Next to the latest ultrathin notebook, tablet or smartphone, mainstream corporate laptops may not seem particularly alluring or sexy, but they can be just as innovative and essential -- especially for everyday business. Two of the newest and most interesting mainstream notebooks are HP's EliteBook 8460p and Lenovo's ThinkPad L420.
What makes a laptop suitable for the business world? Regardless of whether it's for a salesperson in Seattle, a corporate trainer in Cleveland or an accountant in Albany, there are four main things that corporate buyers look for in a notebook:
- It has to be a reliable and durable system that will be usable for three or four years.
- It must be manageable so that IT administrators can change software and settings easily and remotely; it should also have excellent security so that what goes into the computer stays there.
- It needs to balance performance with battery life.
- It needs a long-term warranty so that if there's a problem, it can be fixed pronto.
Size and weight generally take a back seat to these requirements, and these two 14-in. systems are bulkier and heavier than comparable consumer notebooks. They both weigh over 5 pounds, while 14-in. entertainment systems from HP and Lenovo are thinner and weigh as much as a pound less.
Most of that extra weight is taken up by a sturdy internal metal structure and a beefed-up display frame that protect the system's innards from damage. These are not by any means ruggedized notebooks that meet all of the Department of Defense's MIL-STD-810G requirements. Both, however, have gone through the rigors of selected 801G tests and should stand up to more abuse than a typical consumer system.
To make sure this shootout was conducted on a level playing field, I got models that were as close to each other's configurations as I could. They both have second-generation Intel Core i5 processors that run at 2.5GHz and can use TurboBoost technology to sprint to 3.2GHz when needed.
Each comes with 4GB of RAM (and supports up to 8MB), a 320GB hard drive, a DVD burner and Windows 7 Professional. Both have comfy keyboards and security-conscious fingerprint scanners. While both have bright 14-in. displays, the EliteBook has the advantage of an optional ATI Radeon HD 6470M graphics engine, while the ThinkPad gets by with Intel's HD 3000 graphics.
The two are about as equally matched as two notebooks can be. To see how they do against each other, read on.