What Do You Need From a Travel Laptop?
As a photographer, there are some essential features you should look for when buying a travel laptop. One of the most is its weight. If you are going to be traveling and moving around constantly, you probably don’t want to be lugging around a 5-pound behemoth of a laptop.
Weight, however, is not the only factor you need to consider.
Here are the seven things you should consider when buying a laptop.
- Screen Size and Quality
- Type or Form
Size and Weight
For most travelers, the size and weight of their laptop is a feature that gets the greatest consideration. For travelers who are constantly moving around, light and portable laptops are ideal.
As a traveler, I recommend getting a laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds. In the past, you typically needed to forgo other essential features to get a light laptop.
This is no longer the case. You can purchase a powerful laptop while staying below the 3-pound threshold.
The size of your screen will eventually determine the overall weight of your laptop.
I recommend between 13 and 15 inches, depending on your preferences. If you want to stay on the lighter side and a small screen doesn’t bother you, I would opt for 13 inches. On the other hand, If a large screen is important to your workflow, then I would opt for a 15-inch screen.
Screen Size and Quality
The size of your laptop will determine the size of your screen. Like I said above, a screen size between 13 and 15 inches is ideal while traveling. This size is ideal because you won’t have trouble editing your photos, and it is still small enough to stay under 3 pounds.
If you are doing lots of post-processing, the quality of your screen is extremely important. If your not you still want a reasonably good screen so you can view your images and see the details easily.
For those doing lots of photo-editing getting a laptop with at least 3k and ideally 4k is the best option. If you are not doing tons of photo editing getting a laptop with full-HD or at least 2K will do just fine.
There are several types of laptops you can choose from a traditional laptop or a dual laptop.
You also have to consider if you want a touch screen or a regular screen.
I recommend staying away from the combination of tablet laptops because they typically have less battery life and processing power than a similar priced traditional laptop.
The type of screen you choose will really depend on your preference.
Touch screens can be helpful when working in post-processing, especially if they include pen functionality. Unfortunately, touch screens are typically more expensive and often have a worse screen resolution.
A normal screen is probably preferred if you are trying to get 4k resolution. It will cost much less without affecting your productivity.
The CPU is the “central processing unit” and more commonly known as the processor. The CPU will determine how fast and how many applications you can have open at one time. The better your processor, the quicker your computer will be.
If you will be processing photos, or running multiple software at once, a good processor is vital. You need to purchase a laptop with a processor that can comfortably handle your workflow. If not, you may have issues with speed and loading time, which can affect your productivity.
At a minimum, you should get a laptop with an i5 or equivalent processor. I highly recommend going with an i7 or equivalent processor.
The i7 is the latest model of CPU intel offers is more suited to handle the extensive demands of photo editing and operating multiple programs at once.
There are other types of processors available on the market, but most commercial laptops will come with an intel core processor.
If you do purchase a laptop with a different processor, be sure to compare them to the i5 and i7 and determine what it is equivalent to. You can typically find test completed online to see how they match up.
RAM is the “Random Access Memory” of your computer. Your RAM stores all the running programs of your laptop.
The more RAM you have, the more programs you can run. Similar to CPU it is important to have a high RAM if you want to run multiple applications or RAM intense applications such as photo editing.
The minimum RAM I recommend is 8GB. With 8GB of RAM, you will be able to edit photos while simultaneously using other smaller programs as well.
If possible, I would suggest you get a laptop with 16GB of RAM. With this, you won’t have any issues running several RAM intensive programs at once.
There are two storage options for laptop storage: HHD (Hard Disk Drive) or an SSD (Solid State Drive). HDD is the traditional form of storage, and it is typically less expensive and larger.
SSD is the latest storage option. SSDs are smaller, lighter, faster, and require less battery. Unfortunately, SSDs are more expensive and typically have less space.
Depending on your budget I recommend getting a SSD for the speed and size benefit it offers but you will do just fine with an HDD.
The most important thing is that you have enough storage.
