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The 6 Best Travel Laptops - Summer 2024 Reviews

Updated May 13, 2024 at 11:21 am
Best Travel Laptops

When shopping for a travel laptop, a couple of requirements immediately come to mind: size, weight, and battery life. Finding a thin and light laptop isn't so much a problem when it comes to general productivity and media consumption devices, but finding a relatively portable mobile workstation or gaming laptop can still be challenging. You must also ensure that portability doesn't come at the cost of a flimsier, cheaper-feeling build, or that it hampers performance. Screen brightness is another thing to consider, as you want a display that can overcome glare in bright settings, and you'll want a good keyboard and touchpad, as they're your primary input methods. A good port selection is a must if you don't want to carry around a hub or dock, and webcam quality is important if you're often on video calls. Biometrics isn't necessary but nice to have, especially if you don't like typing out your password or PIN in a public area.

We've bought and tested over 115 laptops. Below are our recommendations for the best laptops for travel you can buy. You can also see our recommendations for the best laptops, the best business laptops, and the best laptops for college.

  1. Best Laptop For Travel

    The best travel laptop we've tested is the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023). This 14-inch workstation has nearly everything you could ask for in a premium model: a sturdy all-metal chassis, a compact design, tons of processing power, and a long battery life. It sports a bright 120Hz Mini LED display, a spacious keyboard, and a gigantic, easy-to-use haptic touchpad. The display is suitable for color work, as it has full DCI P3 coverage and superb factory calibration. Its 1080p webcam is excellent, so your colleagues can see and hear you clearly on video calls.

    New in this generation of MacBook Pro is the addition of a base M3 model, similar to the discontinued 13-inch model with Touch Bar. This can be a great option if you don't need all the processing power but still want the 'Pro' features, like the display and up-firing speakers. The main downside is that the RAM and storage aren't user-replaceable, and upgrading them increases the total cost considerably.

    The Dell XPS 15 (2023) is our recommendation for Windows users. It's a larger 15.6-inch device but weighs the same as the MacBook Pro 14. It provides a great user experience and can easily handle demanding tasks like programming and video editing. Unlike the MacBook Pro, the RAM and storage drive are user-replaceable, so you can upgrade or add more space later. Unfortunately, there are a couple of tradeoffs, like its display's basic 60Hz refresh rate and its terrible 720p webcam. Port selection is also a slight downgrade compared to the MacBook Pro, as there's no HDMI port. Lastly, Dell has released new XPS models in 14- and 16-inch sizes, so if you're a fan of the 15-inch size, this is a good time to get one because it's often on sale on Dell's website. However, at this point, you may only be able to find select configurations.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Laptop For Travel

    If your workload includes lighter tasks like text processing, web browsing, spreadsheets, and video playback, get the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) instead. It's also a high-end model that provides a premium user experience; however, its base M3 SoC doesn't have as much processing power as the M3 Pro or Max variants, so you aren't overpaying for performance you don't need. While its IPS panel isn't as impressive as the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023)'s 120Hz Mini LED display, it's still pretty and bright enough for outdoor use. The main drawback is the port selection, which comprises two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports; these support two external displays, but only if you close the laptop's lid. If you want to save some money, the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) is still available at a lower starting price of $999 USD, although it can currently be found even cheaper on Amazon. This model uses the older M2 SoC, features Wi-Fi 6 (rather than the 2024's Wi-Fi 6e), and only has support for one external display.

    A Windows alternative would be the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024). While this 14-inch laptop isn't quite as portable as the MacBook Air 13, it features an OLED touchscreen display with a higher 120 Hz refresh rate. However, the OLED screen isn't as bright and can't cut it for outdoor use in broad daylight. Battery life is very similar to the 2024 MacBook Air. Finally, build quality is similar between the two laptops, but the Spectre x360 offers a greater port selection. It features 1 USB-A port and 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, which can support two 4k displays at 60 Hz. 

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Laptop For Travel

    Our best mid-range pick is the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (2022), a 14-inch 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook. It's a very compact device that's easy to carry around, and its battery lasts over 13 hours of light use. The display gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings, and since it's a 2-in-1 convertible, you can set it up in tent mode for media consumption or flip the screen all the way around and use it as a tablet. If you want to take handwritten notes, it supports pen input and comes with a stylus that you can dock into its charging slot at the front of the device. Ports include one USB-A, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, and an HDMI port.

    Spec-wise, this laptop has various Intel 12th Gen CPUs, from a Core i3 to a P-series Core i7. However, only the Core i5 model with 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage is widely available, and even that model is getting hard to find. There's a newer 2023 model, which we haven't tested but expect to be very similar. The upgrades include a faster Intel 13th Gen CPU and a 1440p webcam. You can get the 2023 model on Amazon or at Best Buy. Lastly, if you're new to Chrome OS, know that the type of applications you can install is limited, so you need to ensure you can do everything through a Chrome browser or Android apps.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Laptop For Travel

    For those on a tighter budget, get the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020), a 14-inch Windows ultraportable. Acer's Swift models are typically more expensive, but since this is a 2020 version, you can get it much cheaper. It has a nice FHD display, a decent keyboard, and a wide port selection, including two USB-As, one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack. It's available with an Intel 11th Gen Core i5 or i7 CPU, up to 16GB of memory, and 512GB of storage.

    The Intel 11th Gen CPUs are two generations behind Intel's latest offerings but can still easily handle general productivity tasks like web browsing, text processing, spreadsheets, and video playback. Plus, the battery life is amazing at over 13 hours of light use. Its 720p webcam is its main weakness; the image is underexposed, and the microphone sounds staticky.

