As a digital nomad, I spent countless hours researching for the best laptop for outdoor use, to replace my old and very limited laptop. The main issues I had was that the battery was not great and the screen was not bright enough.
What’s the point of travelling the world if you can’t even work from the hotel’s garden, or even from the beach.
In this article, I am simply going to share with you the results of my research, tell you which laptop I got for myself, and I will answer some of the questions that are regularly asked by digital nomads.
Dell XPS 13 7390
So I got myself a Dell XPS 13 7390.
The specs are pretty basic:
- It’s a 13-inch screen laptop
- It has a solid battery
- 8Gb of memory
- 256Gb of storage capacity
This laptop is great for office work (emails, web browsers, basic software) but won’t suit those who need to do design or video work or those who wish to play video games.
I am not here to give you a full technical review of the laptop, there are better sites for this. However, I can tell you why I love this laptop.
What I love about this laptop?
Well, it is a real digital nomad laptop. It has everything a digital nomad needs. Especially a digital nomad who is travelling across the country, moving to a new city every week or so.
- Its screen is brilliant. I can work from anywhere. I will never have any sunlight reflection problem.
- Its battery lasts long enough for me to work up to 5 hours from a café without having to worry about charging it
- It is robustly built.
- The touchpad works well
- It has the perfect size to work from the bed of the hotel rooms I stay in
- It is powerful enough for the work I am doing (digital marketing)
On top of that, what is great about this laptop is that it has been released in 2019, therefore, it is already a little bit old. In the laptop industry old means cheaper. This Dell cost me only about $800 (on promotion). There should be some still available around that price.
Why did I pick this laptop for my digital nomad activity?
Well, what truly mattered to me was the screen brightness and the battery capacity.
I did not know how to know if a laptop’s screen would be bright enough to work outside. To find out, I searched for “laptop brightness measurement” and discovered that screens luminance was measured with Nits.
For some reasons, it is not something laptop companies advertise a lot on. You can find more information on laptop specialised magazines though.
As I knew that Macbooks with retina screens were great for outdoor use I simply tried to find out what was Macbook level of Nits. And at the time, it was about 450 Nits (you can search for it on Google to get the latest value of the latest Macbooks).
Then, I simply had to search for laptops that were in the same Nits range. And this is how I heard about the Dell XPS 13.
There were other laptops that were suggested but they either had large screens (over 15-inch), or high-performance specifications. I don’t need such specifications, I don’t want to pay for it, and I know that high performances usually mean low battery capacity.
I hesitated between the HP Envy x2, the HP Spectre x360, a Lenovo Thinkpad, and the latest Dell XPS 13. I think they could all be great, and probably even better, but the price comparison made me take the decision to go for an older laptop.
Why not a Macbook?
At some point, I thought about getting a Macbook Air or a Macbook pro, but I quickly decided not to for one very specific reason. While travelling in Sri Lanka, my girlfriend, who was using a Macbook Air from 2017 at the time, burnt the charger socket (the one on the laptop) just by plugin her charger into the wall.
I am not blaming Apple for this at all. We should all be careful when plugging a laptop, especially in remote places where electricity is not always safe.
But, the main problem we had was that it was impossible to repair her laptop. And to get a new one, because Macbook users don’t easily migrate to Windows laptops, we had to travel a long time to go to the nearest Apple store reseller.
A similar issue happened to her this year, while travelling in Mexico, she had to buy a new laptop again. She is now using the latest Macbook Air, and I can see that my old Dell XPS 13 is doing pretty well in comparison to her brand new and expensive laptop.
Is a 15 inch laptop too big for travel?
No it is not!
What you should be concerned by is the actual size of the laptop you plan to buy.
Some 15 inch laptops are actually much larger than 15 inches, while some laptops like the Macbooks or the Dell XPS have borderless screens, and therefore are much smaller.
It is hard to find exact information about laptops size as most brand will promote the screen display size. The best way to find what is the size of a laptop is to search for related laptop hard covers.
To give you an example, the size of a Dell XPS 15-inch cover is 9.07 x 13.56 inches or 228 mm x 330 mm.
While the size of a Dell Inspiron 13 inch cover is 9.8 x 13.3 x inches or 228mm x 330mm.
Not much of a difference right? Pay attention to the laptop’s weight and its actual size, that will matter more.
Can you bring computer parts on a plane?
Yes, you can.
However, you should always ask the company you will fly with, just in case there were recent changes.
As desktops can be heavy sometimes, another solution would be to ship your computer parts to the place you will stay in.
Hence, you will have the ability to ship your desktop as a fragile item, protect it with proper packaging, and get insurance in case something goes wrong.