As this year is coming to an end and with an overabundance of business laptops on the market, it is a great time to go shopping if you or your business are in need of a tech refresh for your systems. So the research below should help with the decision-making process of selecting a laptop that fits the needs of your business and its users.
Our evaluation process is fairly straightforward – start with the best in class lineups from such vendors as Dell, Lenovo, etc. and narrow down the list based on cost, performance, battery life, productivity features and support among others.
Most businesses manage their hardware and purchasing based on a fixed lifecycle or technology refresh schedule. In my personal experience and where I work now, this has typically been around 3 years. This helps with budgeting and projecting fixed costs for the business when it comes to hardware acquisition.
Factors To Consider
So what do you look for when considering buying a business laptop that should work well in terms of the needs of the organization and its users for the next few years? This, of course, will be different for each business, but certain factors tend to remain constant. Here’s what I would consider to be important when it comes to purchasing several PCs for your business:
- Battery life
The above characteristics are not meant to be a complete list and each business would assign different weights to each of the items listed above based on its own specific needs. So for the purposes of this guide, we will focus our attention on these five and let you decide which of these matters more to you when it comes to making your selection.
I’ve seen managers and other admin people involved with equipment purchasing decisions base their selection solely on price, believing they would be saving the business money in the long run by purchasing the cheapest laptops they could find. While this may have worked at some point in the past, this is an overly simplistic and in my view a short-sighted approach to computer purchasing in general and laptop purchasing in particular. Why do I say that? Well, let’s consider the impact of these mobile systems.
Firstly, with a highly mobile workforce, it is imperative that the equipment selected realistically match their needs because once this investment is made, there is no really easy way to make changes as was the case with desktop computers where extra memory could be added easily or a hard drive swapped out, etc. While not technically impossible to do with a laptop, it is progressively more difficult, expensive, time consuming and ultimately more disruptive to the end user to do this after the equipment has already been purchased and deployed.
Secondly, purchasing the cheapest possible computer hardware implies by definition that any cost savings realized come at the expense of having cut corners either by the laptop vendor or in terms of features, usability and/or reliability. This strategy typically ends up costing more in the long run than having purchased better suited computers to begin with in terms of extra time needed and productivity lost. So I would advise spending some time upfront identifying hardware needs (not wants) to address any existing issues and make improvements.
When it comes to performance, how much is enough and how much is too much for a given task? Again, some time invested upfront to understand business needs and address any existing performance issues would go a long way in properly identifying the right hardware for the job. This typically means assessing each department’s needs individually instead of using a cookie cutter approach. Of course, this would be determined by budget constraints based on company size, use case scenarios, etc. Obviously, someone in Marketing should not require the same spec laptop as a developer, for example. Common sense, really…
When it comes to laptop battery life, there is no such thing as too much capacity or run time. This is one of the most common complaints I hear after a user has had their laptop for about a year or more. If your workforce is highly mobile like the users I work with who don’t want to worry about where to plug in to keep going, then obviously this will factor significantly into your laptop buying strategy. Fortunately, there are many business laptops out there with long-lasting battery life to choose from.
If you are purchasing laptops in quantity to support your business operations for years to come, then you don’t want to have to worry about such things as failed hard drives or displays. And while there are sometimes exceptions, I usually prefer to stick with proven flagships from the major vendors in the computer industry with track records to back them up. This kind of hearkens back to my previous point that buying cheap may actually end up costing you more than just paying upfront for better build quality and a known support history, which brings me to my next point.
This is somewhat akin to buying fire insurance and hoping never having to use it, but if you do need it, the support better be there to keep your fleet of laptops afloat. From personal experience, I’ve generally found support offerings and overall support quality to be better on the business side compared to the consumer products. Again, your mileage may vary, but I would recommend purchasing support to cover the lifecycle of the equipment your business plans to use. So if you follow a 3-year refresh cycle, get the support coverage for that period of time. In general, things tend to happen after the first year of ownership (sooner if the build quality wasn’t great to begin with or cheap components were used).
CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-8250URAM: 8 GB DDR4 2400MHzGraphics: Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Display: 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Storage: 256 GB Solid State Drive
- Strong Battery Life
- Rugged Build (MIL-STD 810G certification)
- Wide Selection of Ports
- Lackluster Display
- Dated Design
If you are looking for a reliable day-to-day workhorse for your business, then you would have to give serious consideration to this Lenovo model. While it is not the lightest or thinnest laptop, it is certainly designed with durability in mind. It has undergone extensive testing to earn a MIL-STD 810G certification, so you know it is built to last and survive daily user abuse , err – high productivity.
A nice touch is a hot-swappable battery which Lenovo refers to as its Power Bridge technology. What this allows you to do is to switch out the battery without having to power down the PC. And if you upgrade to one of the optional batteries (48Wh or 72Wh), this would really keep you going without having to search for the cord or a power outlet.
