The digital nomad revolution has been knocking on our doors for a while.
Every day we see articles and blog posts about people who fulfill their wanderlust traveling the world while working remotely.
Be it from a cafe in Paris or a coworking space in Chile, the future of work is happening right now. And we can all be part of it!
But first things first. To be able to work remotely, you need a high-quality laptop to accompany you on your travels.
This machine should be light enough for you to carry it everywhere with ease, from airplanes, to hostels, to hiking trails. It should also be powerful enough for you to accomplish all your work on it. As a digital nomad myself, nothing is more important for work than my gadgets.
My beautiful, reliable laptop is one reason I’m able to sit in a cozy flat in Portugal right now while writing this article. It’s the means of my work, where I write, edit my photos and videos and communicate with clients on the other side of the world.
Laptops are becoming lighter and more powerful as we speak. And that’s great news for us!
But with all these laptops on the market, how do you choose just one? There are a few things to think about when picking a laptop for your digital nomad journey.
What to Consider When Choosing a Laptop
Your Workload and Laptop Usage
Before purchasing a laptop to focus on your remote career, it’s important to think about what your specific needs are. What will you be doing on your computer?
Of course, I’m talking about work—but also about leisure. Your laptop will be a big part of your life (and your luggage) so choose something that can complete as many tasks as you can.
Do you need to edit 4K videos? Do work with graphics and 3D projects? Do you use your laptop mainly for social networks, emails and writing on Microsoft Word? Do you store most of your information in the cloud?
Do you value high quality while binge-watching Netflix shows? Are you a gamer? Do you often call people on Skype?
It all comes down to both your personal and professional needs.
Portability is one of the most important factors for digital nomads when buying gadgets.
You need something small and lightweight enough for you to carry around, sometimes for hours on end. Whether you’re carrying your laptop down the street to the beach for the afternoon or lugging it around on multiple international flights, you don’t want it to be a burden.
When choosing a laptop, weight and size matter. I travel with a 13″ laptop that’s perfect for my needs. It’s one of the most common sizes I’ve seen around coworking spaces and cafes.
However, other digital nomads prefer smaller or bigger screens, depending on what they do on their computers. Make sure you have the gadget you feel comfortable with. Don’t just buy what everyone else is buying!
Price is always an important factor when shopping for new electronics.
Yes, it’s important to find something you can afford. However, laptops are relatively long-lasting, and you’ll probably use yours every day. So you shouldn’t skimp.
You can invest as little as 300 USD, but you could easily spend more than 2,000 USD. I recommend going for a laptop that has more features than you think you’ll need, just in case you take on additional responsibilities for your job. This way, the hardware can’t stop you.
On the other hand, you should make sure you invest in a machine that makes sense for you. If you don’t do much more than browse the internet and use Google Drive, chances are high that you won’t take advantage of an extremely strong laptop anytime soon. It’s not just about price, it’s about usage.
Keep in mind that you’re making an investment in your career. This laptop is a means to an end. That end is better and faster work… and having a great experience!
Also, make sure to check multiple marketplaces to get the best quote. Prices may vary a lot.
Odds are that you already have a desktop or an older laptop. When deciding which laptop to take on your travels, keep your favorite operating system (OS) in mind.
However, it’s also important to keep an open mind when shopping for a new laptop. Your tried and true OS may have been fine for school, but your needs as a digital nomad are unique.
A lot of software is only available for one or two operating systems, such as iOS, Windows or Linux. If you want to buy a laptop with a different operating system than you’ve been using, make sure your favorite software will work on this OS before purchasing anything. Or decide if you’re open to buying new software.
If you decide to go for a new OS, buy from a store (online or brick and mortar) where returns are allowed for an extended period of time. Even though you might love your new OS and adapt easily, things can go wrong, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to keep it.
If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You should feel fully comfortable working on your own laptop.
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Laptop for a Digital Nomad
Hopefully considering the above factors has helped you narrow down your laptop search a bit.
However, there’s still an overwhelming number of laptops for digital nomads out there. Here’s a list of eight stellar options for anyone working as they travel the world. Look at the pros and cons of each laptop and decide which is best for you.
Click here to join our team!
Macbook Air 13″
The Macbook Air 13″ is a lightweight option for those who plan on using the same machine for years on end.
I personally love to work with the iOS system, and the Macbook Air has the perfect settings for types of work that don’t require extremely powerful hardware. It’s also really lightweight at around 2.65 pounds, and it’s ultra-portable.
I wouldn’t have been able to start my remote career without my Macbook Air. Even though I bought it back in 2012 and have upgraded it a lot over the years, this laptop is so sturdy and reliable that I would totally get a new Macbook Air today. (Well, if Apple would finally release a new one with better specs!)
In fact, that’s the downside: There isn’t a super recent version of the Macbook Air out there right now. The latest version was released in mid-2017, and it’s the only Apple laptop without Retina Display, which is quite disappointing.
Take a look around during your travels and you’ll notice that tons of fellow digital nomads have this laptop. Myself included!
Microsoft Surface Pro
If you’re looking for a laptop with different functionalities, maybe you should buy a hybrid laptop.
A hybrid laptop is basically a Windows tablet, but you can attach a keyboard so it becomes a regular laptop. You might also hear this referred to as a “detachable” or a “two-in-one” laptop.
The Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the most popular hybrid laptops out there. It has up to 13.5 hours of battery life, which is a 50% improvement from the previous generation. Plus, you can choose a Surface with an i7 processor, which makes it the fastest Surface Pro ever.
