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The 12 Best Travelling Devices for Designers

The 12 Best Travelling Devices for Designers

As designers, we’re always on the move. We go from one client meeting to another, sprinting through designs and attending conferences.  But not just any old devices will do! Designers have unique needs that require the best of the best for travelling tech.

Think about it. We need power and performance to run heavyweight creative apps, yet portability is necessary for our nomadic lifestyles. Our devices have to inspire creativity and accommodate our workflows on the fly. And remember the importance of a gorgeous display to ensure our designs look pixel-perfect every time!

So, what are the ultimate travel companions for us designer vagabonds? Discover the 12 best travelling devices that every designer should pack.

The Travel Designer's Tech Backpack

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Before diving into specific devices, let's quickly go over what I call the “Travel Designer's Tech Backpack.” This is the essential kit that will keep you productive, connected, and creative while living that digital nomad life:

  • A powerful and portable laptop/tablet combo
  • External storage (SSD or HDD) for file backups
  • Compact wireless mouse and mousepad
  • Travel-friendly keyboard (full-size, foldable or wireless)
  • Smartphone loaded with handy design apps
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Portable battery pack and charging cables
  • Travel adapter for international jaunts
  • Webcam for video calls on the road

With this versatile loadout, you'll be ready to tackle any design challenge anywhere in the world. Let's break down each must-have device in more detail.

The “One Device to Rule Them All” Category

Best Apple Macbook Pro 2022 2023

Apple MacBook Pro 16″ (2023 Model)

Can it be the perfect laptop for travelling designers? I bet my bottom dollar – yes!

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is powered by a powerful Apple M3 Pro chip, efficiently handling heavy apps like Adobe Creative Cloud. It also boasts up to 48GB RAM and a super-fast SSD to work on multiple projects simultaneously without any lags or freezes.

However, power alone means nothing. This elegant aluminium unibody whispers “premium” with its slim design that weighs only 4.7 pounds. Moreover, the stunning 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display brightens up your creative ideas like no other canvas can — it has a peak brightness of 1600 nits and supports millions of colours.

2023 Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M3 Pro chip (16-inch, 36GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) (QWERTY English) Space Black (Renewed)
  • SUPERCHARGED BY M3 PRO OR M3 MAX — The Apple M3 Pro chip, with a 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU, delivers amazing performance for demanding workflows like manipulating gigapixel panoramas or compiling millions of lines of code. M3 Max, with an up to 16-core CPU and up to 40-core GPU, drives extreme performance for the most advanced workflows like rendering intricate 3D content or developing transformer models with billions of parameters.
  • UP TO 22 HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE — Go all day thanks to the power-efficient design of Apple silicon. The MacBook Pro laptop delivers the same exceptional performance whether it’s running on battery or plugged in. (Battery life varies by use and configuration. See apple.com/batteries for more information.)
  • BRILLIANT PRO DISPLAY — The 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display features Extreme Dynamic Range, over 1000 nits of brightness for stunning HDR content, up to 600 nits of brightness for SDR content, and pro reference modes for doing your best work on the go. (The display has rounded corners at the top. When measured diagonally, the screen is 16.2 inches. Actual viewable area is less.)

Here are some other features that will make any designer’s heart beat faster:

  • 22 hours of battery life
  • Studio-quality microphones and high-fidelity speakers
  • Lots of Thunderbolt four ports for connecting peripherals at once
  • A smooth, responsive ProMotion display with a refresh rate of 120Hz
  • Advanced thermal design for heavy workloads
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All this luxury will cost around $2500 for a well-equipped configuration, but trust me; this machine pays off like no other as an investment into productivity.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9

Did not you know that we’d remember our Windows-loving design friends? No other device is as much of a designer’s dream as the Microsoft Surface Pro 9. It can instantly change from a laptop into a tablet and then into a portable studio.

This detachable 2-in-1 powerhouse is powered by 12th Gen Intel Core processors with Iris Xe graphics. It can easily handle CAD software, intensive video editing, and creative apps. The Surface Pro 9 guarantees lag-free performance for all your on-the-go design needs thanks to its pairing with up to 32GB RAM and fast SSD.

However, the most impressive feature is its stunning 13″ PixelSense Flow touchscreen display, boasting a fantastic refresh rate of 120Hz. With stylus support and excellent colour accuracy, it provides an ideal portable canvas for drawing, sketching or any other form of design.

