I am currently on the verge of buying the laptop I’ll be taking with me on my travels. I currently work from a shuttle desktop pc which, compact as it is, is obviously not suitable for taking backpacking. I also have an old battered ibook which I dropped and broke the hinges on – it’s not in a fit state to take out of the house, let alone on a round the world trip. So this brings me to the task of choosing a laptop with travel-friendly attributes.
Light – possibly the most important factor in your decision-making. You really don’t want to be carting around a lead weight. Once you’ve had a backpack on your back for a couple of hours you’ll be glad of every possible ounce of weight you can save. It’s now possible to get fully-functional laptops that weigh under 1kg. Remember to add the weight of power adapters and accessories. The lightest laptop around is purported to be the Toshiba Portégé R500, weighing in at 779g and there are several more around the 1kg mark, including the new breed of ultra portable notebooks – the Asus Eee pc the Acer Aspire One and the MSI Wind.
Cheap – expensive equipment will up your travel insurance and you’ll be constantly worrying about it being stolen or broken. Spend as little as you can to get the technology you require. Luckily laptops are constantly coming down in price and it’s easy to get a decent spec machine for under £300 ($600 or probably less in the US). Go second-hand if you can and you’ll be less paranoid about scratching it or dropping it.
Tough – changes are you’ll be throwing your laptop around in your bag a lot, operating it in extreme temperatures or humid conditions, getting sand and insects in it, using it as a pillow, bashing it off the table when you can’t get wireless to work etc … Some of the new thin and light laptops look sexy but I doubt their durability. You’re much better off getting something ugly and tough. Panasonic’s ToughBook range are designed to be thrown around/stamped on/blown up but there’ll be a model from most of the major company’s lines that will be suitable for general travel and not mind being bashed around a bit. Check reviews and message boards for the models you’re interested in to see how they fare after a few months of abuse.
Long battery-life – you’ll probably be separated from a power source at many points during your travels. There’s nothing more frustrating than carrying around the dead weight of a powerless laptop that you can’t use. Look at battery life when you’re comparing different models and weigh this up against the cost and weight factors mentioned above. Probably a good idea to bring along a spare battery too.