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Grow Your Business Technology

Why You Shouldn't Cheap Out on Business Laptops

image for undrey / Getty Images
undrey / Getty Images
  • Business laptops are typically designed for portability and long periods of use compared to consumer laptops.
  • A business laptop tends to be more expensive than a consumer model. However, for the extra cost, you receive a higher-quality product with additional built-in components that can last for years.
  • Before you buy a laptop, it's important to review specifications such as battery life, hard drive space, screen resolution and size, RAM, and processor speed to make sure it meets the needs of your workplace. 

When your small business is in the market to buy new computers for your employees, chances are good that you're considering laptops. Company laptops make it easy for your team to work remotely – whether from home, the airport, a client's office or a hotel. While some businesses may look only at cost when choosing a laptop, it's important to consider other factors that contribute to the quality and durability of the product, since it will receive heavy daily use. 

Focusing on long-term usage rather than cheap pricing can help you choose the right business laptop to improve your work productivity and ensure it's hassle-free. While the costs for laptops range from $300 to $3,000, opting for high-end laptops in the $1,200 to $2,500 range can save you stress and frequent repair costs in the future. 

Although everyone loves a bargain and it's easy to be drawn in by low prices and sales discounts, you should focus on finding a laptop with the specs that will allow you and your employees to perform your daily work tasks most efficiently. Cheaper laptops typically have cheaper components, which can result in low-quality work performance due to issues like slow processing. 

An underperforming machine can impede your employees' ability to do their work. To work more efficiently from home, most businesses will need machines with more functionality, longer battery life, larger solid-state drives (SSDs) and faster processors. Here are a few things to consider. 

  1. Laptops are usually easier to damage than desktop computers. A more expensive laptop made from a durable material, such as magnesium or carbon alloy, is less likely to suffer damage while being toted around, even if it's accidentally dropped.

  2. Cheaper laptops tend to have low-grade battery packs. This can make battery life unpredictable, which is an issue when you're working on important projects or giving presentations and don't have access to an outlet. A laptop that must be tethered to an electrical outlet at all times defeats one of the main advantages of having a laptop. You should strongly consider spending more for a high-grade battery.

  3. Most inexpensive laptops don't have high storage capacities or top-of-the-line processors. This means that if you are working with countless files and large documents, your disk space could be maxed out quickly. Additionally, slow processors can make sorting through files and documents a nightmare for employees working remotely. 

To avoid these issues, consider a laptop's price-performance ratio, which can help you decide if the price tag matches the performance and durability. The price-performance ratio measures a product's ability to deliver performance relative to its price. It's best to review the specifications of each laptop you're considering to ensure you'd receive peak performance for the extra money spent. 

Business laptops, compared to those built for consumers, are typically designed for portability and sustaining longer periods of use. Before you buy a laptop, you should understand how your device will be used. 

Tiffany Bloomer, president of Aventis Systems, says there are three different levels of laptop usage to consider. 

This level comprises the most cost-effective options for those who just use their laptop for basic functions such as sending emails, streaming videos, browsing the web and using SaaS applications. Chromebooks and other devices that support Google's Chrome OS, like Android tablets, are fit for basic usage. Here are two good options to consider: 

  • HP ProBook laptops: These laptops range in price from $500 to $1,500. HP ProBooks are well engineered with the latest and greatest processors. They also have decent memory capacity and touchscreen availability on select models. For roughly $550, you can buy the HP ProBook 445R G6 Notebook PC, which comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of HDD storage and a 14-inch HD display.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad laptops: These laptops range from $500 to $4,500. Lenovo ThinkPads are simple and affordable, and they typically have long battery life, which is key for employees who travel often or work remotely. For about $650, you can buy the ThinkPad E15, which has a 10th-generation Intel processor, a 15.6-inch HD display, dual-drive storage and more than 12 hours of battery life. 

This level covers the basic usage functions and adds the ability for intensive application usage, such as video- and photo-editing software and increased multitasking that requires more processing power. Laptops suited for above-average usage include the MacBook, the MacBook Air and the Lenovo IdeaPad. Here are two good options to consider: 

  • Dell Latitude laptops: Latitude laptop prices start at $420 for compact machines and rise up to $3,500 for extreme laptops. They are powerful, customizable laptops with the latest in processor, memory, security and storage space. You can buy the Latitude 5501 business laptop for a starting price of around $1,200. Options for this 15-inch business-class notebook include a ninth-generation Intel processor (up to six cores), a Class 40 SSD, up to 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce graphics card.