Sale
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (2022), 13″ 2-in-1 Tablet & Laptop, Thin & Lightweight, Intel 12th Gen i7 Fast Processor for Multi-Tasking, 16GB RAM, 256GB Storage with Windows 11, Graphite Microsoft Copilot
  • Introducing Copilot on Windows 11, your everyday AI companion – Copilot empowers you to create faster, complete tasks with ease and lessens your cognitive load – making one complicated task, simple.
  • Immersive 13″ touchscreen – Adapts to your surroundings, adjusting the color balance to best suit your environment.
  • Hinges on your every move – Adjust the angle with built-in Kickstand, adding Surface Pro Signature Keyboard[1] for instant laptop productivity.

Here are some other cool things about it:

  • Detachable Type Cover keyboard, which provides laptop functionality
  • 1080p Windows Hello webcam that makes video calls easier
  • Battery life that lasts all day long up to 15.5 hours
  • It is very portable since it weighs only 1.94 lbs (tablet only)
  • Multiple ports for accessories, including USB-C/Thunderbolt 4

With prices starting from around $1000, this ultra-flexible device can simultaneously be used as a laptop and tablet, besides being a portable studio.

External Displays for Expanded Workspaces

These two gadgets have good built-in displays. However, sometimes, we need more space for work as creative professionals. That’s when portable external monitors come in handy. Here are a couple of options:

ASUS ProArt PA148CTV

Are you in need of a compact yet colour-accurate external monitor? The ASUS ProArt PA148CTV is the one for you. This 14″ IPS display has a resolution of 1920×1080, and it comes pre-calibrated from the factory for 100% sRGB and Rec.709 colour accuracy with a 1.07 billion colour depth.

Sale
ASUS ProArt Display 14” 1080P Portable Touchscreen Monitor (PA148CTV) – Full HD, IPS, 100% sRGB/Rec.709, Color Accuracy ΔE < 2, Calman Verified, USB-C Power Delivery, Micro HDMI, Tripod Socket,Black
  • 14-inch Full HD IPS anti-glare panel with capacitive 10-point multitouch.Specific uses for product – Personal
  • Aspect Ratio is 16:9; Viewing Angle (CR≧10, H/V) is 178°/ 178°; Brightness (Typ) is 300cd/㎡
  • 100% sRGB and 100% Rec. 709 color gamut, and Calman Verified with factory pre-calibrated Delta E < 2 for exceptional color accuracy
  • User-friendly design with Intuitive OSD control via ASUS Dial, metal kickstand and tripod socket
  • I/O ports include two USB Type-C ports (DP Alt mode) and one Micro HDMI for variety devices connection
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It doesn’t just look good either—it’s also super slim at only 0.6″, making it the perfect travel companion weighing just 1.6 lbs (about the weight of two iPhones). It easily slips into any backpack or laptop bag. It connects via a single USB-C cable with DisplayPort Alternate Mode, which allows charging and audio/video transfer simultaneously.

This sleek little monitor has a bright pen hole to prop up your stylus or mobile device right next to your external workspace—very cool! And all this can be yours for $549 – an affordable luxury!

LG DualUp Monitor 28MQ780

Now let’s think BIG! The LG DualUp Monitor is an absolute beast that provides designers and content creators with an enormous vertical workspace of 28.

But wait, there’s more! This ain’t no ordinary monitor—it boasts an ultra-rare aspect ratio of 16:18 with a “Double Square” design which effectively gives you two stacked 16:9 displays—or as near as dammit anyway – so that's pretty unusual, eh? This means you can see your content full screen while having tons of space left over for toolbars, references, etc.

Sale
LG 28MQ780-B 28 Inch SDQHD (2560 x 2880) Nano IPS DualUp Monitor with Ergo Stand, DCI-P3 98% (Typ.) with HDR10, USB Type-C (90W PD) – Black
  • 28″ DualUp SDQHD (2560 x 2880) Nano IPS Display with Ergo Stand – Free up desk space and multitask more efficiently with a new, 16:18 aspect ratio stacked setup that swivels, freeing up your desk without giving up the screen space of a double monitor.
  • DCI-P3 98% (Typ.) with HDR10 – Explore HDR content the way it was meant to be seen with DCI-P3 98%**—an elevated color spectrum that brings brilliant color to life.
  • Ergonomic Stand with C-Clamp – Adjust the monitor by moving it forward or backwards, swiveling, rotating, tilting and more. Tap into the flexibility of the Ergo Stand to configure and optimize your setup for improved productivity.

And if that wasn't enough, it also packs HDRI 1200 nits peak brightness, 98% DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage, accurate Delta E < 2 colour calibration out of the box, USB-C connectivity, and ultra-thin bezels. Did I mention HDR support and HDR effect video enhancement? Well, it's got those too.

