Best Ultraportable Laptops for Travel (November 2019)

best ultraportable laptop for travel

Working remotely: the freedom it gives you is life-changing. But that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its challenges. At the office, all we have to do is step through the doors and plant ourselves down in our ergonomically-friendly office chair, turn on our large, high-res, LCD monitor(s), and away we go. Our workstation has been designed, paid for, and implemented by someone else.

That is something many of us take for granted until the ball is in our court. Now, you’re going to be working out of coffee shops, coworking spaces, and hotel rooms. That is going to require your very own setup, and one of, if not the most key component, of this, is your laptop.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. And, in 2019, there’s never been a better time to shop for ultraportable laptops and ultrabooks. These machines are lighter, thinner, and more powerful than they have ever been before.

We’ve done the digging and the spec-analysis for you. All you have to do is decide which of these powerful, paper-thin books of connectivity and productivity is going to accompany you around the globe.

Disclaimer: Nomad Paradise is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Quick Picks

No time to read through? No problem! I’m sure our quick picks can point you in the right direction:

Is this you?Our Pick
I’m willing to pay more for a premium product:Huawei Matebook X Pro
I’m operating on a budget:HP Laptop 14 or Acer Chromebook 14
I want the best specs: substance, not style:Asus Zenbook 14
I want the smallest, lightest choice:Apple Macbook Air or Miscrosoft Surface Laptop 2
I only use Apple products:Apple Macbook Air
I prefer the 2-in-1 laptop-tablet devices:Surface Book 2
best ultraportable laptop for travel

Things to Consider

Priorities

Very simply, before you start looking, you should ask yourself one simple question: ‘what am I going to need my laptop for?’

If you work remotely but have set office hours, maybe a slightly larger screen would be beneficial. If you only need your laptop to answer emails and organize documents, you probably won’t need powerful graphics and greater memory. If you plan to work with video; on the contrary, you’ll need a device that can handle large files and software that uses a lot of RAM. If you connect a lot of USB devices, USB-C is going to be a nightmare for you, and so on.

Understanding your needs is critical to finding a laptop that works best for you. So be sure to write down your top priorities for what it needs to do, and then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision; particularly if you’re shopping within a budget.

Insurance

No one likes to be a doom monger, but when it comes to your laptop, you should never take any chances. A laptop is a huge investment of money, and out on the road, no matter how small the likelihood, anything could happen to it.

By default, a travel insurance policy will cover loss and damage to your belongings, up to a certain amount. Be sure that amount in the very least covers the amount you paid for your laptop (but also be aware of the depreciation value, over time, of your laptop).

Also, some insurance policies have add-ons for laptops and expensive items, specifically. So be sure to explore your options, rather than just taking out a standard backpacker policy.

Head on over to our insurance guide to learn more.

Plan B

At a retreat, I worked for in 2016, one of the members, a co-founder, no-less, lost all power to his aging laptop. We were in Bali and finding someone to repair it was very difficult. In the end, he had to fly to Jakarta and buy a brand new MacBook. The whole situation, from start to finish, cost him an entire seven days of work.

Having a backup plan should be something you seriously consider. Bringing an old laptop, well-padded and protected, in your luggage, is something I’ve seen several digital nomads do. Others have set up email, calls, and other software, on their tablets or smartphones, so that they have other devices to rely upon. Scoping out repair shops, or the nearest place to purchase new gear, you should also be clued upon.

Ergonomics

For many nomads, without the comfort of expensive office chairs, 40” screens, and a desk laid out to your preference, a laptop alone is not enough for comfort and productivity.

Working hunched over your laptop on a hotel bed, in the long run, isn’t going to be sustainable, or good for your health. There is a spectrum of products on the market today, all lightweight and portable, that are easily assembled into a comfortable, productive workspace.

Keyboards, laptop stands, anti-RSI mice, seat cushions: head on over to our gear page to find out more about our top picks.

Understanding the Jargon

For some of us, looking at computer specs brings with it all the joy of listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. For others of us, it’s like being in the Matrix before Morphius has realized we’re ‘beginning to believe.’

