All posts in "Travel"

Best Lightweight Laptop for Digital Nomads

Published October 30, 2017 in Entrepreneurship , Travel - 2 Comments
Zenbook, a lightweight laptop for travel

I have been traveling the world and working from my laptop since 2010. In that time I have carried a 15.4″ 5.5 lb machine, an 11.6″ 3.5 lb featherweight, and everything in between. Recently, I was in the market for a new laptop and was surprised for find how difficult it was to filter through all the options. I found $1,500 computers that didn’t have the processing power of $1,000 systems. Given the amount of time I spent comparing CPUs and systems to find the best option, I wanted to share some of that knowledge to make your buying decision easier.

First, let’s take a look at my requirements in a laptop. I wanted something that was at least as powerful as the computer I bought five years ago. Ideally, I would like it to be a little faster, lighter, and smaller. The computer I would be replacing is a Toshiba Satellite L855 with the i7-3630QM quad-core processor, 8 GB of RAM, 100 GB SSD, and 500 GB HDD. I bought this computer as an open-box sale model at Staples five years ago for $500 and put another $100 into the SSD upgrade. I also moved the original HDD into the DVD bay using a mounting bracket I picked up on Amazon. At the time, this was a good deal. I’m surprised to find that five years later it’s difficult to replace this laptop for the $600 I have in it. Here’s what I’m looking for in the replacement computer:

  • i7 quad-core CPU that is at least as fast as my current laptop, preferably faster
  • 8 GB of RAM, preferably 16GB
  • solid state drive for a quick startup
  • less than 5.5 lbs
  • 12″ – 14″ screen

I’ll start with the conclusion if you want to just see what I bought. However, I considered several options and a couple different travel styles that may appeal to you if you don’t like the laptop I chose.

Asus Zenbook UX430UA-DH74Zenbook, a lightweight laptop for travel

  • Intel Core i7-8550U Processor (quad-core)
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
  • 2.75 lbs
  • 14″ HD display

This computer is thin and light with a 14″ HD display, Intel Core i7-8550U Processor, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD. Over the past five years, I have moved from earning some of my income online to relying entirely on my laptop and internet connection to pay my bills. For this reason, spending a little extra to get a great computer was a good business decision.

I bought this laptop and the case above because it meets all the requirements I had for my new laptop. It is lightweight (2.75 lbs), has an 8th generation i7 CPU that is significantly faster than my current laptop, double the RAM from my current system, and a significantly larger solid state drive.

Lenovo Yoga 910

  • 7th Gen i7-7500U (dual-core)
  • 16 GB
  • 512 GB SSD
  • 3.09 lbs
  • 13.9″ 4K UHD

This computer has a 13.9″ laptop (4K UHD touchscreen), 7th Gen i7-7500U, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD at 3.09 lbs.

The Lenovo Yoga 910 was a strong contender for my new computer. It has a slightly faster CPU than my previous laptop, more memory, and the bonus feature that the screen turns around to function as a tablet. However, the tablet function is not a necessity, and the Asus Zenbook offers a faster computer for less money. Since I don’t do any work that takes advantage of drawing on the screen, the Zenbook was a better choice for me. If you could use a stylus and the option to draw on the screen, then this is a great choice.

ASUS Transformer Mini

  • Intel Atom (quad-core)
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB EMMC
  • 1.7 lbs
  • 10.1″ screen

Right upfront, you’ll see that this does not meet most of the requirements I listed above. However, this computer has some unique benefits that make it a great option for digital nomads that don’t require a lot of performance from their laptop (or short infrequent trips away from your primary computer).

ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA-D4-GR, 10.1” screen 2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop, Intel Quad-Core Atom, 4GB RAM, 128 GB EMMC, with the pen and keyboard included. This is an interesting alternative to the laptops above since it can be charged from any USB just like a cellphone. For frequent travel, the small size, weight, and charging option makes this an option worth considering.

Imagine this, pack the tiny 1.7 lb Asus Mini in your bag and hit the road. It has 11 hours of battery life builtin, but you could use a backup battery like the one listed above to extend that to around 30 hours. If you’re not doing anything too processor intensive then this is a great option. You could brows the web, write, and check email for days without recharging the battery.