It can be used as a laptop or a tablet and it can be taken anywhere, weighing in at less than 2 pounds. It’s extremely versatile and beautiful.
You can choose from a wide range of specs to make it perfect for your particular work needs. If you’re looking for a Windows laptop to blog, design, manage social media, store photos, write or draw, it sounds like the Surface Pro is for you.
Lenovo Yoga 910 Business 14″
If you like the idea of owning a hybrid laptop, take a look at the Lenovo Yoga 910. You can use this gadget any way you prefer—with the touch screen, with a pen or just with a mouse.
The Lenovo Yoga hybrid laptop has 1TB solid-state drive (SSD) space for you to play with, as well as 16GB of RAM. The battery lasts up to nine hours, it has a fingertip reader and it only weighs about 2.5 pounds.
It also comes with two built-in HD cameras and two microphones. These features are perfect for digital nomads who have to take a lot of calls with their laptop!
But as I mentioned before, your laptop and everything that comes with it need to fit perfectly into your luggage when you travel. A few online reviewers complained that the charger is too bulky. But if everything else feels right about this laptop, I think you can find a little extra space in your bag to accommodate the charger!
If there’s one laptop you can expect to see among remote workers all over the world, it’s the MacBook Pro.
If you plan on spending over eight hours per day on your laptop and have some money to invest upfront, buying a MacBook Pro is totally worth it.
It doesn’t even have to be new. You can buy used Macbook Pros in perfect shape if you browse Amazon and similar sites.
This laptop weighs four pounds and functions very quickly. You can upgrade the computer so that it has an i7 Intel processor and up to 1TB of storage.
I love the Macbook Pro because all my Apple products over the year have been highly durable. I’m a huge fan of the iOS operating system, which helps me work faster in various ways.
Also, the trackpad from Apple is probably the best one out there. That’s an important factor for anyone who doesn’t want to carry a mouse around in their backpack.
Dell XPS 13″
The Dell XPS 13″ is a powerful laptop with the first InfinityEdge display ever, which means your image and screen size are more advanced than you could imagine! More room for the screen without making the laptop bulkier? Yes, please!
Even though the XPS isn’t a hybrid laptop, it does have a touch screen and weighs only 2.7 pounds. This laptop has very similar features as the Macbook Pro. But if you’re a PC lover rather than an Apple Guru, this Dell will be more your style.
Dell offers several specs for the XPS, so you can choose whatever suits your workload best. You can get a non-touch screen, 4K display, i7 Intel processor and many other options.
The main downside of this laptop is the position of the webcam. It’s located right below the screen, making it hard for you to type without blocking its view when you’r on video chat.
ASUS Chromebook Flip
Do you need a basic, affordable laptop? Then maybe you should focus on Chromebooks.
Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, Google’s operating system. They’re perfect if you use lots of Google apps, such as Google Drive, Docs and Calendar. It’s based on the operating system Linux kernel, and the principal user interface is the Chrome web browser.
Many Chromebooks can be picked up for around 300 USD, which is a great alternative for those who don’t need much and are looking for a simple laptop. They’re also easy to carry and transport and have around nine hours of battery life.
This ASUS Chromebook Flip is one of the most highly rated Chromebooks in the market. It weighs less than two pounds, and it features 4GB of RAM and 16GB of space. It’s perfect to surf the web, write documents and send messages on the go.
If you think your needs can be fulfilled with a simple notebook, this is a great option for you. You can use this Chromebook to connect to the internet, watch Netflix, write on Slack and call it a day!
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus has a light aluminum body and a powerful multi-touch touch screen with an incredible 3,200 x 1,800 pixels resolution. It also runs on i7 Intel processors, making it pretty fast.
This laptop comes with 256GB SSD and up to 8GB of RAM to give you all the power you need while on the road.
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus is a thin laptop, measuring at around 13.6 mm. It offers a solid 7.5 hours of battery life and weights about 3.06 pounds, making it slightly heavier than most laptops on this list.
Users report its overall quality, great speakers and stylish looks are huge bonuses. The 13.3″ touch screen has Quad HD that delivers bright images with amazing colors in wide-angled views.
This Asus VivoBook is extremely thin and lightweight, and it has a beautiful metallic design.
This 14″ laptop has a battery life of around eight hours. Its i7 Intel processor makes it a strong option if you need to work with programs such as Photoshop.
It also comes with a very sharp screen and good audio quality. However, the ASUS VivoBook doesn’t have a backlit keyboard or touch support, which might be annoying to some digital nomads. These features come in handy when you travel overnight on airplanes, buses and trains.
The ASUS VivoBook is a great investment if you think it can handle your workload.
As a remote worker, you’ll probably rely more and more on your laptop over the years by taking on new forms of income. For example, if you’re a travel writer, you might decide to start editing photos to go along with your stories one day.
Your laptop needs to be capable of fulfilling all those needs. Especially because, as a digital nomad, you probably won’t have a desktop to fall back on!
It all comes down to what you need to accomplish on your laptop, how long you need the battery life to be and how much money you’re willing to invest.
Whether you need a place to manage social media, deploy websites or build 3D prototypes, one of the laptops on this list is bound to fit your needs.
Remember that you’re investing in your business. This laptop will be your money maker! It could be worth putting down a little money for a machine that will boost your productivity and help you deliver better results in the long run.
In many ways, traveling the world while working remotely is a dream come true. Make sure your laptop matches this experience in every way.
Debbie Corrano is a digital strategist and writer. She works remotely while traveling the world full-time with her two dogs. Over the past few years, Debbie has lived in more than 10 countries, learned a few languages and worked with dozens of agencies and brands.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.