Working remotely is becoming an increasingly popular trend, with many people taking their laptops along with them on short trips, or on more permanent nomadic adventures. Here are my personal recommendations on the best travel laptops for digital nomads in 2021.
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I traveled for 5 years with my beloved Lenovo Yoga 3 – until it had an unfortunate accident involving gravity and an unforgiving tiled floor in Mexico. My search began for a replacement. The Yoga range seemed to be bigger, bulkier, and not as budget-friendly as they used to be, so I decided to look further afield.
The Macbook Air M1 ended up being the winner for me, because of its excellent performance and long battery life – both of which are important when you’re permanently working and traveling.
The other laptops on this list don’t disappoint (especially the Dell which would have been my second choice). If you’re looking for a laptop that meets your needs for remote work – read on.
Things to think about when buying a laptop as a digital nomad
Some people believe that there’s no need to take the weight of a laptop with you while traveling. But while tablets and smartphones can make up for a lot of things, they can never match up to the comfort of a laptop. And if you’re like me and spend long hours in front of your laptop, you’ll need a bigger screen and a full size keyboard to work comfortably.
Picking the right laptop involves a significant amount of effort. It’s a serious investment, and you’ll be using and traveling with it for years (hopefully!). So you need to consider many factors, including weight and size, screen display, performance, battery life, connectivity, and price. This can seem overwhelming with all the choices out there, but you need to keep them in mind.
You also need to consider how long you’ll be working at your computer each day, and the type of work you do. Different remote travel jobs will require specific needs in terms of your laptop’s graphics, speed, sound, and overall performance.
THE BEST TRAVEL LAPTOPS FOR DIGITAL NOMADS
Macbook Air M1 2020 (best travel laptop for Mac OS)
With this model, Apple makes the shift from generic Intel chips to using their own custom-made M1 chip. This has enhanced its performance speed and increased its battery life up to 18 hours, which is massive. The laptop is fanless and completely silent, but still remains cool – even under pressure (unlike myself).
My M1 survived 3 months in the serious tropical heat of Costa Rica with no overheating problems at all.
This laptop weighs under 3 pounds, so carrying it around is easy. It comes with 8 GB of RAM that you can configure if you need to. The screen measures 13 inches and has a clear-cut Retina display which is gorgeous.
Early users of the first gen model have found that third-party USB hubs may cause problems with the logic board – but the latest Big Sur software updates seem to have fixed this issue. Apart from that, this is an amazing laptop for travel purposes that is incredibly popular with digital nomads and Apple fans alike.
- Great performance
- Long battery life
- High-resolution display
- Limited ports require an external USB hub if you want to plug in extra devices or an external hard drive
- Camera gives grainy images
Dimensions : 11.97″ x 8.36″ x 0.63″ /304 x 212 x 16 mm
Weight: 2.8lbs (1.4kg)
Display: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display, 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors, 16:10 aspect ratio
Storage: Up to 2 TB PCle-based SSD
RAM: 8 GB of 3733MHz LPDDR4X (configurable up to 16 GB)
Processor: System on Chip (SoC) Apple M1 chip; 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores; 16-core Neural Engine
Graphics and video support: Apple 8-core GPU
Audio: Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos playback
Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for: charging, DisplayPort Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40 Gbps), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)
Battery life: Up to 10 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11ax Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible, Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
Touch ID: Fingerprint sensor
Color range: Space gray, gold, silver
In the box: 13-inch MacBook Pro, 61W USB-C adapter, USB-C charge cable (2 meter)
If you need a bigger screen, or more power – the MacBook Pro M1 is also a great option if you’re a digital nomad
Dell XPS 13 (best travel laptop for Windows OS)
The Dell XPS 13 comes with a 13.3 inch screen and has fantastic battery life of up to 19 hours. It has a sleek, modern design, and one detail I absolutely loved is the use of tiny lights on the side of the laptop to show how much charge is remaining.
This laptop is compact, has a slim, tapering body, and weighs only about 2.7 pounds. It’s the perfect choice for travel and the outdoors. One full charge could last you for days.
The Dell XPS 13 has a solid and accurate keyboard that provides a smooth typing experience. The trackpad is also a breeze to use and is definitely among the more reliable ones in the market today.
I was disappointed that the laptop doesn’t have any traditional USB ports and is only compatible with type C USB, which means you’ll need an additional dongle to plug in your other peripheral gear.
That said, Dell’s XPS 13 remains one of the best laptops for remote work. If you go to any cafe or coworking space in the world, you’ll see a lot of people working on one of these Dells.
- Lightweight and compact
- Great battery life
- Reliable keypad
- Only compatible with type C USB
- 1.6 GHz processor might slow down some apps
Dimensions: 0.62″ x 11.9″ x 7.8″
Weight: 2.6 lb (1.16 kg)
Display: 13.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge non-touch display
Storage: 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid state drive
RAM: 8GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x memory onboard
Processor: 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 processor (8MB Cache, up to 4.2 GHz)
Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
Graphics and video support: Intel® Iris Xe Graphics
Audio: Realtek ALC3246 with Waves MaxxAudio
Ports: Speaker, MicroSD, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C™ ports, headset jack, wedge-shaped lock slot, 2x Thunderbolt™ 4 (DisplayPort/PowerDelivery), HD camera, battery indicator
Battery life: 12 hours 39 minutes of battery life
Connectivity: Killer™ Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2 x 2) and Bluetooth 5.1
Touch ID: Fingerprint reader and voice activation
Energy efficient: the XPS 13 is Energy Star® certified.
