web browsing and Microsoft Word, you can likely go with a budget option without noting a performance difference. A gamer or designer, though, might really need the highest-end option available.

I hope this buying guide has helped you find the right travel laptop for you. Thanks as always for reading!

Husband and Dad of 2 Richard is the founder of Top 10 Travel and loves everything travel related. Born in the UK and now living in Australia he has trekked Annapurna and parts of Western China and also spent time in Europe. As a family they have traveled to the USA several times, Canada, Europe and China. Next Stop is Iceland in September 2018.

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