Oh, it’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? We’ve all had it at one point or another. Let’s throw on some shorts, get our knees in the breeze, and catch some rays to take the edge off the task at hand.
But the reality of using a laptop in the great outdoors isn’t as pleasant as you think it would be. Chief among the many issues of this wishful laptop jaunt is that the sun makes it impossible to see anything other than ourselves on the screen.
If we wanted to just see our reflection, we could have saved hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars and bought ourselves a lovely little mirror instead of a computer.
Not to worry, though, my intrepid friend. Having researched this issue in great detail, I’ve put together this list of the best 5 laptops for use outdoors. No longer will you be shackled to the interior shade of your abode or workspace.
Reviews of Laptops For Outdoor Use
Best Overall – Samsung 2020 Notebook 9
When first glancing over the Notebook 9’s specs, you’ll be wondering why I chose a laptop with a 350 nits screen for my top spot, but here’s the thing…that 350 spec is just the factory default. Once you toggle Outdoor Mode on in settings, it can be pushed as high as 500 nits, giving you great visuals, even when in direct sunlight.
You’ll also appreciate the 15-hour battery life, ensuring that it won’t die on you partway through your outdoor computing adventure — hurray!
Weighing in at just 3.8lbs and measuring only 13.7 x 9.4 x 0.67”, it’s incredibly portable too, so it won’t feel like a burden when you take the plunge and step out your front door to get some work done.
Tying things up, we have the hyperthreaded, quad-core i7-8550U processor capable of supporting some pretty hefty multitasking, ensuring a smooth workflow at all times.
- 500 Nits – Bright enough for use in direct sunlight.
- 15-Hour Battery Life – Won’t die on you.
- 3.8lbs – You won’t even notice it on your travels.
- Price – Great value for money.
- Hyperthreaded Processor – Capable of multitasking.
- No Dedicated GPU – Limited graphics facilities.
Brightest Screen – HP Elitebook X360 1030 G3
Need a laptop display that can cut through the brightest of days? Take a look at the HP Elitebook X360. This thing has a display capable of putting out a whopping 700 nits, which means you’ll never have to strain to make out fine details when you decide to switch up the office for a park bench.
The X360’s battery packs one hell of a punch too, capable of churning out power for 18 hours straight, so hypothetically, you could go two full workdays without charging it once and still have some juice to spare.
Weighing 2.76lbs, it’s even lighter than my top Samsung pick, and smaller to boot, so you’ll always be able to squeeze it into your bag.
With a hyperthreaded, quad-core i5-8350U CPU at the heart of operations, the hardware ain’t slacking either, but just look at that precision-crafted aluminum enclosure keeping everything safe and in place — a thing of beauty, to be sure.
- 700 Nits – Cuts through sunlight.
- 18-Hour Battery – Won’t leave you high and dry.
- 2.76lbs – Easy to ferry about.
- Hyperthreaded CPU – Supports multitasking.
- Aluminum Chassis – One tough mother(board).
- Turbo Boost Limitations – Unable to maintain max-rated clock speed.
Most Durable – 2020 13” Apple MacBook Pro
In terms of display brightness, the 2020 MacBook Pro has the NoteBook 9 pipped…just. The latest fruit of Apple’s labors can put out a very respectable 504 nits, which is more than enough to combat some pretty severe glare, so go ahead, get out there, and enjoy the sun.
The 2560 x 1600 resolution also helps to keep visuals extra clear in the daytime, reducing eye strain while you work.
I also have a lot of love for the 10th-gen, hyperthreaded, quad-core CPU that keeps functionality buttery smooth, and of course, the fact that it only weighs 3.1lbs, making it a total breeze to transport to your favorite beauty spot.
But the thing that really earns it a spot on this list is that signature MacBook build quality. As I’m sure you’re aware, Apple’s aluminum enclosures are without equal. I can’t tell you how many tumbles my own MacBook has survived, so it goes without saying that they’re suitable for life in the wild…or our gardens anyway.
- Quality Aluminum Chassis – Can roll with the punches.
- 504 Nits – Screen is visible through sunlight.
- Hyperthreaded – Strong enough CPU for most workloads.
- 3.1lbs – Super portable.
- 2560 x 1600 – Superb resolution.
- 10-Hour Battery Life – Not as impressive as some others.
Most Powerful – Microsoft Surface Book 3
If your work involves complex creative and editorial work rather than spreadsheets and data, the laptops I’ve shown you thus far will only hold you back, but the Surface Book 3, well…the Surface Book 3 is a tool of the Gods.
Loaded with the Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 GPU and a hyperthreaded, quad-core i7 processor, it’s primed for any creative design work you can throw at it, from CAD to Photoshop. The 15.5-hour battery life is nothing to scoff at either!
It also has a sizable, 15-inch display with a 3240 x 2160 resolution, which is just shy of 4K, making it the perfect laptop for detail-oriented work on the go, and with a 402 nits brightness rating, it’s usable in mildly bright conditions too.
Unfortunately, as payment for the larger screen, we sacrifice quite a bit of portability. It weighs just over 6lbs, so it’s not going to bring you to your knees or anything, but you’ll definitely notice it if you’re walking a lot throughout the day.
