Surface Pro 4

Best digital nomad and business travel laptop in 2020

Paul Ryken Last Updated: Wednesday 29 January 2020 Take the right gear, Work from anywhere Leave a Comment

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We have been full-time travellers with carry-on luggage only since October 2016, maintaining and developing this lifestyle and travel website, and managing a diversified investment portfolio, including a short term rental property, on the road.

The technology we use – computer hardware or software – must provide value. We use technology to be more efficient. Naturally, as digital nomads, we rely heavily on our technology. It just needs to work. So, wherever we spend our limited funds, we research before we commit. And we research again as new options come to market and our technology reaches its end of life.

The Surface Pro 6 is not only stylish but more importantly, will help you be more productive | Photo by by Abderrahman Bensalah on Pixabay
The Surface Pro 6 is not only stylish but more importantly, will help you be more productive | Photo by Abderrahman Bensalah on Pixabay

What laptop do we recommend for digital nomads and business travelers?

With my last words in mind, I’m going to cut straight to the chase: We recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro line of products as the go-to computers for digital nomads and business travellers.

Let’s face it. Everyone is in one of two camps, really: it’s either the Windows operating system or Apple iOS. The decision as to what operating system is usually based upon your occupation and more specifically, whether you want/need to use a high-end graphics program, or not. Those that do, generally go with the Apple iOS-based Mac books.

Given neither of us has that specific need, we prefer and recommend the Microsoft Windows Operating System. But that’s not the only reason…

With only 0.33” or 8.5mm thickness, the Surface Pro 6 slides easily into your carry-on luggage | Photo courtesy of Pixabay
With only 0.33” or 8.5mm thickness, the Surface Pro 6 slides easily into your carry-on luggage | Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Why do we recommend the Surface Pro 7?

As previously mentioned, each iteration of the Surface Pro family is getting better and better – and so it should. The Surface Pro 6 now includes the 8th-Gen Intel processor, and the performance benefits are obvious.

Processing power

We both started with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, but have since upgraded to the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. We went with the Intel Core i7-8650U over the i5-8250U version. The processing power – running multiple apps, streaming videos and doing some occasional spreadsheet work – was a huge leap up from the previous Surface Pro 4 version.

Why? Intel Core i7-8650U is equipped with four cores but at a lower base frequency of 1.9 GHz. The Turbo Boost can go up to 4.2 GHz, and therefore also offers good short term single-core speeds.

The installed graphics processing unit is called the Intel UHD Graphics 620, but it is essentially identical to the Intel HD Graphics 620. What helps bind it all together is the integrated memory controller that supports DDR4-2400 / LPDDR3-2133 and dual channel memory.

Battery life

The battery life is double what we got from the old Surface Pro 4. Fully charged, you will be able to work for almost 8 hours straight on the battery power alone (using good battery management).

The Surface Pro 6 weighs less than the Mac Book Air | Photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash
The Surface Pro 6 weighs less than the Mac Book Air | Photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash

Light-weight

If you travel with carry-on like us, your luggage cannot weigh more than 10kgs / 22lbs (on some airlines even less). Including the keyboard, the Surface Pro’s weight is 1.1kgs / 2.4 lbs. For such a powerful machine, that is light. By comparison: the Mac Book Air weighs 1.25kgs / 2.75lbs. Surface Pro’s are also extremely thin, allowing them to slide easily into your carry-on luggage.

Screen size and resolution

Like streaming video? The Surface Pro’s 31.2cm / 12.3′ (2736 x 1824) is one of the best screens for 2-in-1 offerings. Compare this to the Mac Book Air, and the Surface Pro 6’s screen is smaller with a better resolution. And being a 2-in-1, you can easily detach the keyboard for the tablet experience (and easier video watching or reading).