All this can be yours for $697 – a pretty penny but worth every cent when you must take your dual-monitor setup on the go (or wherever). Stacking multiple apps/windows/toolbars will revolutionise your remote creative workflow.

Tablets for Portable Creativity

Best Ipad Pro For A Marketing Manager 2022 2023

When laptops are incredibly changeable, there is still something unique about designing and creating on a touchscreen tablet. These light, easy-to-carry-around canvases are the modern designer’s digital sketchpad; therefore, I suggest two of them:

iPad Pro 12.9″ (M2 Model)

Do you think that I’d forget the iPad Pro? I can’t include Apple’s top-of-the-line tablet, which also functions as an exceptionally powerful mobile workstation.

The current generation of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro boasts a mighty M2 chip that outperforms most laptops while having an all-day battery life. Add up to 16GB RAM and a super-fast SSD into the mix optimised for iPad OS with the M2 chip, and you got yourself one hell of a portable productivity beast.

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But things get magical when you start drawing or editing images directly on this gorgeous 12.9″ Liquid Retina XDR display with a wide P3 colour gamut and HDR brightness of up to 1600 nits. It’s like having a premium HDR reference monitor in your hands – only better because it supports touch input! Grab the second-gen Apple Pencil; now, you have a digital art studio wherever you go.

Sale
2022 Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) – Space Gray (Renewed)
  • Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color – Go far with all-day battery life
  • Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU – Stay connected with ultrafast Wi-Fi 6E and 5G cellular models available
  • 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage, 10MP Ultra Wide back camera, and LiDAR Scanner for immersive AR

Some other features for designers include:

  • ProRes video encode and decode for 8K video
  • Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6E for ultra-fast wireless speeds
  • Stunning all-day 10-hour battery
  • Up to 2TB SSD storage for all your assets
  • Front-facing camera with Center Stage tracking

Starting at $1099 (plus $129 for the Pencil), this new iPad Pro is a mighty mobile design studio which also serves as a unique creative canvas that you can hold in one hand.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Samsung has created what may be the most amazing tablets-as-laptop experience for Android designers with the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

This tablet is a monster with its vast 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display boasting a spectacular resolution of 2960×1848, a refresh rate 120Hz and HDR10+ certified. The package also comes with an S Pen that can be used as a stylus on this beautiful canvas for drawing, image editing, or any other design work you have in mind.

With laptop-grade power provided by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets under its hood paired up with a massive amount (up to)16GB RAM along (with up-to) to 512GB storage space, there’s no doubt as to who needs this device – people involved professionally into creative arts who want their device deliver same performance everywhere;

You can also use this tablet like a PC by attaching it to your monitor and connecting the keyboard/mouse via DeX desktop mode.

SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 14.6-inch 256GB Graphite (Wi-Fi with S-Pen, 12GB RAM, US Version) SM-X900NZAEXAR
  • Combined Processor Core: Octa-core
  • Processor Speed: 2.99 GHz
  • 2nd Processor Speed: 2.40 GHz
  • 3rd Processor Speed: 1.70 GHz
  • Chipset Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Here are some other great things about it:

  • It supports both Wi-Fi 6E and offers cellular connectivity through 5G network bands, too, making sure there’s no place left without internet access when needed most
  • There are four precision speakers built-in, which were tuned specially by AKG, so expect nothing but the best sound quality ever heard from such small devices before now;
  • The front camera system comprises dual sensors-13MP each, while the rear uses a single one having an 8-megapixel count;
  • Fast-charging support coupled with wireless DeX makes life more accessible than ever regarding battery issues, primarily if you often work outside office hours when power outlets are unavailable.
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It comes for $1199, but considering what you’re getting here, we’d say this is quite reasonable. The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra functions as a high-performance tablet and serves well enough in place of traditional laptops for designers who need both power and portability.

Designer-Friendly Input Devices

These portable touchscreen displays undoubtedly are great, but at times, we all miss the accuracy and ergonomics of physical input devices optimised for creative work. Let’s talk about some of them, shall we?

Apple Magic Keyboard and Trackpad

It is an Apple-centric designer's toolkit – these wireless peripherals are iconic!

The thing that makes comfortable typing possible? The Magic Keyboard has the company’s latest scissor-switch keys with a 1mm travel that is crisp and responsive. Its low profile and compact footprint make it perfect for travel, while its built-in rechargeable battery keeps it alive for around a month between charges.

