In Search of the Best Travel Laptop of 2016

By Stanley Kaminski

ASUS ZenBook UX303UA

No one wants to be unplugged for any duration of time these days. If you are going on a business trip for your job or just taking a much-needed vacation you don’t want to be with your connection to the rest of the world. Of course, there are options, you could just grab your smartphone or take a tablet. Those might be great for the vacation, but there is still more you can do with an actual laptop and at times they can be so much easier with an actual mouse and a keyboard. And of course, many companies don’t want you doing company work on a tablet. The only choice in these situations is to find the best travel laptop.

But this leads us to more questions. How would we define the best laptop for travel? Well, I’ve dug through a number of the options and come up with my list for the best 5 options. For the sake of this article, I’ve left out Chromebooks/Netbooks and stuck to full on laptops. These aren’t going to be the day to day laptops that generally doesn’t stray too far from a desk, table or power cord. We’ve gone in search of laptops that you could actually carry around all day. It’ll mean smaller screens, possibly less power (that gigantic 17 in screen gaming “laptop” that has never left its dock and has 3 external fans and water-based cooling system is right out) but it’s not going to leave bruises on your shoulder if it is hanging in its bag while you run from airplane to bus to try to check in on your trip.

Let’s dive in to see what the best travel laptop is!

1) ASUS ZenBook UX303UA

Our first pick is the ASUS Zenbook, a 13.3-inch screen. But that little screen doubles as a touch screen to up the functionality. Packing 8 GB of RAM, a 2.3 GHz Core i5 processor and 256 GB of a Solid State Drive give this little guy the power to take on what you need to handle on the road without getting it too beefed up. Speaking of not too beefed up with one only tip the scale at 3.2 pounds, I can tell you, I have some pairs of boots that way much more than that. It also is less than 1 inch thick when closed, so you are not going to have to worry about how I am going to manage to pack this.

As an added touch it has a backlit keyboard to help you get work done even if all the lights are out (like when you are trying to finish your report on the red eye at the end of your trip). The battery will last up to 7 hours giving you plenty of computing time. There is no optical drive, but you can easily move files via USB or just over the web.

2) MSI GS30 SHADOW-001


Alright, who said you can’t have an ultra-portable gaming machine? If you still believe that then here is proof to the contrary. Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, Intel Pro Graphics Iris 5200 graphics card and 256 GB of Solid State Drive? This thing is fast! The laptop itself still is only 3.8 pounds so you can easily carry all that power with you. This set up comes with a dock so that when you make it back home it can be the heart of your gaming station while it easily pops out so that you never have to miss a battle just because you are away from home!

The battery can last up to 6 hours, but if you are into gaming full throttle it won’t make it that long, so have a plan for more power before you start that raid. The screen is another 13.3-inch model, which is a bit of a trade off when you consider gaming machine vs. ultra-portable.

3) Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 2-in-1 Convertible

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 2-in-1 Convertible

No, you don’t have to be doing downward dog to get the most out of this tiny travel companion. As we mentioned in our article on Lenovo laptops, this is a great little travel buddy. With an 11.6 inch screen and a mere 2.3 pounds to it you can easily slip this into a carry on for those 2-day business trips. But this is no standard laptop. While others on this list may have a touch screen to utilize some of Windows 10 functionality, this one the screen folds all the way flush to the bottom of the laptop, creating a tablet.

Ok, so it might be a bit thicker than your tablet, but who wants to write up a trip report on a touch screen? I’d rather have a physical keyboard for that amount of writing. The battery will last up to 5 hours powering this mighty machine, but it is replaceable, so at the size of this system, you have the space to take a second battery with you and swap out when the first one dies out on you.

4) ASUS E402MA


We’ve gone smaller than the 13.3-inch screen, now let’s go a touch larger. This one sports a 14-inch screen with a resolution of 1366×768. And again, while this system does not have a built-in optical drive, with its USB and HDMI ports you have plenty of options for information onto and off of the machine. And as an added benefit of the 14-inch screen, there is enough room to support a full-size chicklet keyboard.

The battery can last up to 7 hours on this machine. ASUS has also added a few nice touches that we didn’t see in other ultra-portables. They have what they refer to as Ice-Cool Technology to keep the palm rest cooler than body temperature and therefore you more comfortable while you are working. This machine is the heaviest on our list coming in at 5 pounds.

5) Dell Inspiron i3000-5099SLV

Dell Inspiron i3000-5099SLV

Another 11.6-inch screen and another folding act. Laptop….tablet….it’s both! At 3.1 pounds it’s light enough to carry around easily. An added benefit of the screen folding all to the back is that you can stand it up in “tent mode”. This makes it easy to either give a presentation to a small group, hook it up to mirror your screen with an HDMI cord to a bigger screen so you have it as notes during a presentation, or simply stand it up to watch some Netflix at the end of the day back at your hotel.

This setup also features a built-in slot for an SD card. I can see where it would be the top choice for a photographer. Giving them the ability to shoot some images, get a look at them on a screen bigger than the back of the camera, since it’s a laptop you could easily do some quick edits. Next, flip it over to tablet mode and show off your collection to a customer.


Best Travel Laptop

There they are, my picks for the best travel laptops. Your needs could range from business trips to wanting to stay connected on the family vacation or even needing to get in a battle or two while on the road. Be sure to consider how much battery time are you going to need, how much laptop bulk to I want to carry around and would I use a touch screen on a laptop? Then the rest is up to you, with the right choice your best travel laptop could become a little travel buddy. Perhaps it may even nudge you to go out on that trip you have been day dreaming about and have an adventure!

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