    See our review

  5. Best Compact Laptop For Travel

    If you need something compact to browse the web or answer emails on the go, get the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021), a 10.5-inch tablet PC with a built-in kickstand and a detachable keyboard. It's super compact, and its battery lasts a little over seven hours of light use. Its FHD+ display looks very sharp, gets bright enough to combat glare, and supports pen input. You get an excellent 1080p webcam, a second back-facing camera, and a facial recognition IR camera for quick logins. Like all Microsoft 2-in-1 tablets, you must buy the keyboard and stylus separately. The keyboard is worth getting, as it's much more comfortable to type on than an on-screen keyboard, and it protects the screen from scratches.

    The Surface Go 3 is available with an Intel Pentium Gold or Core i3 CPU. They perform well enough for this tablet PC's intended use, which is to say simple tasks like web browsing, emails, and video playback, but don't expect to do anything remotely intensive. If your budget allows, it's worth upgrading the memory to 8GB, as you'll get a much smoother experience with fewer slowdowns when multitasking. Port selection is limited; you only get a USB-C, a headphone jack, and a proprietary Surface Connect charging port.

    See our review

  6. Best Gaming Laptop For Travel

    We recommend the Razer Blade 14 (2022) for gaming on the go. This 14-inch model is surprisingly thin and light for a gaming laptop, and aside from its green logo on the lid, it has a fairly understated design, so it doesn't stick out in a professional environment if you use it for work. It's available in three preset configurations: a 1080p 144Hz display with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, a 1440p 165Hz display with an RTX 3070 Ti, or a 1440p 165Hz display with an RTX 3080 Ti. All three configurations deliver a smooth gaming experience in demanding AAA titles.

    We don't have many complaints about the keyboard; the keys have a good amount of travel and tactility, but they could be more stable. And, of course, it has per-key RGB backlighting. As for upgradeability, the storage drive is replaceable, but not the memory, as all three configurations come with 16GB of soldered RAM.

    A newer model of the Blade 14 is available. Its design remains largely unchanged, as the upgrades are internal. The CPU is now an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS, and GPU options include an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 and 4070. These new GPUs bring a new feature called Frame Generation, which boosts performance by inserting AI-generated frames. Few games currently support this feature, but as we've seen with DLSS, the adoption rate will likely grow quickly. There's also a new display option: a 240Hz QHD+ panel with a matte finish and VRR support. See here for more details about the new Razer Blade 14.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023): The ASUS Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023) is a great 2-in-1 Windows convertible and a good alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024). It feels as well built as the MacBook Air and has a gorgeous, albeit slightly dimmer, OLED display. It also has a wider port selection, including two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4s with support for multiple external displays. It's heavier, though, and its battery life is shorter at around eight hours of light use. See our review
  • Framework Laptop 13 (2023): The Framework Laptop 13 (2023) is a good alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) if you want a laptop that's easy to repair or upgrade. You can replace any component in the laptop, even the CPU and motherboard. All the parts are available via Framework, and the company provides manuals to guide you through the replacement process. However, its keyboard, touchpad, speakers, and webcam aren't as good. Also, depending on where you live, it might be harder to get one because you can only get it via Framework's website. See our review
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2023): The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2023) is a great ultraportable alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024). It has a wider port selection and Thunderbolt 4 support, and its SSD is user-replaceable. However, it's slightly bulkier, and its battery doesn't last as long. It's also more expensive. See our review
  • Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023): If you prefer Windows, the Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023) is a good alternative to the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (2022). It provides a great user experience, and its battery lasts around 12 hours of light use. It's a pretty thin laptop, but ultimately, it's still a 16-inch device, so it might not fit into some bags. It also weighs considerably more at 4.4 lbs. See our review
  • Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021): The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) is a good alternative to the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) if you only need a device for media consumption. It has a much nicer OLED display, and its battery lasts longer. It's a 13-inch device, though, so it isn't as portable as the Surface Go 3. See our review
  • HP OMEN Transcend 14 (2024): The HP OMEN Transcend 14 (2024) is a cheaper alternative to the Razer Blade 14 (2022), especially if you need your gaming laptop to pull double duty as a portable workstation. While the HP's OLED screen is brighter, it has a lower refresh rate and response rate, and this laptop doesn't offer VRR support; depending on your use case, this may be a deal breaker as you'll likely notice screen tearing and ghosting while gaming. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 13, 2024: Replaced the Apple Macbook Air 13 (2022) with the Apple Macbook Air 13 (2024). Replaced the LG gram 14 (2023) with the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024) as an alternative to the Apple Macbook Air 13 (2024). Added the HP Omen Transcend 14 (2024) as a Notable Mention. Minor text changes to reflect the changing availability of Dell XPS 15 (2023).

  2. Mar 15, 2024: Removed the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) from the Notable Mentions because it's discontinued. Added the Framework Laptop 13 (2023) as a Notable Mention. Minor text changes to provide information about new models of the Dell XPS 15, Apple MacBook Air 13, and Razer Blade 14.

  3. Jan 23, 2024: Replaced the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M2, 2023) with the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) because Apple no longer sells the M2 model.

  4. Nov 16, 2023: Minor text changes to provide information about the new M3 MacBook Pro and to add the Dell XPS 15 (2023) as a Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro. Added the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) and Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023) as Notable Mentions.

  5. Sep 18, 2023: Replaced the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021) with the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023) because the M1 model is no longer available. Small text changes to include the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) as an alternative to the MacBook Pro 14. Replaced the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) with the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) because the Acer is a better value.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best travel laptops you can get. In addition to the test results, we factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability.

If you prefer to make your own decision, here’s the list of all of our laptop reviews. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it’s best to see the full review for information about other variants.