Sale
Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad: Wireless, Bluetooth, Rechargeable. Works with Mac computers silicon; US English – Black Keys
  • WIRELESS, RECHARGEABLE CONVENIENCE — Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad connects wirelessly to your Mac via Bluetooth. And the rechargeable internal battery means no loose batteries to replace. The numeric keypad is ideal for spreadsheets and finance applications.
  • WORKS WITH ANY MAC WITH APPLE SILICON — It pairs automatically with your Mac with Apple silicon so you can get to work right away. See the list of compatible devices above. Requires a Mac with Apple silicon using macOS 11.4 or later.
  • ENHANCED TYPING EXPERIENCE — Magic Keyboard delivers a remarkably comfortable and precise typing experience. Its extended layout features document navigation controls for quick scrolling and full-size arrow keys.

Pair one with a Magic Trackpad to get precise cursor control and support for all those familiar MacOS gestures. Large glass surfaces will give you smooth accuracy, whether editing images or using complex design software.

These premium input devices create an ergonomic desktop-like experience for your MacBook or iPad Pro when used together; priced at $149 each – they don’t come cheap, but what does when it comes from Apple?

Microsoft Designer Compact Keyboard

This sleekly designed piece by Microsoft offers portability without compromising on ergonomics.

At just 0.63″ thick, this ultra-slim chiclet-style keyboard may look minimalistic, but don’t let its appearance fool you because it provides a surprising amount of essential travel, which is crisp at 3mm depth. A compact layout clears up valuable desk space, while tall sculpted keys provide a comfortable precision typing feel.

Sale
Microsoft Designer Compact Keyboard – Matte Black. Standalone Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard. Compatible with Bluetooth Enabled PCs/Mac
  • Compact design saves desktop space and allows for close, comfortable mouse position.
  • Optimized key spacing and key travel for fast, fluid typing.
  • Sleek, low-profile design complements any workspace.
  • Expressive input key[2] for quick access to emojis, symbols, and more.
  • Connect up to 3 devices and switch seamlessly between them[1].

Loaded with Windows shortcut keys to supercharge your design productivity, it also features a built-in palm rest plus a slight reverse tilt that promotes better ergonomic posture during marathon sessions. It takes two AAA batteries, which will last up to three years before needing replacement.

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Priced at only $59.99 – this highly portable keyboard should accompany any traveller with a Windows laptop or tablet.

Apps and Software

Adobe Photoshop Review

No designer’s gear guide would be complete without mentioning the design software. But as we all know, creative applications shift so fast you blink, and there are ten new updates to Photoshop within a year. So, instead of listing specific apps, here are some general categories of apps that are worth looking into based on what I’ve seen successful designers using and teaching consistently over the past few years:

Adobe Creative Cloud Suite

This one is a given for most professional designers. Between giants like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Premiere Pro, this suite covers graphic design, UI/UX, video editing, and more.

The benefit is that the CC suite integrates seamlessly across different apps so that you can work on projects anywhere. With recent performance boosts in apps like Photoshop and Illustrator – your portable devices should handle these demanding apps just fine.

Drawing / Illustration Apps

Procreate ($9.99) – This is hands-down the most powerful drawing app available for iPad Pro (and now iPhone, too!). With hundreds of customisable brushes, advanced layer controls and seamless Apple Pencil integration, procreate has everything a digital artist needs to create stunning paintings or illustrations.

You can even record your entire creative process to make time-lapse videos of your work! At only $9.99, it’s an absolute steal that transforms any iPad Pro into a mobile art studio.

Graphic Design / Prototyping Apps

Figma (free tier available!) has quickly become my favourite collaborative UI/UX design tool over the past few years. Instead of running locally like Sketch or Adobe XD, Figma operates natively in your browser, making it super fast & easy to open up on any computer with an internet connection.

This means you can easily design user flows/wireframes/prototypes alongside other graphic assets, all within the same interface. Best part? It’s free!

Affinity Suite ($49 each) – For the budget-conscious designer, affinity apps like Photo, Designer and Publisher provide a surprisingly affordable yet robust Adobe alternative. The best part is they work just as well on iPad as on PC/Mac.

This is the more affordable option if you need grade photo editing or illustration software for your portable tablet/laptop.

Designer Accessories

You have covered the core devices and software, but what about those essential extras? Here are some closing thoughts for your travel kit as a designer:

Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 PD – Juice quickly with USB-C Power Delivery on this ultra-compact 10,000 mAh battery pack.

Anker Portable Charger, USB-C PortableCharger 10000mAh with 20W Power Delivery, 523 Power Bank (PowerCore Slim 10K PD) for iPhone 14/13/12 Series, S10, Pixel 4 and More (Black)
  • – Charge Fast Anywhere: The 20W USB-C port has enough power to charge an iPhone 12 to 50% in just 30 minutes. Also equipped with a 12W USB port if you need to charge a second device.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones – Best in class noise cancellation meets premium sound with all-day comfort – your best friend on planes, trains and noisy cafes as a travelling designer.

