Seven Great Laptops for Business Travelers

Category: Laptops

I travel often for business, and my 5-year-old laptop is showing signs of age. What are some of the differences that make so-called 'business laptops' worth the extra money, and what laptop brands or models do you recommend for business users?

What is The Best Laptop For Business Users?

Every laptop manufacturer has several models that it touts as "business" laptops. Generally, business laptops tend to be more expensive than so-called consumer-level laptops. But they also have several distinguishing features that justify the higher price tag.

The build quality of a business laptop is typically higher than a consumer-grade machine of similar specs. Magnesium alloy or aluminum replaces plastic in business laptops. Some business laptops, like the Lenovo Thinkpad line, include reinforcements within the chassis to protect sensitive innards against falls and other shocks. Lid hinges are likewise more durable. Keyboards are generally larger and have that tactile "click" response that many users find satisfying. In general, a business laptop feels more solid than a consumer-grade machine.
Business Laptop - Lenovo Thinkpad X1

Extra security features are built into some business laptops to better protect valuable company data. A biometric security device, such as a fingerprint reader, is standard equipment on many business laptops. Business laptops may also include hardware-based encryption, or embedded chips that can be used to remotely track and disable a lost or stolen business laptop. (See my related article Track a Stolen Laptop.)

Enhanced support is another feature of many laptops sold for business use. When your business laptop goes down, you can call a special toll-free number to get it fixed or replaced ASAP. The extra support contributes to the higher cost of business laptops, but the cost of being down without access to your files can far outweigh the price of timely repair service.

Connectivity, Communication and Capacity

Business laptops often have to connect to a wide variety of devices found in clients' offices, convention centers, and other locations. So business laptops come with USB ports, Firewire, eSATA, and a variety of other connectors.

Communication is important to business users, so every business laptop includes WiFi. In addition, many laptops, including the Lenovo X220, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 , and Dell Vostro 3350, offer integrated cellular modems as an option, enabling fully mobile communication wherever a 3G of 4G cellular signal can be had.

Hard drives of 250 GB or greater capacity are standard in business laptops. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are appearing in business laptops, and their lack of moving parts make them more shock resistant than traditional hard drives.

Dual core CPUs are standard in business laptops. The Intel Core series processors (i3, i5 and i7) are the most popular, but the lower-cost AMD Athlon II or Turion II processors are less expensive and have loyal followings. Some business laptops, like the Dell Vostro V130 and Dell Latitude 13, use low-voltage versions of CPUs to extend battery life. Standard voltage versions of the same CPUs are faster.

A business laptop should have 4 GB of RAM. More is overkill unless the machine is used for processing large databases or high-resolution graphics or video. Less RAM will slow you down, especially if you rely on an integrated graphics processor (which shares RAM with your operating system) or keep multiple applications open at once.

Here is a brief run-down of business laptops widely considered to be the best in their classes:

  • Lenovo Thinkpad X1: legendary for its high-quality build, the Thinkpad is also an excellent all-around performer; this model comes with a SSD and backlit keyboard.
  • Lenovo Thinkpad W520: think of it as a powerful mobile workstation designed for engineers and others who need maximum power on the road.
  • Samsung Notebook Series 9: a stylish ultraportable that is rated highly for office and multimedia work.
  • Toshiba Tecra R850: one of the best general-purpose business laptops, with good performance and a moderate price tag.
  • Panasonic Toughbook CF-C1: it can withstand 3-foot falls and is water-resistant. Its screen is convertible to a tablet, too.
  • Dell Vostro 3550: one of the cheapest business laptops available, with reasonable build quality and performance.
  • Dell Latitude E5520: a solidly built and fast business laptop with a full HD screen and long battery life.

The best laptop for your business use depends on the type of business you do with it. Do you have a business laptop that you love or hate? Post a comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Seven Great Laptops for Business Travelers"

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29 Jul 2011

Except for the smaller screen size, would the Sony Viao Z (mentioned in your recent evaluation of the Macbook Air) be comparable to the five models you’ve described here?

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