When purchasing a laptop I recommend one with a minimum of 500GB. As a photographer, 500GB of storage can fill up very quickly, so opting for 1 or 2 TB of storage is ideal.
If you are on a budget, you can manage with less than 500GB of storage, but it will require you to have more external storage to store and back-up all your photos.
External storage devices can get expensive over time and hard to manage, so it might be worth it to invest in a laptop with more storage space.
Another important feature to consider if you are buying a travel laptop is battery life. Getting a laptop with the best battery life is crucial. You don’t want a computer that only lasts a few hours before dying.
If this is the case, you’ll be stuck inside or next to an outlet throughout your entire trip. For a traveler, it is best to get a laptop with 10-12 hours of battery life. This will give you plenty of time before your next charge.
As a side note, I highly recommend getting a portable charger so you can charge your laptop as you travel.
Newer laptops have adapters that can connect directly into USB ports which work perfectly on portable chargers.
Some computer brands such as Dell and HP make custom battery packs for their laptops. Be sure to look into this if you think you will need longer than 10-12 hours of battery life on a single charge.
Best for Mac Lovers: MacBook Pro Retina 13-Inch
For the Mac lover, the Macbook Pro is the best laptop for travel photographers. Macs are always a great choice. They are typically well built, compact, and powerful.
The Macbook Pro has two purchasing options the 13 inch and 16 inch.
For travelers, I recommend going with the lighter and smaller 13 inch. If you prefer a bigger screen, you can opt for the 16 inches, but keep in mind it will weigh 4.3 pounds compared to the 3 pounds of the 13 inch.
It’s common for people to find it difficult to decide between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but for a photographer, the additional processing power and storage of the MacBook Pro is totally worth it. Although the MacBook Air is 0.25 pounds lighter, the marginal decrease in price and weight is not worth it.
By choosing the Macbook Pro you get a 1.7GHz quad-core i7 processor and up to 16GB of RAM. It’s important to opt for the full 16GB of RAM; this will make your workflow smoother, especially when you are editing photos.
The MacBook Pro also comes with several storage options such as the 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB SSD. As mentioned above, I recommend getting the 512 GB storage at the minimum and ideally opt for the higher 1 TB or 2 TB.
It is important to remember that as a photographer, you will need USB ports to connect your hard drives, mouse, memory card reader, and other attachments. The latest models of the MacBook Pro have between two and 4 USB-C ports, which means you will need to get USB-C adapters to connect any external devices.
Best for PC Lovers: Dell XPS 13 9380
If you prefer PC, the Dell XPS 13 9380 and even previous models such as the 9360 and 9370 are the best laptops for travel photographers. The Dell XPS 13 is small and compact, yet still, a very powerful notebook equip with some of the best hardware on the market.
The latest model offers a 4.6 GHz i7 quad-core processor with 16GB of RAM. This combination of i7 processor and high RAM is perfect for photo editing while you travel. This computer can handle heavy photo or video editing with ease while running other programs as well.
Another great feature about the Dell XPS 13 is the new 4K display or the 1980×1080 pixel touchscreen. Each display is a great option for viewing and editing photos, in particular, in combination with the Intel Graphics 620 card.
I recommend the 4K if you will be doing lots of photo editing, but it is a bit more expensive.
In addition to the excellent processing power and display, the laptop is available with up to 1 TB of SSD, which will provide you with plenty of room to store all your files and photos.
Although this laptop is packed with extremely powerful hardware and high storage capacity, it remains extremely thin and lightweight. It clocks in at only 0.46 inches at its thickest and only 2.7 pounds. This is not only thinner than the Macbook Pro, but it also has more processing power and better screen resolution.
Unfortunately, similar to the MacBook Pro, to maintain the thinness of the XPS 13, Dell has removed all ports other than 3 USB-C ports. This can be a bit frustrating at first because it means you will need to get adapters to attach any external devices you need to use.