If you are keen to learn more about the numbers and brands behind the screen and silver, I’ve prepared for you a very simple guide to commonly used terms and what, in layman’s term, they’re referring to.

Operating System

Simply, the program that manages all your laptop’s functions, software, and tasks. You’ll definitely know two: Windows, and Mac OS. There are others, and in this day and age, they’re all competent and user-friendly. My advice: go with what you know. If you’re used to Windows, switching to OS can take time to get used to, and vice versa.

Processor Speed

The processor is the brain of your computer, doing all the tasks you ask of it. You’ll see its speed measured in GHz. For ultrabooks and ultraportable laptops, 1.6GHz upwards will be enough. If you’re using video editing or graphics-based software, I’d recommend at least 2GHz.

Screen Size

The physical size of your screen, measured from corner to corner. 13-14 inches will be standard. For ultraportable laptops, you’ll sacrifice screen size for weight and physical size. Laptops with displays of 15” and above will be larger, and ultimately heavier.

Display/Resolution Size

The number of pixels that make up your screen’s display. The more pixels (width x height), the crisper the display. As a rule of thumb, 1920×1080 (this is widescreen HD format) is currently standard. Anything more is a bonus, and not required if you’re not working with graphics or video.

HDD or SSD Size

This refers to the amount of storage space on your laptop to store applications, software, videos, files; anything. You’ll often see HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive).

In ultraportable laptops, it’s far more likely you’ll have SSD. This is because SSD is much faster and, physically, smaller. HDD is slower but has much more storage.

It’s measured in GB, and at this level, you’ll see either 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB. 128GB will be enough if you don’t store heavy video/graphics files directly on your laptop or have a lot of software installed.

Alternatively, it can also be worth putting the bulk of your files in cloud storage or getting an external hard drive to travel with.

RAM

Noticed how your computer slows down the more things you have open? This is down to your RAM, which controls the number of functions your laptop can do at the same time. An ultraportable laptop level, aim for 8GB. More will be a bonus, but not essential, unless you’re handling large video and graphics files.

Graphics

You’ll notice some laptops will have a graphics card, followed by a string of numbers and letters, in the specs. Only take notice of this if you play a lot of games, or work extensively with large video and image files. The laptop’s standard graphics card is more than enough for simple tasks and streaming services.

Connectivity

Be sure to check what ports (and how many, usually 1-2) you have to connect devices. Most laptops will have just USB, or USB and Bluetooth. However, the new MacBooks now use USB-C (urgh, I know, too many letters, right!) So if all your devices connect via USB, you’d need to get a USB to USB-C adapter.

As long as you have at least one port to connect a USB device, you’ll be fine.

The Best 10 Ultraportable Laptops for Travel

If you’re clued up and know what you’re looking for, then feel free to delve into our ten top picks for 2019.

Oh, and please note: this is not a ranked top ten list. Each laptop, naturally, has its pros and will suit different needs and preferences.

Huawei Matebook X Pro

huawei matebook x pro best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Home
Processor:1.6GHz Intel Core i5
Storage:256GB SSDs
RAM:8GB
Screen:13.9”
Display:3000×2000 3K Touch
Connectivity:USB-C, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth
Weight:2.93lb

If you’re willing to pay for premium, then Huawei’s Matebook range is a great place to source out your next ultrabook. Although the 13 has recently been released, my personal recommendation is the X Pro, which has seen sublime success since its release.

Huawei have taken a leaf out of Apple’s book for the Matebook. Its stunning display, minimalist design, and smooth keyboard make for a comfortable, enjoyable user experience. Even the speakers are of high quality, considering this is an ultrabook.

It is expensive, but the specs you’re getting for the price make it a steal if you’re looking for your machine to do plenty of heavy lifting.

