Business laptops should have fast processors, bright displays, comfortable keyboards, and long battery life, in addition to features that cater to office needs such as secure login options (such as biometric fingerprint readers, facial recognition, or SmartCard IDs) and durable designs that have undergone MIL-STD 810G or 810H testing for protection against shock and vibration.
Rugged laptops, which are even tougher and more durable, may be necessary for first responders and field workers.
IT departments often appreciate laptops with Intel vPro processors and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) support for secure access and remote manageability, as well as the ability to deploy a fleet of devices. Businesses generally prefer laptops with the professional version of Windows (Windows 11 Pro) over the consumer version (Windows 11 Home) and seek out devices with minimal bloatware or unnecessary bundled programs.
While many business laptops may appear similar with their thin, black and silver designs, the most important differences for office users are often found inside the chassis.
How to Choose a Business Laptop
The distinction between tablets and laptops is becoming increasingly blurred in the business world, with the availability of tablets that run true versions of Windows and even have detachable physical keyboards. However, traditional clamshell-style laptops remain the most popular choice for businesses, and selecting the right one can be crucial for the success of a company.
It's important to consider essential business laptop features, necessary components, and how to differentiate between a business laptop and a consumer one.
CPU and Memory
Business laptops often use processors with four or more cores to handle both basic tasks like checking email and more demanding business applications. Currently, many business laptops are equipped with Intel's 11th Generation "Tiger Lake" processors, while 12th Generation "Alder Lake" processors are just becoming available.
It's also possible to find laptops with previous 10th Generation "Ice Lake" and "Comet Lake" chips, which are still capable of handling mainstream productivity tasks. For more demanding workflows, you may need a hexa-core processor such as the latest Core i7 or Core i9 CPU.
Some larger workstation-grade machines also offer eight-core Core i9 processors, which were previously only available in desktop computers and are suitable for designers, engineers, and data-intensive tasks. While not as common, AMD Ryzen Pro series CPUs can also be found in some business laptops, such as Lenovo ThinkPads.
In contrast to more powerful processors, power-saving processors like Intel's Y-series Core (which is currently being phased out of laptops) and Pentium and Celeron chips are often found in tablets and ultraportable laptops. These ultra-low-wattage processors are often marketed alongside higher-performance chips and can be identified by the "Y" in the chip name (if it's a Core chip). However, these processors may not be suitable for everyday productivity work if you frequently multitask with multiple programs open at once, as they may be underpowered for such tasks.
Some business laptops offer Intel Xeon processors or the option to upgrade to them. These are mobile workstations designed for specialized software used in fields such as financial modeling, engineering, and graphic design that require high levels of power and reliable performance. These laptops tend to be more expensive and have shorter battery life compared to mainstream business laptops with Intel Core CPUs. It's only necessary to consider a mobile workstation if you need to run specialized software that requires specific CPU support. Otherwise, an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor can offer similar performance at a lower price point and with better battery life.
When shopping for a business laptop, it's recommended to have at least 8GB of RAM, with 16GB being the preferred option for most users. Graphic artists and spreadsheet experts should aim for at least 16GB of RAM. Having sufficient memory allows you to keep more programs, windows, and browser tabs open at once and perform multimedia tasks (such as photo editing) more quickly.
In today's business world, it's common to use video, multimedia PowerPoint presentations, and high-resolution photos in both virtual and in-person meetings, making it a good idea to choose a laptop with a spacious drive. If you opt for a traditional platter drive, a 1TB hard drive offers a good balance of cost and storage capacity.
While solid-state drives (SSDs) are generally more expensive and offer smaller storage capacities, they are preferred by many users because they do not have any moving parts and are more durable for travel. SSDs also offer faster boot and app launch times.
If you plan to travel frequently with your laptop and don't need a large amount of storage, an SSD may be the better choice. However, SSDs are usually pricier than hard drives, so you may need to choose a 256GB or 512GB capacity to fit your budget. Many business laptops now come with SSDs as the primary storage option.
Optical drives are becoming increasingly rare on business laptops. If you need to access older files or records stored on CDs or DVDs, you can use an external drive rather than purchasing a laptop with an optical drive. This is a more practical solution if you know you will still need to use discs occasionally, as it avoids the need for a bulky laptop with an optical drive.
GPU: Integrated vs. Dedicated
Most business laptops come with integrated graphics chips, which are lightweight graphics acceleration solutions that are part of the main CPU. These integrated GPUs are generally sufficient for business laptops, as they are not intended for gaming.