Sony WH-1000XM5 The Best Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones with Auto Noise Canceling Optimizer, Crystal Clear Hands-Free Calling, and Alexa Voice Control, Midnight Blue
  • THE BEST NOISE CANCELLATION: Two processors control 8 microphones for unprecedented noise cancellation. With Auto NC Optimizer, noise canceling is automatically optimized based on your wearing conditions and environment.

Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2 – HDMI, USB-C, SD, Micro SD and more in this sleek hub to add ports galore to your laptop.

Satechi USB C Hub Multiport Adapter V2, USB C Docking Station with 4K HDMI, 60W USB C PD Charging, 3 USB-A, Ethernet, Micro/SD Card Readers, for MacBook Pro/Air M1 M2 M3, Windows – Space Gray
  • Enhanced Functionality & Style – Featuring Micro/SD card slots in a compact docking station. Ideal for both at-home use and on-the-go, meeting the needs of those seeking exceptional functionality from a USB C adapter.

XP-Pen Artist Pro 16TP Pen Display – Affordable 15.6″ 1080p pen display pairs with your laptop for a portable Cintiq-like experience.

XPPen Drawing Tablet with Screen Artist Pro 16TP Computer Graphics Tablet Touch Screen 4K UHD 15.6inch Digital Art Tablet Drawing Monitor Creative Pen Display with 92% Adobe RGB
  • 【4K Ultimate Visual】With 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), XPPen Artist Pro 16TP drawing tablet introduces you to a whole new world of visual detail and clarity. It will bring all your creations to life like never before!

Putting It All Together

That was a whirlwind tour of the best portable tech for designers! You have a mega guide to building the ultimate travel setup, from powerful ultrabooks and tablets to pro-grade accessories.

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Whether you're sketching designs on an iPad Pro at a Paris cafe, editing photos on a Surface Pro from a Balinese beach, or cranking out illustrations on a svelte MacBook Pro at 30,000 feet, these devices and accessories will keep your creativity flowing seamlessly wherever you roam.

So pack up that designer's tech backpack, grab your passport, and start planning your next productive adventure! With gear this good, the world is your oyster (and everywhere in your studio).

FAQs on Travelling Devices

What's the best all-around laptop for designers?

For sheer power, portability, and that stunning Liquid Retina XDR display, it's hard to beat the 16″ MacBook Pro. However, the Surface Pro 9 is a versatile 2-in-1 alternative for Windows designers.

How much RAM do I need for design work?

For working with intensive apps like Adobe Creative Cloud, 16GB is the recommended minimum, but 32GB provides true future-proofing and multitasking headroom.

Are Macs or Windows PCs better for designers?

It's a heated debate with pros and cons on both sides. Macs offer stellar optimisation with creative apps, while Windows provides more hardware choices and gaming capabilities.

What kind of external storage is best for backups?

Fast, compact SSDs like Samsung's T7 Portable SSD are ideal for quickly backing up larger project files and assets. For bulk backups, higher-capacity HDDs work great.

How much battery life is enough for working on the road?

The minimum target is all-day battery life of 8-10+ hours, so you're not tethered to power outlets. Top devices like the MacBook Pro 16″ and Surface Pro 9 surpass this easily.

What apps are must-haves for designers?

The Adobe Creative Cloud suite is still the industry standard. But Figma for UI/UX design and Procreate for digital art are also essential modern tools.

What stylus/pen works best for drawing and design work?

Apple's second-generation Pencil is the apparent choice for iPads, with superior pressure sensitivity and seamless palm rejection. Pens like the Surface Pen and Wacom Pro Pen 2 are top options for Windows.

Are touchscreen laptops worth it for designers?

It depends on your needs and workflow. Convertible touchscreen laptops offer great flexibility for digital artists who love the direct pen-on-screen experience. However, many designers prefer the precision of an external stylus tablet or display.

How important is colour accuracy in a portable display?

It is essential if your work involves digital photography, video, or any colour-critical design disciplines. Look for wide colour gamuts and factory calibration for reliable colour rendering.

What's the benefit of a high refresh rate display?

Higher refresh rates (90Hz, 120Hz, etc.) provide buttery-smooth motion, animations, and stylus input with less perceptible lag. It creates a more responsive, natural-feeling experience.

Are stylus tablets or displayless pen tablets better for designers?

Pen displays that you draw directly on are more intuitive, but quality displayless tablets like Wacom's are optimised for precision and durability. It's a personal choice based on preferences and budget.

Last update on 2024-07-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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