Asus Zenbook 14

asus zenbook 14 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Home
Processor:Intel i5-8265U 3.9GHz
Storage:256GB SSDs
RAM:8GB
Screen:14”
Display:1920×1080
Connectivity:USB and Bluetooth
Weight:3.2lb

If you’re looking for plenty of power, the ASUS Zenbook 14 is an excellent choice. Common amongst gamers, its no surprise, with a whopping 3.9GHz processor speed. From simple tasks such as email, through to handling large video and graphics, no task will be too much for the ZenBook.

With 2 USB 3.0 ports and a singular USB 2.0 port, there’s plenty of room to connect multiple devices. Its 145 degrees angled keyboard has also scientifically been proven to be the optimum angle to type at. Furthermore, its enhanced cooling system helps keep its core temperature much cooler than other models.

At the core of it, Zenbook trades in state of the art (touchscreen, higher resolution) for good old fashioned muscle, and speed. It’s the practical traveler’s choice.

Apple MacBook Air

apple macbook air best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:macOS
Processor:Intel Core i5 1.6GHz
Storage:128GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:13.3”
Display:2560×1600 Retina
Connectivity:USB-C and Bluetooth
Weight:2.75lb

The Macbook Air range was relaunched in 2018, and many who are loyal to the Apple brand were glad to see it return.

With its ultra-slim design, it’s one of the sleekest, lightest options on the market. Plus, it comes with many of Apple’s hallmark features, including touch ID fingerprint security, stunning retina display, and a T2 chip that keeps your files extra secure.

As we all know with Apple, you are paying for the brand, more so than the product. The specs are some of the lowest in our list, and upgrades can be very expensive. Plus, not everyone takes a liking to Apple’s shallow keyboard.

It is good, however, to see MacBook Air return. If you want style, beauty, and seamless connectivity between your other Apple products, this will be an excellent companion on your travels.

HP Laptop 2019

hp laptop 2019 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10
Processor:Intel Core i3 2.4GHz
Storage:128GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:14”
Display:1366×768
Connectivity:USB
Weight:4.35lb

For those of you whose eyes have been watering at some of the prices on this list, rest assured; you’ve now arrived at your safe haven!

You’ll see many fans of HP laptops online band the term ‘workhorse’ around, and for very good reason. HP laptops are renowned for their signature blend of durability and inexpensive cost.

Their laptop series, as on the nose as you like, for the price, are fantastic pieces of kit. 2.4GHz processor speed and 8GB RAM will be plenty to handle your day-to-day tasks, and at a third of the cost of some on this list, anyone operating within a budget should seriously consider this option.

If you’re willing to forgo the latest technologies, and just need something to get the job done, look no further.

HP Pavilion 2019

hp pavilion 2019 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Home
Processor:Intel Core i5 1.6GHz, up to 3.9GHz
Storage:512GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:13.3”
Display:1920×1080
Connectivity:USB and Bluetooth
Weight:2.88lb

Branded HP’s thinnest and lightest 13.3” ultraportable laptop, the Pavilion 2019 is an excellent choice for someone looking for strong specs, without the fancy extras, at a mid-range price.

It’s slim 15.4mm frame, accompanied with its 2.88lb weight, mean you’ll barely notice any heavy in your rucksack. For the price, the specs are excellent, and with the option to upgrade your processor to a whopping 3.9GHz, you should have no issues with slowdown.

No-fuss, no-frills: a powerful, slim, featherlight laptop that is well-reviewed online and, in true HP fashion, will get the job done for you.

Dell XPS 13

dell xps 13 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 8
Processor:Intel Core i5 2.2GHz
Storage:128GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:13”
Display:3200×1800
Connectivity:USB and Bluetooth
Weight:5lb

Even though the model was originally released in 2015, Dell’s XPS 13 has very much stood the test of time.

A first thing to note is the phenomenal battery life. The XPS 13 can stay unplugged for up to 15 hours, which is truly incredible. If you tend to work out of coffee shops or public places, this laptop will last the whole day.

Admittedly pricey, but considering the specs, worth the money. The display is stunning, and the 2.2GHz engine gives you plenty of processing power. Because of the 2015 release, you’d be running on the older Windows 8, which is something just to take note of.