Professionals who need discrete graphics typically use them for specialized tasks such as GPU acceleration in Photoshop, HD video creation in Adobe Premiere Pro, or 3D graphics visualization in architectural drawings and CAD software. Mobile workstation-class laptops often come with discrete graphics to support 3D capabilities or multiple monitors.
The type of graphics solution used in a business laptop can give you an idea of the performance tier of the device. Integrated graphics solutions are usually labeled "Intel HD Graphics," "Intel UHD Graphics," "Iris Plus," or "Iris Xe" and are typically found in mainstream business laptops.
The most up-to-date silicon is labeled "Iris Xe," while "Radeon Graphics" is used in rare AMD Ryzen Pro-based business laptops. In contrast, dedicated graphics chips from Nvidia's GeForce line are more common in laptops overall, but are not as common in business machines.
GeForce GTX or RTX chips are usually reserved for higher-end consumer or gaming systems, although some business laptops may include a lesser GeForce MX chip to boost graphics performance. Higher-end workstation laptops tend to use dedicated graphics chips from Nvidia's RTX A series (formerly known as Quadro) or, rarely, AMD's Radeon Pro line.
It's best to avoid LCD screens with a resolution of 1,366-by-768 pixels when shopping for a business laptop, as they may not provide a sufficient display quality. Instead, consider upgrading to a display with at least 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution that uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology.
This combination will give you ample space for displaying multiple columns in Excel or arranging multiple windows on the screen, and will also allow coworkers to clearly see the display from any angle when gathered around your desk. Your eyes will thank you for the upgrade.
For tasks that require high-quality graphics or scientific work, a 4K display can provide additional screen space and sharper text and visuals. While these types of displays are not yet common in business laptops, they are starting to appear as options in some models and can be worth the investment if your job will benefit from the extra pixels.
Keep in mind that, all else being equal, a high-resolution screen will consume more battery power than a lower-resolution screen of the same technology.
Strong wireless connectivity is essential for business laptops in today's world, as it allows access to real-time email, messaging clients, and cloud services from various locations such as offices, airports, and client sites. Most laptops come with some form of Wi-Fi, but for optimal flexibility for your IT organization, look for dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wi-Fi, which is now the most common type and uses the 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) standard.
This standard primarily operates on 5GHz networks but can also work with 2.4GHz networks as a fallback. In high-density buildings, it may be advantageous to use the less-populated 5GHz bands, as the 2.4GHz channels tend to get more crowded. Some budget business laptops may still have older 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which may provide less reliable connections but are still suitable for many small and medium businesses.
Don't forget the importance of Ethernet, as it can be useful in crowded conferences where Wi-Fi is saturated. If your laptop is too thin to include an Ethernet jack, a USB-to-Ethernet adapter can be a useful investment. Some laptops may include one in the box.
To address the challenges of connecting to the internet in various locations, some business laptops offer the option of a built-in mobile-broadband wireless modem. These modems allow you to connect to broadband speeds using cellular networks, wherever there is a cellular signal available.
Many business laptops can be configured with one of these modems for an additional fee, which is one of the key differences between business and consumer laptops. Mobile data plans for use with these laptops can be expensive, with rates ranging from $60 to $80 per month, depending on whether or not you already have a plan.
A 4G LTE or 5G wireless connection can provide transfer speeds similar to those of a Wi-Fi connection and is available from major cellular networks such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Alternatively, mobile hotspots and smartphone tethering can be used to provide temporary internet access without the need to purchase internal modems for all employees.
A large battery can be a valuable asset on a long flight or commute, and business laptops often offer multiple battery options. Some enterprise-class laptops come with three different battery sizes (four-, six-, and eight-cell options), with more cells generally providing longer battery life.
But, this is not always the case with laptops that use power-hungry components such as a 4K display. While a larger battery may add some weight to the laptop, the ability to run it unplugged for an extended period of time can be worth the trade-off.
Most ultraportable laptops have non-removable, sealed-in-the-chassis batteries, and laptops with removable batteries are becoming increasingly rare, mostly limited to rugged tablets and laptops designed for extreme conditions.
If you need more battery life than a single charge can provide, consider an external battery pack instead of limiting yourself to a laptop with a swappable internal battery. These external solutions, when used in combination with the internal battery, can provide battery life in the range of 19-24 hours, but be aware that they may add an additional pound or more to the weight of your system.
