Well, last year it was the dawn of the tablets. But what changes are afoot in the growing market for top travel laptops 2012? Basic requirements remain largely unchanged: long battery life, light weight, portability, ruggedness, connectivity etc.
Really, it’s all about the ultrabooks this year. And with faster chips and strengthened build, they are proving ultra-light and ultra-capable.
In our Top 10 Travel Laptops for 2010 and last year’s Best Travel Laptops 2011 we had small, light and useful; this year you can add powerful and pricey. We’re seeing a no-compromise approach, where super-svelte (commonly silver) ultrabooks deliver everything you’d expect from much larger machines. And some even cram in a DVD-drive. How retro!
Top Travel Laptops 2012
If the MacBook Air started this category, it’s now got a stream of competitors eager to get your custom. We’ve got you the basics here, and a couple of heavyweights to finish for the die-hard adventurers out there.
Samsung Series5 Ultra
Enough imitation. Samsung (pictured above) has managed to cram many of the regular laptop features you thought you had to sacrifice into this model. As a 14-inch version you’ll get HDMI port, Ethernet and an SD card slot – nothing special, but go up one size and somehow they’ve squeezed in an optical drive.
Compromise over. Pack your DVD’s for those longer flights. Choose here from either 128 Gb SSD memory or a smart standard SATA hard drive (500Gb) and 16 GB Express Cache Memory.
Apple has a knack for innovating and creating products that change everything. Still a rare sight – largely because of its price – there’s something very special about this laptop. Cold to touch, thanks to the aluminium unibody build, it’s shaved straight from the block and undoubtedly one of the top travel laptops 2012.
Specs have improved with the inclusion of Intel Core i5 and i7. The 11-inch version is the one for the kilo counters, at just 1.06 kg – although 5-hour battery life may not suit all. From 2-4GB memory and flash storage that’s best suited to travellers, its only real drawback is the lack of ports – although the Thunderbolt port is a clever addition to both 11- and 13-inch versions.
HP Folio 13
It wasn’t long ago that 6-hr battery life was considered plenty. HP has an ultrabook that promises 9.5 hours and all the connectivity you could need. After a VGA port you’ll be disappointed, but other than this it’s rammed. One USB 2.0 and another USB 3.0 should be enough considering its role as a travel laptop.
There’s an HDMI port and the handy SD/MMC card slot – cuts out the need to carry a card reader. Sporting the i5 Intel chip and 4GB of memory, it should multitask with ease. The 13.3-inch display is up with its competitors at this price, and importantly so is the build quality (at this price). And it’s a decent price considering.
LG Super ultrabook z330
Light and powerful, that’s what we like. LG has also chosen to not follow the tapered fashion, instead building a solid, uniform casing. Thanks to this there’s no compromise on ports, and weight is somehow kept down to 1.2 Kg. As a 13-inch model with the faster i7 Intel chip inside, LG are looking for top spot.
HDMI and three USB ports is great – but really necessary for a travel laptop? Solid State Drives (SSD) are always preferable and LG’s happily included one. If you fancy a 14-inch version (z430) you can opt for a combo SSD/ Hard Disk Drive, but we’d keep it small and stick with the z330.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Hybrid
Hybrid: Half this, half the other. But a welcome compromise? Maybe sometimes. And Lenovo might be on to something with this model which is why its one of the top travel laptops 2012. It can switch operating systems to a custom software set-up that delivers an Instant Media Mode (IMM) giving you near instant-on connectivity and 10-hr battery life.
Nice for travelling and watching movies – spill resistant keyboard, too. But with other ultrabooks packing 7/8r battery lives anyway, is the compromise here really a good one? Specs are customisable all the way up to up to Intel i7 processor/8GB integrated DDR3 SDRAM and 160GB solid state hard drive (SSD).
Toshiba Portege Z830
If you are thinking the specs on these little laptops are all very similar, you’d be right. And, with no surprises up its magnesium alloy (surprise) design is the Tosh. Again 13 inches, this key packer does weigh in lighter than the MacBook Air.
More reasonably-priced is the i3 version. Good enough for multimedia, but would it struggle rendering your HD travel videos? Its 8-hr battery life is welcomed, as is the edged front casing, SSD drive and spill resistant keyboard to make it a top travel laptop 2012.
Dell Xps 13
Blink and you’d think it was a Mac. A nearly frameless screen helps deliver lots of pixels per pound (1366×768). You’re also getting some serious technology in the build: a mix of machined aluminium and carbon fibre wraps the now ubiquitous Intel i3 and i5 processors, solid state 128 GB or 256 GB drives, and 4GB memory in a tidy travel package. Goodbye Dell’s corporate office box identity, hello global traveller – but what the hell is ‘Gorilla Glass’?
Top Travel Laptops 2012: Rugged
Ok, enough with the exec-style travel laptops/ ultrabooks. Let’s get to the full-leaded, end of days, chuck in the back of a truck and survive these are our rugged top travel laptop 2012.
More Rambo than Rocky, this military grade laptop looks more like a command centre than something you’d carry around the world. Still, if you need to rely on your IT under the most testing conditions, it’s always worth looking briefly at the military inspired equipment. Powerful at 2.53 GHz and 8GB of SDRAM, it’s ‘mission specific’ in that you can choose your specs. We’d opt for the laser-rangefinder version so we could tell how far it was to the pool…
Our longstanding favourite is evolving. With its new Cf-53 Panasonic has included the latest i5 chips and thanks to not sacrificing protection for profile, you are still getting a full laptop (DVD Drive as standard, 10-hour battery life, 4 USB ports, HDMI, VGA, serial port and Ethernet.)
Drop proof from 76cm, water resistant and solid thanks to a magnesium alloy chassis, it’s chunky and can therefore protect its removable 320 GB drive. Still surprised to not see these in the high street. It’s not a looker, but then so far none of the competition even gets close in terms of survivability.
If you are looking more for portability, the company also offers the CF-C1, a rugged convertible tablet PC. With a smaller 12.1-inch screen, it still promises to be splashproof, drop proof and sit-on proof. Probably the rugged option as travel laptops go.
An award-winning laptop thanks to its battery life, warranty and list of certifications – most of which provide protection well beyond that needed by mortals. The top Intel i7 chip makes sure it can run everything you throw at it. As expected, there are lots of ports and immense customization options – having one that allows you to use night vision goggles might be missing the point here.
We hope you found this Top Travel Laptops 2012 useful. We have more recent Travel Laptop articles here.