Business Laptops Buyers Guide

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In this guide, we’ll look at the essentials of purchasing a business notebook, including how to select the right screen size, pricing tier, warranty, and after-sales support, among other factors.

HP_Z_WorkstationsPhysical Size

Businesses typically issue notebooks to employees who have mobile job requirements, whether those be traveling for business or working at home. The employee’s needs should be taken into account when purchasing the equipment; unless a traveling employee needs the desktop-like performance offered by a 17” workstation notebook, it’s more sensible to offer a device that’s easier to transport. These are general categorizations of the various available screen sizes:

12.5” and under: Notebooks this small tend to carry a price premium compared to the next size up. Reserve these notebooks for your most frequent travelers and make sure they’re comfortable with such a small screen prior to issuing. Also keep in mind the keyboards can be compromised to fit the limited space.

13.3” to 14.5”: These screen sizes represent the ideal compromise between mobility, usability, and performance. Unlike the 12.5” and under tier, value-oriented notebooks are available in notebooks in this size range.

15.6”: This is the standard desktop replacement screen size. Notebooks in this range are mostly suited for desk duty, but are reasonably portable should the need arise. This is likely a good choice for an employee who works at home and wants a larger screen but still wants to retain a measure of portability. Notebooks in this price range are available in value-oriented pricing tiers.

17.3” and up: Only business notebooks classified as mobile workstations are typically sold in this size. Mobile workstations are some of the most powerful notebooks sold and carry a large price premium. These notebooks would only be recommendable if employees require desktop-like performance for advanced tasks such as photo and video editing or 3D drawing and design. A similarly-priced desktop workstation would offer better performance assuming the employee doesn’t need mobility.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQuality Tiers

Business IT equipment is typically purchased with an asset depreciation period in mind – a computer system may be expected to last three, four, or even five years. Better quality notebooks typically last longer in strenuous usage scenarios due to their superior construction. Like consumer notebooks, business notebooks are sold in different pricing tiers that almost always translate to the unit’s quality, features, and performance.

Businesses would be wise to avoid the lowest pricing tier if possible; the devices are often the same or similar as consumer notebooks except with business after-sales support. A breakdown of pricing tiers from popular business notebook brands is as follows:

Manufacturer

Entry-Level

Mid-Grade

High-End

Dell

Latitude 3000

Latitude 5000

Latitude 7000; Precision Mobile Workstations

HP

ProBook

EliteBook

Elitebook; EliteBook Folio; ZBook Mobile Workstations

Lenovo

ThinkPad L, E

ThinkPad T

ThinkPad T, X; W Mobile Workstations

Toshiba

Tecra A, C

Tecra Z

Tecra W Mobile Workstations

Fujitsu

N/A

LifeBook E

LifeBook E, T, U

The Dell Latitude 5000 series, HP EliteBook, and Lenovo ThinkPad T series tend to be the most popular models amongst businesses because work well for their expected duration and the appropriate amount of performance and features.

 

ZBook_standWarranty and After-Sales Support

A notebook’s quality and features are only half of the equation; the other half is the warranty and after-sales support. It’s common to see IT departments purchase notebooks with a warranty period to match the depreciation period; three years is typical. The major business notebook manufacturers including Dell, HP, and Lenovo all have dedicated business support departments and advanced business services, such as onsite repair and replacement part cross-shipping.

Businesses equipping traveling employees with notebooks should consider purchasing accidental damage protection unless they have some other form of insurance that covers accidental loss. Theft isn’t covered by accidental damage protection but employees often damage work-issued notebooks in unforeseen ways.

See our Notebook Warranty Guide for advice on how much it makes sense to spend on an extended warranty.

 

System Performance

An employee’s daily work requirements should determine the specifications of their computer. At the bare minimum, the computer should exceed the performance requirements of the software the employee will be using. The good news is that most of today’s business-oriented computers are easily capable of running everyday applications such as the Microsoft Office suite.

Employees in certain positions such as software developers may require more advanced features such as virtualization support and large amounts of memory. The following table generalizes the requirements for different usage scenarios:

Usage Scenario

Basic/Non-Specific

Software Development

3D Content Creation

Description

Everyday business use including Microsoft Office

Programming and the use of virtualized machines

3D drawing including CAD, photo and video editing

Processor

Intel Core i3, i5 dual-core

Intel Core i7 quad-core

Intel Core i7 quad-core

RAM (Memory)

4-8GB

8-16GB

16GB

Storage

500GB

As required, preferably SSD

As required, preferably SSD

Graphics

Integrated

Integrated

AMD FirePro or Nvidia Quadro

Other Requirements

Consider an extended battery option if the notebook will be used unplugged frequently

Look for a notebook with a full-size keyboard

Invest in a high quality screen option if available

Consult with your vendor for detailed advice for specialized applications like rugged use.

 

74023Features

True business-oriented notebooks also differ from their consumer-oriented counterparts in the following ways:

  • Screens with anti-glare coatings; this is essential in a business environment with overhead fluorescent lighting
  • Fully functional keyboard layouts with all of the expected keys, including a Function key row (F1-F12)
  • Docking station support
  • End-user serviceability – essential to give IT departments the ability to replace parts quickly without having to send the notebook away for service

See our feature on What Makes a True Business Notebook? for an in-depth look to the above categories.

 

Conclusion

This guide detailed the basics of buying a business notebook and taking employees’ needs into consideration. Business notebooks must ultimately perform two functions: handle an employee’s workload and last the length of the depreciation period in working order with minimal downtime. We recommend the mid-tier and above business notebooks to get the ideal mix of quality and performance at an affordable price. Additionally we stress the importance of after-sales warranty and support in the overall value proposition.

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