Without keyboard, the Surface Pro 6 is great for watching videos or reading books | Photo by Csaba Nagy on Pixabay
Without a keyboard, the Surface Pro 6 is great for watching videos or reading books | Photo by Csaba Nagy on Pixabay

Specifications

The Microsoft Surface Pro (since the third generation) has started to provide some excellent features worthy to warrant being the best laptop for travel and work including but not limited to:

Tech SpecsOptions or values
Dimensions11.5” x 7.9” x 0.33” (292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm)
StorageSolid-state drive (SSD) options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
DisplayScreen: 12.3” PixelSenseTM Display; Resolution: 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI); Aspect ratio: 3:2; Touch: 10 point multi-touch
Battery LifeUp to 13.5 hours of local video playback1
Memory8GB or 16GB RAM
GraphicsIntel® UHD Graphics 620 (i5); Intel® UHD Graphics 620 (i7)
Processori5-8250U; i7-8650U
Connections1 x full-size USB 3.0; 3.5 mm headphone jack; Mini DisplayPort; 1 x Surface Connect port; Surface Type Cover; MicroSDXC card reader; Compatible with Surface Dial
SecurityTPM 2.0 chip for enterprise security; Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello face sign-in
Camera, video and audioWindows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing); 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p Skype HD video; 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p full HD video; Dual microphones; 1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby® AudioTM Premium
WirelessWi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compatible; Bluetooth Wireless 4.1 technology
SensorsAmbient light sensor; Accelerometer; Gyroscope
Warranty1-year limited hardware warranty

Finances permitted, I’d recommend buying a machine with a minimum of 16GB RAM. Don’t skimp on this as it will affect the speed of your applications.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Microsoft  Surface Pro 6 (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB)
A best in class laptop with the versatility of a studio and tablet; More power now with the new 8th Generation Intel Core processor
$603.88
SaleBestseller No. 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB) - Microsoft Surface Pro Black Signature Type Cover- Black
A best in class laptop with the versatility of a studio and tablet; More power now with the new 8th Generation Intel Core Processor
$765.00

What mouse do we recommend?

There are plenty of make and model choices in the marketplace. We use the Microsoft Arc Mouse as it suits our nomadic lifestyle. It is super lightweight and connects via Bluetooth. One of the best features is that it folds flat and turns off at the same time.

We recommend you use Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries in them.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Microsoft Arc Mouse (ELG-00001) Black
Ultra slim and lightweight. Battery life: Upto 6 months; Snaps flat and slips easily into a pocket or bag
$53.40
SaleBestseller No. 2
Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse (Silver) - KGY-00001
Light, portable, ergonomic mouse is perfect for precise navigation on the go; No cords or dongle — connects wirelessly to your Surface via Bluetooth
$31.99
Bestseller No. 3
Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse, Light Grey
USB 2.1, Bluetooth Low energy 4.0/4.1/4.2 compatible
SaleBestseller No. 4
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse (L6V-00001)
Advanced ergonomic design with thumb scoop encourages natural hand and wrist postures.; Mouse angle and height are designed to place wrist in a comfortable position.
$30.60
The Microsoft Arc Mouse is super lightweight, connects via Bluetooth and folds flat when not in use | Photo by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay
The Microsoft Arc Mouse is super lightweight, connects via Bluetooth and folds flat when not in use | Photo by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay

Where can you purchase your Surface Pro 7 (and accessories)?

I would always recommend researching the price options at a variety of websites including but not limited to Microsoft, Amazon and highly reputable third-party computer stores.

When is the best time to buy your Surface Pro 7 (and accessories)?

Golden rule #1: Never buy an expensive item (and the Surface Pro 7 isn’t cheap) unless you have sat on it for 30 days. Not figuratively, of course. Seriously though: only buy a new Surface Pro 7 if you still need it once the 30 days are over.

Golden rule #2: Never pay full retail price!!! Best is to check out offers at your next big sales date, such as Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and make sure you negotiate, especially if you buy accessories at the same time (there is always room for negotiation).

Are you a digital nomad or frequent business traveler? What computer (and accessories) do you use and recommend, and why?

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Recommended computer hardware for the digital nomad
Recommended computer hardware for the digital nomad
Recommended computer hardware for the digital nomad

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