Another thing to appreciate about this laptop is the variety of ports it comes with:
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (one Always On)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data transfer)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C / Intel Thunderbolt 3 (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data transfer)
- Headphone and microphone combo jack
- 4-in-1 SD card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC)
- RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
If your budget allows it, there are ways to make this already well-configured laptop even better by upgrading to an i7-8650U CPU and a discrete video card such as the optional NVIDIA® GeForce® MX150 2 GB. Definitely check this one out to be a reliable daily driver for pretty much any task you throw at it with its great battery life, comfortable keyboard and plenty of ports for your accessories.
CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-8650U
RAM: 8 GB DDR4 2400MHzGraphics: Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Display: 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Storage: M.2 256GB Solid State Drive
- Comfortable keyboard
- Strong Battery Life
- Solid build quality
- 3-Year Warranty
- Price jumps with higher specs
- Smaller touchpad
- Dated Design
Dell has always had several laptops to offer in its business category, and the latest addition to the Latitude 7000 series is no exception. It is the replacement for the Latitude 7480 model, so it has quite a bit of resemblance to its predecessor. For example, the type and number of available ports have stayed the same.
This unit packs a bit more silicon than the Lenovo T480 above being configured with an i7 processor for the Dell as opposed to the i5 for the Lenovo model. Of course, each model can be customized as needed, but the cost tends to rise rather quickly as soon as you jump to the latest i7 processor, add more memory and a larger SSD.
On the plus side, this unit offers some solid security features like the SmartCard reader and touch fingerprint reader. Of course, a TPM chip is onboard as with most business laptops these days to further harden security. It should pretty much go without saying that enabling BitLocker to protect data is a must.
Pairing this laptop with one of the Dell docks like a WD15 or a D6000 will increase the number of available ports and allow you to connect external displays and other peripherals, making this a winner in a business environment.
CPU: 2.3-GHz quad-core Intel® Core i5RAM: 8 GB DDR4 2400MHzGraphics: Intel® Iris Plus Graphics 655
Display: 13 inches (2560 x 1600) Storage: 256GB Solid State Drive
- Excellent performance
- Retina display with True Tone technology
- Solid aluminum design
- Thunderbolt only ports
- Average battery life
Having used other MacBook Pro laptops over time, I can tell you that this year’s upgrade is a pretty significant one, making this Apple laptop one of the best business laptops available on the market today. With a blazingly fast SSD, performance on this machine is simply hard to beat. And the Retina display has been further improved with the addition of True Tone technology making it easier on the eyes over the course of a full working day. It does this by matching the ambient color temperature of your working environment.
Other really good additions to this laptop come as a result of Apple upgrading its security chip from T1 to T2 that controls secure boot and encrypted storage functionality. It also brings the “Hey Siri” feature to a MacBook that has been so common to the iPhone. And, of course, the Touch Bar is a great enhancement to the keyboard, offering access to various controls based on what you are already doing to help you be more productive. It also has Touch ID to unlock the MacBook and take advantage of Apple Pay as well as the ability to switch users.
This is definitely a premium business laptop that offers a ton of performance, especially if you opt for the i7 processor. And that could make this a much more expensive unit compared to some of the others in this lineup but it’s worth every penny if you need the extra boost in performance.
CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-8250URAM: 8 GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz
Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD 620
Display: 14″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Storage: 256GB Solid State Drive
- Excellent performance
- Excellent battery life
- Mediocre webcam
- Tinny sound
Lenovo has certainly been making an impact with its lineup of business laptops this year and this model of its Thinkpad line definitely lives up to this reputation. If you want serious performance coupled with a very comfortable keyboard and great battery life, then the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon is hard to ignore and absolutely worth checking out.
This model is also pretty slim and lightweight, so if you are on the move a great deal, this is something you will come to appreciate. It is actually about half a pound lighter than the MacBook Pro 13″. But don’t let that fool you as this machine is quite durable despite being so light and has earned a MIL-STD-810G certification. It also comes with a good port selection which includes two USB Type-A ports, a full-size HDMI connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a microSD card slot.
One also can’t overlook the comfortable and responsive keyboard that Lenovo is famous for and a battery that lasts all day and then keeps going some more. Again something to consider if you are on the go quite a bit. And to top it all off, the screen is a pleasure to look at with its vibrant colors, especially if you spring for the HDR display.
CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-8750H
RAM: 8 GB DDR4 2666 MHz
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5
Display: 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Storage: 256GB Solid State Drive
- Sleek design
- Long battery life
- Inferior webcam placement
- Average speakers
If you are looking for a desktop replacement that is also highly capable and well-built, then the Dell XPS 15 should fit the bill nicely. While it may not be as lightweight as the other business laptops mentioned above, it is quite a powerhouse sporting the latest iteration of Intel i7 six-core processor and a discrete video card in the form of NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050Ti.
So if your business needs include video editing, design or music production, this machine can definitely handle the load. And it’s backed by a long-lasting battery (97Whr) that makes it easy to go all day or longer without needing to plug in.
While larger than an ultra portable, this Dell model is very well designed with long-term durability in mind. Some nice touches include an LED battery indicator on the right side of the laptop to provide a quick glance at the battery level. And, of course, there is no shortage of ports to connect peripherals making it even more of a desktop replacement.