- Quadro GPU – Great for creative digital design.
- Hyperthreaded CPU – More threads mean more support for multitasking.
- 15.5-Hour Battery Life – No outlet? No problem.
- 15-Inch, 402 Nits Display – Easy on the eyes.
- Price – Not for the faint of heart.
- Quad-Core Processor – I’d expect more cores for the money.
- 6.83lbs – Not exactly featherweight.
Best Battery Life – Lenovo ThinkPad T490s
The ThinkPad T490s is impressive in a lot of ways, but what got me hyped is the ridiculously beefy battery life. This machine can run for 20 hours straight, so it’s a fantastic choice for those who wander before they sit down to work, especially when you factor in that it only weighs 2.98lbs.
It also features a 390 nits, 14-inch display, meaning it’s suitable for sun to a degree, but it really shines in a shaded spot, so perhaps it’s not the one for the sun worshipers out there.
Doing the heavy lifting, we have the hyperthreaded, quad-core i7-8665U, an epic processor that should be able to handle anything you can throw at it, making it a great fit for those who use a lot of CPU-heavy software.
- 2.98lbs – Easy on the shoulders.
- 390 Nits Display – Can handle a few sunbeams.
- Hyperthreaded Processor – Multitask away, my friend.
- Battery Life – 20 hours!!!
- Price – It’s not a cheap laptop.
Best Laptops for Outdoor Use: A Buyer’s Guide
It can be tricky to isolate what it is exactly that would make a laptop suitable for use outside, which is why I’ve composed this brief guide on what to look for.
The main issue when we take a laptop outside is that the sun is far brighter than the display, rendering it completely blank other than for our own dark reflection.
The trick is to find a laptop with a super bright screen that can compete with the sun’s glare. 400 nits should be enough to handle outdoors in the shade, but if you want to feel the sun on your face, you’ll need something more to the tune of 600 nits.
It’s not just visuals that the sun has an impact on, but thermals too. As I’m sure you’ve noticed at some point on your journey around it, the sun is pretty dang hot, which means your laptop needs to have an awesome cooling system.
Ideally, it will be fairly quiet under load too, otherwise, it could end up being a distraction for you and anyone else within earshot.
If you’re going to go gallivanting with your laptop, you should be prioritizing portability. It’s just not feasible to drag an absolute slab around with you every time you need a bit of fresh air.
No, no, that won’t do. Your outdoorsy laptop needs to be compact and lightweight. If you can find something that weighs less than 6lbs…perfect!
When we expose our laptops to the elements, the risk of damaging them skyrockets. There’s nothing we can do about this. As soon as we walk out of that door, tons more dangerous variables are introduced to the equation.
All we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst by choosing a laptop that’s built well with quality components. Avoid flimsy-looking and feeling plastic enclosures. Your laptop needs to be rugged and ready for adventure.
Until the scientists figure out a way for us to plug our laptops into trees, we wandering few have to rely on beefy batteries, batteries that will last for a full day if we need them to.
Otherwise, well…we won’t be getting very much work done at all.
CPU (and Other Hardware)
Of course, we can’t forget about the fundamental specs of a laptop either. You still need it to be suitable for your computational tasks, so my question to you is how much power do you need?
If your work only involves checking out a few spreadsheets, hoarding some tabs, and sending a few emails, you’ll be fine with a single-thread quad-core processor.
On the other hand, if you need your computer to support CPU-heavy parallelizing workflows, you’ll be better off looking for something with a multithreaded quad or hexa-core processor under the hood.
Frequently Asked Questions
Got time to check out some outdoor laptop FAQs before you hit the old dusty trail?
Can you use a laptop outside?
As you’ve seen from my featured laptops, yes, you can use certain laptops outside, but there are limits. Extreme weather, be it icy cold, wet and windy, or scorching hot, is to be avoided when we’re packing a laptop.
Particularly bright days can also cause a problem, as the sun will black out your display; however, a screen with a brightness of around 600 nits should still offer clear visuals.
What is the best laptop for use outside?
For my money, the best laptop for use outside is the Samsung 2020 Notebook 9. Check out the review above to find out why it clinched my number one spot.
How do I stop glare on my outside laptop?
The best way to prevent glare is to simply move into the shade or turn up your screen brightness, but polarized sunglasses and aftermarket screen attachments can help too.
How can I work in the sun without my laptop overheating?
If you feel that your laptop is at risk of overheating, why not invest in something like this havit HV-F2056 Laptop Cooler Cooling Pad. It basically galvanizes your laptop’s thermal solution, so it can handle the sun’s punishing rays.
You could also optimize thermal performance by giving the fans and vents in your laptop a good clean.
Is 400 nits good for a laptop?
400 nits is considered an above-average brightness for laptop displays, but it’s not quite good enough to counteract direct sunlight.
As you’ve seen from my list, there’s absolutely no reason to let your laptop turn you into a hermit. As long as you find one with a bright enough display, the sun won’t give you any trouble.
And, of course, if you can find one with a few other features suitable for the outdoor world such as a durable build, long battery life, shoulder-friendly weight, and decent thermals, you’re on to a winner!