Guide to Buying a Laptop for Travelling

Don’t take me as an example. I have made some bad decisions when it came to getting a computer for the road. And it wore me down. Every day. So why am I writing this post, then? Because I now know how to do better. Much better.

Before I left for my world trip, I knew I needed a laptop to type out my adventures on. I had already set up a blog and didn’t want to rely on the occasional free PC at travel agents or hostels. My own laptop was way too heavy and so my bestie generously offered me her teensy netbook as a loan. I gladly accepted. And it was a huge mistake.

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The netbook turned out to be the slowest in history and would take literally 8 minutes to start and be usable. Even then, it would load every so often when I typed in a single word in Office. Not the best way to work effectively.

Worst Example

Picture this scene: roaming the streets for a place to rest my wearying laptop and get some wifi and then spying a library nearby. Me running there, setting up my computer and realising I have just one hour until closing time. Good thing I had already fully prepared 16 blog posts that only needed to be copied and pasted, photos uploaded and date set. Too bad my computer decides to slow down and when I grow impatient after 5 minutes and press a key, it crashes.

The librarians start circling me like vultures circling helpless prey on the brink of dying out of frustration and I try to ward them off through wild gestures and incoherent explanations regarding the state of my prehistoric gadget while my attention is focused on the hateful thing and I seem to implode. Guess how many posts I managed to upload. Zero.

Don’t Go for Easy

So what did we learn from my story? Think twice about what kind of computer you want to use. If I had used it like my friend had used it – namely to look up a thing or two and entertain some kids with solitaire – then it would have been fine. If you aim for bigger things, then don’t be a cheapskate and invest in both research and purchase.

Luckily for you, I have done some research and while I will not give you any specific brands and models (that’s what computer magazines etc are for), I can give you criteria which require your
special attention and should be on your priority list. In what order is up to your personal preference.

Define Your Budget and Stick to It

First of all, it helps to narrow down your search via price category. Naturally, if you want a better computer, you have to deal with bigger costs. However, defining your budget from the start will help you not get stuck in the ‘should I, should I not’ dilemma if you have set clear boundaries of what is affordable to you.

Set down a price range and forget everything outside of it. This also means that you should disregard the very cheap ones. Unless you don’t care about quality. Having said this, you should still have a look at discounts and compare prices across different shops and online portals. Sometimes it is worth waiting for a time of the year when discounts pop up like daisies (e.g. after Christmas).

Size Matters

Think about when and where you will use your laptop. Will it only be on desks at hotels or on your knees in crappy hostels? On public transport a lot of times or rarely in general? These are all things to consider when looking at the size. After all, you wouldn’t want to be crowding and crouching on a fully packed tram with a 16 inch screen. If you used it daily and did a lot of photoshopping, for instance, you would go crazy with a small 9 inch screen.

Now the question of packing comes into play. Can you carry it around all day if that’s what you want to do with it? Would it burst your carry on restrictions or fill up all the space in your daypack? Some models may be super slim but can be quite big. On top of that, size often does not reflect weight, so always try and find out about it.

What Do You Need from It?

Again, the purpose has to match both quality and budget. If you plan on doing just occasional stuff that doesn’t need a high processing speed, you won’t find it necessary to look too closely at the RAM. If you want high performance for photo and video editing or playing big games, then you need to watch this category as well as the processing speed.

Another important aspect is the storage. Do you need to save a lot of data and big ones at that? You should look into the higher two digit gigabyte category. Another thing to think about is whether you might want to save it on your computer or the cloud. The latter only works if you have a lot of access to the internet. Don’t ever go for netbooks. They are still lacking in so many categories.

Other handy things to look out for are touchscreen options, battery life (the longer the better), operational system (are you an apple or windows user?) and screen (how can you see the screen if you are working in direct sunlight?).

Design

Don’t underestimate this category. You should feel comfortable with your laptop. Apart from the overall design and look, nothing drives me more crazy than having to adapt to new keyboards and typing on hard keys. (Did you know that it’s also unhealthy?)

Depending on how fancy you want your laptop to be and what features you like, you might also want to look into options, such as iPads with attachable keyboards or convertible PCs. Both are easy to carry around and adapt to different usage.

I am no computer expert by all means, but these are categories I found necessary to look into before making any concrete comparisons between specific items. Especially when you travel, you want a computer that is easy to carry around, that doesn’t require many extras and will help you get your work done quickly and efficiently since travel itself can be quite stressful and you don’t need that added hassle. Now tell me, did your favourite priorities make it on the list or would you like to add some? Let me know in the comments.

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