IT buyer’s guide to business laptops

Business-friendly notebooks come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Here's help picking the laptops best suited to your organization’s various employees.

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With hundreds of business-oriented laptops to choose from — everything from sleek ultralight tablets to huge portable workstations — picking the right ones to outfit your company’s workforce can make finding a needle in a haystack seem easy. We’re here to help with a buyer’s guide that breaks the options into categories and provides pros and cons of each.

Let’s begin with the basics. Unlike consumer systems, business laptops are not meant for gaming, movies or idle web surfing — unless that’s your business. First and foremost, these systems are serious tools to help people do their jobs. In addition to sporting less garish color schemes than many consumer models, they focus on reliability and durability. Manufacturers typically sell business models for close to two years to accommodate long enterprise deployments; many promise replacement parts for five years.

Turned off by the price tags of business systems? Unlike consumer purchases, they are generally the starting point for a negotiation over cost. Most vendors offer volume discounts or the option to lease, which turns a large capital cost into a predictable monthly expense, usually at no cost premium over its life. Plus, at the end of the lease, you don’t have to worry about hardware disposal.

And with an expected three- to four-year usable lifetime, many mid- and upper-price-range business notebooks go beyond the standard single-year warranty with three years of coverage. This is often worth several hundred dollars compared to systems aimed at home users.

[ Further reading: 15 video conferencing products that are enterprise-ready ]

Based on what most large companies use, this guide concentrates on Windows systems, but in an age of workplace diversity, Apple devices are also represented. Chromebooks are also gaining traction among companies outfitting employees who don’t need peak performance: See “A new business tool: Chromebooks.”

What to look for in a business laptop

With all the hacking horror stories, security is critical in today’s business. Companies that use Windows PCs should look for systems with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and some sort of biometric authentication method, such as a fingerprint reader or a camera capable of Windows Hello facial recognition for password-free log-ins. Business-oriented Windows laptops should also support serious manageability features, such as the ability to tap into Intel vPro processor extensions so IT departments can remotely diagnose and service a system.


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