Modern life is digital.
From smart watches to virtual drives, technology connects us to work, family, social calendars, and fun.
All these advances give us the ability to reach out no matter where we stand, and as the world gets smaller more people choose to take their technology along.
More jobs provide options for employees to work remotely or from home, and working on a standard desktop computer is no longer necessary thanks to laptop computers.
With a variety of features leading to unlimited choices, laptops evolved in ways to make them more than just portable from the office to the home.
Functional laptops are no longer just for high ranking executives or travel writers; they are used by weekend warriors and teenagers too.
Now that our personal lives connect so completely to the digital equipment we use, protecting your laptop is more than just avoiding impacts.
Concerns such as theft or property loss should also be at the top of the list.
A Brief History of Laptops
The concept of the personal computer entered our lives in the 1970s, and ways to make digital devices smaller and faster continue to develop at a rapid pace.
Technically, even your smartphone is a hand-held computer, capable of downloading information and software programs with ease.
Often referred to as notebooks, laptop computers may bear trademark names, such as a MacBook, but are still technically laptops.
To make sure you understand the difference between a laptop and a tablet, laptops include a few features not found on a tablet:
The Rugged Notebook
Laptops were originally meant to sit on your lap instead of a desk, hence the name.
But soon developers realized the applications for outdoor use in harsh conditions, such as in the military on missions, and the rugged notebook emerged.
Initially heavy duty and heavy literally, these laptops survive in various weather conditions and handle strong vibrations without issue. With ports that seal, rubberized sheeting to protect the keyboard and bright display screens, rugged laptops are in use by emergency service departments including police and fire.
These bulky, expensive units are portable but not feasible for anyone whose office is mobile.
New Tool for Travelers
While you may consider switching out that desktop for a laptop, the best unit for home use may not be the best type of laptop for frequent travelers.
Being portable is not always enough.
As laptops evolved to handle complex software programs and increased storage capacity, the need for features such as long battery life came into play.
Some manufacturers struggled with laptops overheating, but the safety of portable computers is light years ahead of the technology from only ten years ago.
Devices that weigh a mere two pounds and can link to the internet from the tiniest village make the impossible a reality.
Doctors can visually see patients thousands of miles away, and translation software connects us faster than ever dreamed. The laptop is no longer a luxury, but a necessary tool in fields around the world.
Specifications for Travel Laptops to Consider
Try to look at all the options available in notebooks today as a good thing and not get overwhelmed by choices.
First, make a list of your needs based on how you plan to use the laptop.
Will you travel to conferences or use the computer for gaming on the road?
Is this a tool necessary for giving presentations and doing research or just keeping the kids busy when you need a break?
Asking these questions and writing down the answers creates a map that brings you closer to finding the right laptop for your travel needs.
Start with the Basics
Not all laptops are great for regular travel.
We will talk about transportation and accessories a bit later, so for now let’s focus on the differences in the types of laptops available.
Traditional laptops have a clamshell structure that keeps the keyboard and screen protected by closing the unit in on itself by folding it in half.
They sport a screen size ranging from 11 – 17 inches (measured diagonally like a television screen).
Another option is the 2-in-1.
This unit functions as both laptop and tablet via a disconnecting keyboard.
Able to run full operating systems like a laptop, but with a removable touchscreen like a tablet, 2-in-1 devices often carry the label of “laptop replacement tablet.” Expect portables with features like this to be more expensive than a traditional laptop.
Unlike a tablet, 2-in-1s have ports to attach accessories like a mouse, speakers, or external displays.
Thin and lightweight, think of these as high-end devices. An excellent example of a modern 2-in-1 is the Microsoft Surface Pro. You should also check out our ultimate guide to the best Microsoft laptops.
Similar constructions are convertibles.
They integrate a swivel so the touchscreen can rotate and cover the keyboard, turning the unit into a thick version of a tablet. Hybrid devices have a detachable keyboard as well, and most of the weight (and components) is in the display portion.
Netbooks are even smaller and lighter, but cannot handle desktop applications and instead work with web-based apps.
This means netbooks have very little hard drive storage and are great for surfing, but not for work, so the low cost of a netbook does not mean it serves as an alternative for a fully geared laptop.
The term “ultrabook” refers to laptops built to move.
These units are lighter, smaller, and usually, have long battery life.
Sometimes called subnotebooks, these travel-friendly laptops can handle most jobs a traditional laptop can do, but typically the screen is smaller.
Understand these are not the same as netbooks and are both more functional and expensive.
Breaking Down the Specs
Since you’ve decided the laptop is coming along as a regular piece of travel equipment, let’s take a look at the expected specifications for a good travel laptop.
For consistency, we will base the size of a laptop on the display screen.
Depending on the tasks your digital travel companion must take on, a smaller screen will also generally mean a lighter unit that is easier to store.
If you have a favorite carry-on bag, make sure the laptop you choose will fit inside with space around it for padding and extra equipment (more on that later).
A laptop screen will be at least ten inches across, and larger heavier laptops may have a screen up to seventeen inches diagonally.
Remember, larger means heavier, so if you are creating simple report or presentations, a smaller screened unit may be all you need.
For those who are working with photo editing or complex programs that require layers of photos (such as planners or GIS analysts), you may want a larger screen.
Carrying a laptop in a shoulder bag is taxing, and if you travel in professional attire, a backpack is not an option even though it may be more comfortable on your back.
While seven pounds may be easy to lift a few times, the strain of all day travel means every pound carried adds up quick.
Ultralight laptops weigh as little as two pounds and up to about five pounds. If your travel includes carrying lots of other items, you may want to sacrifice size for less weight.
The battery in an ultrabook should last at least ten hours between charges.