Lenovo Flex 5 14″ (best budget travel laptop)
While this might not be as great as the other Lenovo laptop on this list, it might be just what you’re looking for. It’s one of the best laptops for remote work if you’re on a budget or don’t need anything too flashy or high-spec. It has a well-built and attractive 2-in-1 design that allows you to use it as a tablet, which is super convenient, especially when you’re watching movies on flights. The 360 degree hinge technology lets you work seamlessly at any angle.
With 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB storage space, the Lenovo Flex 5 14 seems to offer better specs than other laptops priced in the higher brackets. The AMD Ryzen 5 4500U mobile processor gives it a good performance capability. The 14 inch display offers high-resolution clarity.
At 3.8 pounds, it’s a little heavier than other laptops, but the Lenovo Flex 5 14 still remains one of the best travel laptops for remote work at this price.
- Lots of ports
- Good performance
- Slightly heavier than other travel laptops
- Screen might appear dim in bright light
Dimensions: ( H x W x D) 321.5mm x 217.5mm x 17.9-20.8mm / 12.65″ x 8.56″ x 0.7-0.82″
Weight: Starting at 3.31 lbs (1.5 kg)
Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64
Display: 14.0” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, glossy, touchscreen, 250 nits
Storage: 256 GB PCIe SSD
RAM: 8 GB DDR4 3200MHz (Soldered)
Processor: AMD Ryzen™ 3 5300U Processor (2.60 GHz, up to 3.80 GHz Max Boost, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 4 MB Cache)
Graphics and video support: Integrated AMD Radeon™ Graphics
Camera: 720p HD
Audio: Dolby with 2 x 2W speakers
Ports: 2 x USB 3.2** (Gen 1), USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen 1) with PowerDelivery, HDMI 1.4b, 4-in-1 card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC), Headphone / mic combo
Battery life: Up to 12 hours, with Rapid Charge. Up to 13 hours 1080p video playback
Connectivity: 802.11AC (2 x 2) & Bluetooth® 5.0
Touch ID: Fingerprint reader and webcam privacy shutter
In the box: Flex 14 (AMD), 65W Power adapter, 3 Cell 52.5Wh internal battery, Quick start guide
If you’re a Lenovo fan – check out the latest in the Lenovo Ideapad range too
Acer Spin 3 (best value travel laptop)
If you’re looking for a cheap travel laptop that has amazing specs as well as fitting within your budget, then the Acer Spin 3 is your go-to machine. It comes with 8 GB of RAM and an i5 processor at 1.0 GHz. Although its performance might not be as great as the Macbook or Dell, it’s fantastic value for the price.
This 14-inch laptop also works as a convertible laptop with a 2-in-1 design. Simply fold the screen backward and use it as a tablet. This allows you to save space as well as watch movies comfortably while you travel around.
The laptop comes with a dockable, built-in Acer Active Stylus with Wacom AES 1.0, allowing you to write on screen with a realistic pen-on-paper feel. The built-in charger recharges the stylus in just 15 seconds, giving you 90 minutes of use on the touchscreen.
At 3.3 pounds, the Acer Spin 3 is slightly heavier than other lightweight laptops but is still a fantastic choice of travel laptop.
- Value for money
- Comes with an integrated stylus for graphic work
- 2-in-1 design
- Only one USB-C port available for charging
- Comparatively heavier than other travel laptops
Dimensions: 12.8 x 9.06 x 0.67 inches
Weight: 3.31 lbs (1.5kg)
Display: 14″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-backlit IPS Multi-Touch Display
Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4 Memory
Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G4 Processor (Up to 3 7GHz)
Graphics and video support: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Audio: Optimized bass response and micro-speaker distortion prevention. 2 x built-in front facing stereo speakers
Ports: USB 3 1 Type C port (up to 10 Gbps) DisplayPort over USB-C Thunderbolt 3 USB Charging DC-in, 2 – USB 3 2 Gen 1 ports (one featuring power-off charging), HDMI 2 0 port
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Connectivity: Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802 11ax
Touch ID: Fingerprint reader
Stylus: Rechargeable Acer Active Stylus with Wacom AES 1 0
Lenovo Yoga C940 (best convertible travel laptop)
If you’re ready to spend a little extra and get an excellent convertible laptop in return, then the Lenovo Yoga C940 is your best choice. With high-end features and a lightning fast i7 processor, this is definitely one of the best laptops for remote work in the market.
Like all Yogas, the C940 has a 360 degree hinge function that lets you use it as a standard laptop, or in tablet mode.
The laptop has a 14 inch touchscreen with an FHD display and comes with Intel Iris Plus graphics for smooth viewing. It weighs around 3.08 pounds, which means it’s not the lightest travel laptop out there, but it’s not too heavy either. The power adapter is small in size and doesn’t add to the weight.