One of the huge complaints about previous models of the XPS 13 was the webcam. In the latest model, Dell addressed those concerns. Dell moved the webcam from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen, which has improved the perspective and angle of the webcam.
When buying the Dell XPS 13 I recommend you opt for the high-end model over the lower end model. The lower end model does leave out some of the key features, such as processor and RAM, that make this computer great. Keep in mind that going for the fully equipped version will cost at least $1500 depending on the features and at its highest around $2000.
Best Dual Option (Tablet and Laptop) – Microsoft Surface Pro 7
If you are looking for a combination of a tablet and laptop, the Microsoft Surface Pro is the best option. It offers the flexibility and compactness of a tablet with the power of a laptop.
The Surface Pro has been the best option for those looking to get a tablet that converts into a laptop and vice versa for some time now.
There are other products out there, but the Surface Pro is the best in terms of versatility and power. One of the best features of using a hybrid laptop-tablet option is the touchscreen feature with the operating system of a laptop rather than a mobile device. This offers the power and versatility of a laptop with the compactness of a tablet.
The Surface Pro offers many configurations that are perfect for those traveling. There are two options I recommend for travel photographers.
The first option is for those on a lower budget, The Surface Pro with an Intel Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD storage.
The second option is the more expensive and powerful option. That is the Surface Pro equipped with an Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and either 512 or 1TB of SSD storage. The model with 512GB of SSD will cost you around $1,700, while the 1 TB option will cost about $2,100.
The Surface Pro is known for its keyboard and pen features. These features are essential if you plan on using the Surface Pro for photo editing.
Unfortunately, these are not included with the purchase of the Surface Pro. The pen cost around $100 and the keyboard around $150.
Best Budget Option: ASUS ZenBook 13 UX331UA Ultra-Slim Laptop
As a travel photographer, there are two key features to a laptop: portability and power. Unfortunately, these two features drive up the cost of laptops.
If you are looking for a budget option, it is likely you will need to forgo one of these. I recommend you never sacrifice processing power for portability. Getting a slightly heavier laptop with more processing power ad storage than a lighter laptop with less processing power is the best option.
I recommend going with the ASUS Zenbook 13 this laptop has a slim build with a i5 or i7 processor and 8GB of RAM for a reasonable price. The i5 with 8 GB of RAM and 512GB hard drive will cost around $678 and the i7 with GB of RAM and 512GB of hard drive will cost about $886.
In addition, both models come with a 13 inch full HD display and only weigh in at 2.5 pounds. The laptop comes with two USB ports, 1 USB-C port, and an HDMI port.
With this laptop, you can get 8GB of RAM and i7 processor and 512 GB of SSD for less than $1000, which is a great deal. This laptop is ideal for those looking for a travel laptop but want to spend less than $1000 and still get all the features of some of the best travel laptops.
Best Option For $500 and Under: Dell Inspirion 15 3000
For $500 you will likely have to forgo some of the features that a good travel laptop usually has. If you do decide to forgo any key features, I suggest you pass on a lightweight laptop for a bulkier laptop.
Purchasing a heavier laptop with more RAM and processing power is better than buying a thinner laptop with less RAM and processing power.
Unfortunately for $500, it is difficult to find a laptop with an i7 processor, but an i5 is definitely within reach. I highly recommend never going any lower than an i5 processor.
The Dell Inspirion 15 3000 is an excellent option for $500. Although it is on the heavier side at around 4.8 pounds, it comes with the latest 8th generation i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 1 TB of storage. This combination of processor and storage is a good option for travel photographers.
Another bonus is that it comes with a 15.6 inch full HD touch-screen display perfect for editing photos on the road. As a photographer, you won’t have any issues seeing your images or the quality of the display.
There are two purchasing options you should consider if you are looking to spend around $500 on a laptop. The option I mentioned above is $599; the second option is $450.
The main difference between these two options is the storage space. I recommend you opt for the one with 1TB of storage, but If you are looking to save a few bucks, you can go with 256GB of storage.