Unfortunately for me, I do use more processing power than this computer offers frequently enough that I cannot use this option. Also, I prefer slow travel and will be spending three months traveling around Europe with my laptop. The Transformer Mini would be good for me to use on weekend trips or two week getaways where I could plan to do less CPU intensive work during the trip. However, it will not meet my needs during extended travel.

Apple Macbook Pro

  • i7-7820HQ (quad-core)
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • 6.4 lbs
  • 15″ screen

Apple 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display, 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 Quad Core, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD at 6.4 lbs. While I didn’t even consider buying an Apple computer for myself, this list would not be complete without mentioning this popular computer for digital nomads. Read any forum discussing favorite laptops for digital nomads and you will find a long list of people that are very happy with their MBP.

There are two reasons I did not consider the Apple brand:

  1. The Apple logo screams “take me” when you turn your back on the laptop at a cafe.
  2. This Macbook costs almost double the price of the computer I bought, and the Apple laptop is heavier while only slightly faster.

While the CPU in this laptop is significantly faster than the Yoga mentioned above, it is only slightly faster than the Zen computer I bought. Also, it is the heaviest of the four laptops mentioned here. Unless you are an Apple fan, one of the options listed above offers a better value for your money. On the positive side, the additional graphics memory and CPU speed would make this a better option if you work in graphics. Professional photographers, graphic editors, and video editors should consider this laptop to be their best choice. Since I don’t do much more than work with Canva, the extra graphics memory would only give me an excuse to spend more time playing video games – and this is a work computer.

One Week at the Lake

Lake Royale tiki bar and speed boat

After visiting Barcelona for a month, attending the Wikipedia conference in Berlin, and hosting the Raleigh SEO Meetup Conference – I’m spending a week at my lake property. Perhaps you read about The Lake Royale Project that I announced last year. Essentially, I have been able to build this business and live a life of location independence and international travel because I’m on a path toward financial independence. Here’s an update on my project at Lake Royale. Continue reading

Five Weeks in Europe as a Digital Nomad

Frank C Jones in Izmir Turkey

A few months ago, I learned about the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin. Being one of the three founders of the Triangle Wikipedians user group in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to attend the conference this year. The main reason I was able to go when the other two founding members could not is that I’m a digital nomad. This means my work travels with me, and that’s why I was able to spend five weeks in Europe this summer. Here’s how I live and work from anywhere in the world – and you can too. Continue reading

Wikimedia Conference in Berlin

Published May 9, 2016 in Intentional Living , Marketing , Travel - 0 Comments
Guy Kawasaki and Frank C Jones at the Berlin Wikipedia Conference

What does Wikipedia have to do with monetization, business strategy, and online marketing?

That’s the first thing most people will ask when they learn about my involvement with Wikipedia and the free culture movement. Think about it this way, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the whole world. It is dedicated to creating a core product that is free for anyone to use – and yet the Wikimedia Foundation has enough funding that they are considering long-term plans which include the creation of an endowment fund. There was even a recent scandal about Wikipedia building a new search engine in the news that got some press, but largely went unnoticed by people outside the Wikimedia community. Within the community, one of the cornerstones of this conference would specifically address “How to move forward“. Continue reading

The Lake Royale Project

Lake Royale sunset bingo in the club house
Update One year after moving to Lake Royale

Twelve days ago I began an experiment in lifestyle design and financial independence. I moved into a travel trailer at a lake community just outside Raleigh. At the time when I moved in, there was no running water, no electricity, no phone service, and no internet access at the site. However, this is only the beginning of my experiment. Continue reading

Intentional Living

Published August 4, 2014 in Intentional Living , Travel - 1 Comment

If you’re like most people, you wake up in the morning and go to work five days a week. You spend about 8 hours a day at a job you hate because that’s how you pay for the things you want and take care of the people you love. The problem is, this 40-hour workweek leaves you exhausted when you finally do get home. Worse still, if you’re in a relationship, the person you chose to spend your life with has a similar job with a conflicting schedule. Between work and the daily commute, the two of you rarely see each other. If your family size is larger than just two, the scheduling gets even more complicated and family time has become a rarity. When you do have time off together, there’s an endless list of housework, lawn care, and other chores that fill the free time you have between work weeks. If you’re beginning to think there has to be a better way – I’m here to tell you that there is. Continue reading

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