With an impressive battery life of up to 15 hours, the Lenovo Yoga C940 is a travel laptop that you should consider putting on your list.
- Great battery life
- Sufficient number of USB ports for convenience
- Fast performance
- Impressive sound quality
- A bit expensive!
Dimensions: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.68 inches
Weight: 2.98 lbs (1.3kg)
Display: 1920 x 1080 pixels
Storage: 512 GB
RAM: 12 GB
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 mobile processor, Windows 10 operating system
Graphics and video support: 14″ Full HD 10-point multitouch screen, 360° flip-and-fold design, Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Audio: Rotating Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos® Speaker System, 2 x far-field microphones
Ports: 1 USB 3.0 Type A Port, 2 USB 3.1 Type C Ports, 2 Thunderbolt Ports, 2 Thunderbolt 3 Ports
Battery life: Up to 17.5 hours
Connectivity: WiFi 6, 802.11ax
HP Spectre X360 (best feature-rich laptop)
The HP Spectre x360 is for you if you love to be seen with a stylish laptop in front of you. It has an attractive design and a lightweight body. It weighs in at 2.8 pounds, placing it among the lightest travel laptops out there now. The 13-inch screen has touchscreen capabilities and offers full HD clarity.
Apart from its looks, this laptop also offers powerful performance, with an i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. This laptop’s best feature is its sound quality, thanks to the Bang & Olufsen speakers, which are both excellent and unusual for a smaller laptop.
At times, the touchscreen can go a little weird and mismatch the screens, but it’s a minor flaw that can be overlooked for the other epic features that the Spectre x360 offers.
- Great sound
- Fast processor
- More expensive than other travel laptops
- Touchscreen might not work properly at times
Dimensions: 12 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.87 lbs (1.27 kgs)
Display: 13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch-enabled edge-to-edge glass with Corning® Gorilla® Glass NBT™ (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 512 GB Intel® SSD
RAM: 8 GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM (onboard)
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 (1.3 GHz base frequency, up to 3.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 8 MB cache, 4 cores)
Graphics and video support: 3840 x 2160 native resolution with Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Audio: Bang & Olufsen dual speakers
Ports: 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C™ with Thunderbolt™ 3 (40 Gb/s signaling rate, Power Delivery 3.0, DisplayPort™ 1.4, HP Sleep and Charge); 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (HP Sleep and Charge); 1 headphone/microphone combo; 1 HDMI 2.0, Micro SD media card reader
Battery life: 12 hours, 41 minutes
Connectivity: Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX 201 (2×2) and Bluetooth® 5 Combo (Supporting Gigabit file transfer speeds)
Tablet mode: 360 degree flip and fold design
Microsoft Surface Go 2 (best ultra light travel laptop)
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is more or less a tablet computer. It weighs 1.2 pounds and comes with a 10.5 inch screen. This makes it a great option if you’re looking to travel light. It’s priced quite leniently and runs on Windows 10.
The speed and performance of the Pentium Gold processor in the Surface book aren’t mind-blowing, but they’re sufficient for digital nomad laptops. The battery lasts for up to 10 hours on a single charge when kept idle, and you’ll likely be able to use it for 6-7 hours of work. The short battery life is a bit disappointing, and it has a short power cord which would make it difficult to recharge when you’re at a cafe or co-working space.
That said, this is a pretty good graphic tablet and it’s compatible with Microsoft’s Surface Pen. So, if you want a decently performing laptop at a great price, the Surface Go 2 is worth checking out.
- Thin and lightweight design
- Built-in stand
- Great audio volume
- Face recognition camera
- Fanless and quiet
- The accessories and keypad are not included in the base price
- Battery life could be longer
- Average performance
Dimensions: 0.33 x 9.65 x 6.9 inches
Weight: 1.2 lbs (0.54kgs)
Display: 10.5 inches, 1920 x 1080
Storage: Solid-state drive (SSD): 128GB (Wi-Fi or LTE)
Processor: 8th Gen Intel® Core™ m3 Processor
Graphics and video support: Intel® UHD Graphics 615
Audio: 2W stereo speakers with Dolby® Audio™ Premium
Ports: 1 x USB-C®, 3.5 mm headphone jack, 1 x Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover Port, MicroSDXC Card Reader, Nano SIM tray
Battery life: 10 hour battery life
Connectivity: Bluetooth 802.11ax
Camera: 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video, and 8.0MP rear-facing auto-focus camera with 1080p HD video
The Microsoft Surface Pro is also another great travel option
Those are my personal picks for the best travel laptops for digital nomads
While all the laptops on this list have their own pros and cons, I loved the Macbook Air M1 the best of all – so that’s what I currently travel with and use to grow my business. If you’re looking for a budget laptop, then the Lenovo Flex 5 14 is your best bet.
Before buying your new travel laptop, I’d suggest that you make a list of all your requirements. It’s also essential that you keep your budget in mind. This will help you narrow down your search and make it much easier to pick the laptop that’s right for you. Happy shopping!
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.