A comfortable keyboard, responsive trackpad, and flawless 4k screen all swirl into the mix to make this an excellent choice if you’re not operating on a tight budget.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

microsoft surface pro 2 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Pro
Processor:Intel Core i7 1.9GHz
Storage:512GB SSD
RAM:16GB
Screen:15”
Display:3260×2160
Connectivity:USB
Weight:4.2lb

Microsoft has very much ‘spared no expense’ when it comes to the second edition of their 2-in-1 laptop-tablet. If you want vast sums of power in an ultraportable device, then you’ve come to the right place.

With a stunning screen display, powerful build-in graphics specs, and a lengthy battery life, there are few in the ultraportable market that can even come close to the power that the Surface Book 2 can offer.

However, all that juice does come at a very high price. If you’re willing to spend big, it’s worth adding the stylus and/or mouse to your cart, too, for a phenomenal computing package.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

microsoft surface book 2 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Home
Processor:Intel iCore i5 1.6MHz
Storage:128GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:13.5”
Display:2256×1504
Connectivity:USB, Bluetooth, Surface Connector
Weight:2.75lb

Our second Microsoft addition in the list sits in a more affordable range of machines, compared to its Book counterpart. Compact, slim, and incredibly lightweight, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 is an excellent choice if you’re willing to prioritize portability overpower.

Without the detachable keyboard, it functions more like a regular laptop. It has a long battery life and is one of the lightest on the list; perfect if you’re planning to work from coffee shops, without a power source, for several hours.

Microsoft has a range of spec changes for the model, too. Although pricey, the RAM can be doubled, the processor switched to an i7, and the storage can go as high as 1TB SDD.

Lenovo Yoga 13.3

lenovoa yoga 13.3 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Windows 10 Home
Processor:Intel Core i5 1.6GHz
Storage:256GB SSD
RAM:8GB
Screen:13.5”
Display:1920×1080
Connectivity:USB-C, USB, and Bluetooth
Weight:2.9lb

Lenovo has made big strides in the 2-in-1 market, and 2018’s Yoga 13.3 series is an ultraportable laptop not to be ignored.

You’re getting excellent specs at a very competitive price, and with both USB-C and USB connectivity, the problems that arise with the likes of the MacBook Air are illuminated.

A sleek design, LED-LCD touchscreen, and featherlight weight of 2.9lb, make Lenovo a more than worthwhile alternative to the very expensive Microsoft Surface.

Acer Chromebook 14

acer chromebook 14 best ultraportable laptop for travel
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Operating System:Chrome OS
Processor:Intel Celeron N3160
Storage:16GB SSD
RAM:4GB
Screen:14”
Display:1920×1080
Connectivity:USB
Weight:3.42lb

Our final inclusion on the list takes us to Google, and their offering to the laptop market in the form of Chrome OS and Chromebook, courtesy of Acer.

In the same way that Apple made computing stylish and fun, Google makes it incredibly simple. If you don’t need your laptop to do anything too labor-intensive, and you don’t need much storage (at 16GB, it’s very small), this is an incredibly inexpensive purchase.

Chrome OS, itself, is very simple and easy to use. However, it’s important to note that, unlike macOS, compatibility with Windows software is not something on the table. You’ll be using Google’s alternatives, and with storage of only 16GB, heavy software from the likes of Adobe is going to flood the memory in no time.

Full List of Best Ultraportable Laptops for Travel

Check price and tech specs:

  1. HUAWEI MATEBOOK X PRO
  2. ASUS ZENBOOK 14
  3. APPLE MACBOOK AIR
  4. HP LAPTOP 14
  5. HP PAVILION 2019
  6. DELL XPS 13
  7. MICROSOFT SURFACE BOOK 2
  8. MICROSOFT SURFACE LAPTOP 2
  9. LENOVO YOGA 13.3
  10. ACER CHROMEBOOK 14

Thanks for reading, and whatever choice of laptop you decide to go with, we at Nomad Paradise wish you happy shopping!


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