Best Business Laptop
LG Gram 17
The LG gram 17 (2021) is my top pick for the best business laptop. It's a lightweight and portable device with excellent battery life. Its 17-inch screen is perfect for multitasking, and the keyboard includes a Numpad, which is convenient for those who work with a lot of numbers.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on for long periods, the touchpad is responsive, and there are plenty of ports for peripherals and external displays. In terms of performance, the laptop's Intel 11th Gen. CPU can easily handle productivity tasks such as word processing, web browsing, spreadsheet creation, and presentations.
If you prioritize portability over screen size, the Dell XPS 13 (2021) is a great option. It's a compact laptop that offers a high-quality user experience. The display is bright and easy to see in well-lit environments, and while the battery life isn't as long as the LG gram 17, it's still sufficient for a typical workday. The main downside of the Dell XPS 13 is its limited port selection, with only two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports.
For Mac users, the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) is a top choice. It's a versatile laptop that is suitable for both business and personal use. It has a high-quality build, is highly portable, and has a new, sleek design. The 2022 model also features a brighter display, improved 1080p webcam, and faster M2 SoC.
Is a 2-in-1 Laptop a Good Choice for Business Use?
Businesses may consider a Windows-based tablet for work due to their price and portability. Many tablets sell for less than $500 and can easily be integrated into a corporate environment.
While specialized tablets have long been used in specific industries such as healthcare, the widespread use of the Apple iPad has made it common to carry a computer without a physical keyboard or with a detachable, basic keyboard.
Windows tablets are ideal for running in-house or third-party apps originally created for PCs, and they are compatible with a range of security applications, VPNs, email clients, and hardware peripherals such as printers, scanners, and NAS devices. While it may not be practical to run an entire business on a tablet, they can be useful for offsite meetings or as a portable alternative to a larger workstation.
Microsoft's Surface line and Lenovo are the leading brands for business Windows tablets. macOS does not have a tablet-optimized version for business use, so Apple fans must rely on the iPad or iPad Pro for business needs.
Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Business
ASUS ZenBook Flip 13
The ZenBook Flip 13 OLED is a stylish and versatile laptop with a compact design. Its NanoEdge display and 360° ErgoLift hinge make it easy to carry, and the ASUS Pen stylus allows for smooth and precise touchscreen interaction with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. The slim 13.9 mm chassis includes a variety of I/O ports, including Thunderbolt 4, for convenient connectivity.
Powered by an 11th Generation Intel Core processor, the ZenBook Flip 13 OLED offers efficient performance for both business and creative tasks. It's the perfect partner for productivity and creativity on the go.
Chromebooks: A Simple and Affordable Option for Business Use
Chromebooks, which operate using Google's Chrome OS, have become more viable options for work laptops due to the increasing reliance on cloud computing. While they are limited to using web-based apps, they can access Android apps from the Google Play Store, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
They may be a useful choice for businesses that primarily use the Google suite and require email and communication stations, though they may lack certain features found on the Windows versions of these programs.
Chromebooks are generally less expensive than other business laptops due to their reliance on web apps and do not require powerful hardware to run. However, they may work better as supplementary rather than primary machines in most businesses. Some Chromebooks designed for work do have stronger processors and more memory.
Best Chromebook for Business
Google Pixelbook Go
The Google Pixelbook Go is a lightweight and portable laptop designed to keep you on the move. It weighs just 2 pounds and is 13 mm thin, with a battery life of up to 12 hours. The 8th Gen Intel Core Processor and Chrome OS ensure fast performance, and the Titan C security chip and built-in antivirus software help protect your data.
This laptop is compatible with Google Pixel, allowing you to connect to the internet using your Pixel's LTE connection and do more on the go. The battery performance is based on a combination of standby, web browsing, and other usage, and the actual results may vary.
When choosing a laptop for business, it's important to consider the specific requirements of your job and choose a laptop that meets those needs. This may require paying a little extra for more power or capabilities.
A business laptop may also come with additional benefits such as a longer warranty, specialized tech support, and a more durable design. If your work involves graphics-intensive tasks, you should opt for a laptop with discrete graphics.
When selecting a processor, try to find a balance between power and energy efficiency, and consider the capacity and weight of the battery. By focusing on the features that are most important for your needs, you can narrow down your options and choose the best laptop for business.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 Ionel Anton