As always, I only recommend products and services that I have used before, am currently using or where I have first-hand recommendations from fellow digital nomads, so you can be sure it’s good quality.
Key Features of a Travel Laptop
Before we look at the recommendations, let’s quickly look at the key features a good digital nomad laptop should have:
You definitely want to go for a laptop with a long battery life. As a digital nomad you travel a lot and work from places where a plug socket might not be right next to you. Maybe there won’t be electricity at all, just think of basic buses or trains or frequent power outages.
I recommend that your new best friend has a battery life of at least 8 hours. Just to be on the safe side.
Super important when it comes to travel laptops. I know it’s easier to work on a big screen. But you also have to carry your laptop around with you almost on a daily basis, either when you work from a café or coworking space or when you change accommodation or travel to a new city.
So you want it to be as light as possible and as small as possible (while still being able to work comfortably). That’s why I love ultrabooks so much. They are super light and thin and still manage to deliver a fantastic performance.
In general, I recommend that you go for a laptop that is less than 3.5 pounds with a screen size of 13-15 inch.
3. Storage Space
The problem is that most small and lightweight travel laptops don’t come with too much storage space. But that’s exactly what you need. After all, you will have plenty of photos and videos from your trips AND probably need to save quite a bit work-related data.
If possible, go for a storage space of at least 128 GB. Also make sure you have additional methods to save your data. You could, for example, bring an external hard drive with you. Even big ones with 1 terabyte are available in pocket sizes.
Another way is using cloud storage, for instance, Google Drive or Dropbox. You will have to pay a monthly fee, depending on the capacity you need, but it’s well worth it. That’s also highly recommended as a backup strategy in case your laptop gets stolen or breaks.
4. Processing Power
This one strongly depends on what you are going to do with your laptop. If you are a content writer and only need a text program like Microsoft Word and do maybe a little bit of photo editing, you won’t need a super strong processor as a web developer or graphic designer does.
A good and well-performing CPU would be Intel Core i5. If you want or need something strong, you can go for an Intel Core i7, but have to pay a lot more.
You could also use a separate graphic chip to not take up too much RAM, which would slow down your laptop. That’s a great option for video editors or 3D designers. A “normal” user will be fine with the integrated graphic chip, though.
A big factor to keep in mind is the price of your future laptop. Especially, if you are at the beginning of your digital nomad career, you might not have the budget to spend 2.000 USD on a laptop.
And you don’t have to! Yes, it will be your number one working tool and yes, it should definitely have a decent quality. However, I’m a big advocate of only buying stuff that you really need. If you only do basic work on your computer, like web research, writing, maybe run a few simple programs on it, there is no need to pay for the best product on the market.
So before you decide what laptop you want to buy, make sure you know what you need it for.
Best Laptops for Digital Nomads
Ok, now let’s look at some of the best digital nomad laptops out there.
1. MacBook Air
Of course, the MacBook Air is part of this list. After all, it is one of the most popular choices of travel laptops for digital nomads – for a good reason.
First of all, the MacBook Air is an ultrabook and therefore, super thin and lightweight, which makes it easy to carry around while traveling. Apple products are also known for their durability. Most users have their laptops for four, five years or even longer. You don’t get that with every brand.
In terms of performance MacBooks are also top class. Powerful processors, a big default memory and extensive storing options make it a fantastic laptop for people with an online business.
The only downside: If your MacBook breaks in any small town somewhere in the world, it can be harder to get it repaired or to get spare parts for it. A friend of mine needed a new charging cable when he was in Guatemala. Since it wasn’t available anywhere, the computer shop guy had to order it for 140 USD and it took 3 weeks to deliver. What a nightmare!
2. MacBook Pro
Ok, why do I bring up another Apple laptop? Because the Apple MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops you can have when you work online.
If you prefer Mac OS X over Windows or Linux and need a computer which is super powerful, then this might be the perfect choice for you. The 1 TB flash storage, high resolution, increased speed, and long battery life makes it a brilliant choice for professionals like web developers or graphic designers.
I strongly advise you to go for the 13-inch option. Since this one is no ultrabook, bigger versions can get quite heavy if you have to carry it around much.
On the downside, this kind of quality is by no means cheap so you should be ready to invest quite a bit.
3. Asus ZenBook
Oh, how I loved my Asus ZenBook (until the keyboard died after I accidentally dropped it – whoops)! Another ultrabook that is super thin and lightweight. It comes with a very sharp screen and great audio quality.
The metallic design feels and looks very classy. The battery always lasted forever with me and the processor speed was brilliant (again, I’m one of those people who use their laptop all day, every day, but only basic stuff).
The only reason why I haven’t bought it again is because the prices had gone up for it at the time I needed a new one.
4. Dell XPS
The Dell XPS can easily compete with Apple’s MacBook Pro in terms of quality. Plenty of storage, fast processor, incredible display and long battery life – great alternative if you prefer a Windows or Linux operating system.
It comes with a very glamorous InfinityEdge display which means the screen has a very thin border creating an elegant design. Definitely one of the best on the market right now.
Extra edition: The Dell XPS is also available as a 2-in-1 hybrid. That means you get a normal laptop which you can simply flick around and use it as a tablet with touchscreen. A great option for everyone who likes working with a tablet every once in a while but doesn’t want to carry two devices around.
The downside: As with every 2-in-1 solutions they are usually not as strong as a normal laptop. So the hybrid won’t be as strong as the normal XPS. But it can still be strong enough for some of you.
5. Lenovo Ideapad
Looking for a great budget option? This is the one to go! The Lenovo Ideapad is perfect for everyone who doesn’t need the best performance on the market, but a decent and reliable laptop at an affordable price.
If your work includes mostly “simple” tasks, like web surfing, editing documents, run basic programs, or if you want to watch a movie on it every once in a while, you will get all that with the Idea Pad. On top of that it is super lightweight and has a nice battery duration.
Slightly negative part: The touchpad doesn’t have the best quality and the storage space is very limited. Oh well, can’t have it all. But you could simply use an external drive or cloud to deal with that issue.
In case it gets stolen or banged up (which happens to my laptops all the time – meh), you won’t be too upset because it didn’t cost you the world.
Just to give you an idea about some of the key points, have a look at the following table. Please note that things like storage space or processor space can vary from one offer to another. Manufacturers usually give you a couple of combination options, for example, you can buy the Lenovo Ideapad with more storage space if you want to.
Digital Nomad Laptop Accessories
A decent laptop is important but only part of the fun. If you work on your computer all day long, 7 days a week, you might appreciate the following extras.
1. Laptop Stand
When you bend down to our laptop screen all day, your posture changes and after a while you might get a stiff and painful neck and back. To avoid this, you can use a laptop stand. Your neck will automatically be in a straight position since the screen sits higher.
That makes working in front of your laptop all day so much easier! Plus, these stands are usually very lightweight and foldable. So perfect if you want to work from different places and have to carry it.
2. External Keyboard
Since your laptop sits higher in a laptop stand, you will need an additional keyboard to be able to work. But don’t worry, there are super thin and light ones out there that can easily fit into your hand luggage.
You might have guessed it…if you need an extra keyboard, you will also need a mouse. Even if you don’t use a laptop stand, it makes your work much more comfortable. Go for a wireless one to avoid even more knotted cables in your bag.