Travel and digital nomad life means sacrifice- but luckily that doesn’t have to mean your computer. Some people choose not to bring a laptop with them on a long trip… we brought two. As I sit here writing while Fin edits a video 5 ft to my left, I think it was right choice. I spent several weeks price shopping and comparing different options on laptops before we left on our around-the-world adventure. Let me save you the legwork and make the case why the Yoga 2 Pro is your best option if you plan on bringing a new laptop.
Somehow both laptops survived two months of Vietnamese highway riding on a rusty rebar rack on the back of motorbikes.
Why bring a laptop at all?
We chose laptops for both the ease and ability to do video editing, build a website, and write easily. As we both need to re-enter society and get jobs at the end of our trip, we thought it would help with job search and the interview process (resumes, lots of Skype calls, presentations).
All of those tasks can be done with a tablet or smartphone to some extent, but none can be done as proficiently, quickly, and easily as on a laptop.
Why PC laptop instead of an Apple?
Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate Apple products like our iPad and iPhones, but…
On eBay, we were able to pick up gently used Yoga 2 Pros fro about $600 each including shipping and a warranty. You can find a brand new Yoga 2 on Amazon for under $750 these days if you don’t like buying pre-owned electronics. A Macbook Pro with equivalent specs would have cost over $1,000.00 used and $1,250.00 new. (Mac users- feel free to skip the rest of this post and flame the comments section. )
Sometimes, flying under the radar is the best way to prevent something from getting stolen. We don’t operate under the false belief that a Yoga 2 does not attract attention or wouldn’t get stolen in seconds if we took our eyes off it. However, using a Mac overseas is the equivalent of a 6’ tall blonde girl wearing heels- it makes you stick out even more.
Yoga 2 Specs and What They Mean to Travelers & Digital Nomads
For a full size screen and keyboard, this bad boy only weighs in at 3.06 lbs. Probably the first thing people consider when looking at a laptop that is lightweight for travel. Since I need to be defensive against the inevitable number of people telling me I’m an idiot for not bringing an Apple computer, the Macbook Pro weighs in at 3.57 lbs but a Macbook can be had at just 2.03 lbs. So yes, the 2016 Macbook is lighter, but in terms of horsepower, its only a small step up from my iPhone 5… not quite the gusto I need when editing 4k drone footage.
i7 Processer | 8GB Ram
While there are certainly better specs out there, these are pretty beefy for an ultralight laptop in the $600 range. This is what makes video editing possible, even in 4K. Yes, it takes a good while longer to render or create shadowfiles for 4k video then say a desktop, but once again, for a laptop that will most likely get stolen, its pretty competent.
256 GB Hard Drive
Ok, its a bit on the small side. Bigger than some; Smaller than most….The baseline Yoga 2 HD is big enough to store whatever you may be working on at the moment but definitely needs an external drive to store extra data. We have a 2 TB external that happens to work great. If your data needs are not that substantial you may be able to get by with a 512 GB HD available on the Yoga 2 as well. Since we were banking on a hefty external, we didn’t see a need to pay a premium for a larger built in HD. You might!
Lenovo says the Yoga 2 will get up to 9 hours of use when not plugged in. However, doing even slightly demanding task like video playback at about 2/3 brightness, this number drops to 6 hours. The battery life on this machine is just not great compared to laptops with similar weight, but that may be an area you’re willing to compromise.
USB 3.0 port
Comparing different data transfer speeds on USB specs are pretty much where I draw the line, but I’ll leave it at this: The external HD is USB 3.0. The Yoga 2 has a USB 3.0 port. I can move a 4k video file MUCH faster to the external through the 3.0 port than the USB 2. Thats enough for me.
Micro HDMI Port
This port and a $7 cable lets us hook up a laptop to any HD TV. That lets us check out videos we are working on or watch downloaded movies on flat screens anywhere making airbnb living rooms feel more like home.
I’m the first person in line to say how stupid I thought touch screen is on a laptop. Why would I want a bunch of fingerprints on my shiny screen? Having used it now for 5 months, I can tell you it is amazing- under the right circumstances. Much faster to scrub through a long video using a finger on the screen instead of the mouse. Casual web browsing is much easier as well, since you don’t need to use the trackpad. Windows 10, although it features a touchscreen centric “Tablet Mode”, still doesn’t offer the effortless usability of iPad.
Laptop to Tablet: Multiform functions: (Fin’s Fav)
Similar to the touch screen, this was a product feature that I didn’t care about at all initially. In practice, its really convenient!
AKA Netflix and chill. BETTER than iPad because the laptop keyboard becomes a stand AND better than a laptop because the computer fans blow the hot air away from your lap for a much more comfy experience. This folding pattern is awesome on the small airplane tray table, where a normal laptop wouldn’t be able to open enough.
Might as well call it TV mode. Pretty much the same use as Stand Mode but seems to project the speaker sound better. Also great for use in the kitchen (my wife says…) for reading recipes or watching The Office while cooking.
Nice when we want to use it as a tablet on the plane, bus, couch. A huge 3lbs tablet running Windows is not ideal, but in a pinch, it works better than you’d imagine and now you have a huge 13″ screen tablet! There is a touch screen keyboard available in this mode when you need to type.
*Laptop Review Update: 5 Months Later
We are both still very happy with our choice for laptops. The free upgrade to Windows 10 made it even easier and more familiar to use, though I still have hurt feelings from trying to deal with Windows 8.
We have encountered two persistent, annoying issues however:
- Once a day I get a weird screen flicker where the screen turns on and off for about 10 seconds straight. This is really annoying and always seems to happen when I’m editing video. I think it correlates with leaving the laptop on for too long (several days). I usually do a reboot and then won’t see the screen flicker again that day.
- We occasionally have a problem getting the wireless card to recognize ANY wireless networks, even though we know there is signal to our other devices. Seems to be a problem with the Yoga 2’s. However, there are two easy fixes: A.) Buy a $10 USB wireless dongle B.) Restart your computer. Both of these fixes shouldn’t be needed in the first place, but nonetheless, immediately fix the problem.