  • HP EliteBook laptops: HP EliteBooks vary in price depending on how you customize your laptop. These powerful laptops are most like the Dell Latitude line in their specifications, but they have more native security features, an eco-friendlier design, and AMD and Intel processor options. For about $1,400, you can buy an HP EliteBook 840 G6 Notebook PC. This business laptop comes with an Intel Core i5 processor (four cores), a 14-inch anti-glare HD LED display, 8GB of DDR4 memory and 256GB of SSD storage. 

With superior usage, multiple labor-intensive applications are usually running simultaneously with the highest processing power. These users are often in industries like computer gaming, design and engineering. Financial professionals also commonly have this level of usage for computing large data sets. In some instances, you may need to go beyond a laptop at this usage level. Here are some powerful laptops to consider: 

  • MacBook Pro: Apple's MacBook Pro is a favorite for many businesses not only because of brand cachet, but for its top-notch specs. Prices start at $1,300 for the 13-inch model and $2,400 for the 16-inch model. This laptop operates exclusively on macOS and provides easy connectivity and file sync with all other Apple devices and software. For $2,800, you can get a 16-inch MacBook Pro equipped with an Intel Core i9 processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 1TB of SSD storage and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. 
  • Dell XPS 15: This Windows laptop is sleek, portable and an overall great choice for office work. Prices start at $1,100. These laptops have great RAM, a solid graphics card, a backlit keyboard and HD resolution. Many also have 4K displays as well. For $2,949, you can get the XPS 15 Touch Laptop, which comes with an Intel Core i9 processor (eight cores), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, 32GB of DDR4 memory, 4GB of GDDR5 memory and a 6-cell battery with 97 watt-hours of life (up to 20 hours). 

[Read related article: Laptop Buying Guide for Small Business] 

Since many of the best models look similar, use the same operating system and provide some of the same features, buying a new business laptop may seem daunting. To choose the best business laptop for your employees, the first step is to review the specifications each offers. 

Sarah Petrova, senior hardware engineer at Intel and Techtestreport.com, listed these specifications that you should consider when choosing a business laptop: 

  • Battery life: A business laptop should have a runtime of at least 10 or 12 hours in the low-budget range. With more expensive models, at least 13 hours of office work should be possible. Make sure you get a laptop that can handle your day-to-day workloads quickly and efficiently. AMD, Nvidia GeForce and Intel are great processor brands to consider and can expedite your daily functions. 
  • Hard drive: Modern programs require a lot of performance, so the laptop should have at least 8GB of RAM. There should also be enough memory to ensure fast access and transfer of data. The device should have a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a hard disk drive (HDD), as SSDs are faster and more durable. 
  • Processor: Business laptops should be equipped with the latest Intel Core CPU generation or equivalent AMD processor models (Intel 9th Gen and up, AMD 3rd Gen and up) for maximum performance and higher speeds. Newer CPUs operate at a higher clock speed than older generations, so they are faster. 
  • Cooling: Higher performance requires better cooling. Usually, the slimmer the laptop, the worse the fan – which may be an issue, since the performance is throttled as the laptop gets warmer. Also, the harder the ventilation system must work, the louder it usually is. So, if you are looking for maximum performance and hardly any noise, you need to take a close look at the processor ventilation system. 
  • Operating system: Staying up to date is essential for smooth compatibility. It's best to pay close attention to the operating system if you're considering older models or refurbished laptops. Older operating systems, like Windows 7 and Windows 8, are either no longer supported or nearing the end of their lifecycles. Running these operating systems can leave your device vulnerable to cyberattacks. 
  • Connections: The laptop should have ample connections, including a USB port, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, and VGA and DVI support. 
  • Weight: Business laptops generally weigh around 4 pounds. You don't want one over 4.6 pounds; anything heavier than that could be a burden if you move it around on a regular basis. 
  • Display: Widescreen formatting is increasingly popular in the business sector, as it is practical for working at a desk. Anti-reflective screens are more suitable in sunlight or strong office lighting because the screens are still easy to read. 
  • Durability: If you travel often, your laptop should be particularly durable. The lid should be made of magnesium or carbon alloy, and the hinges should be made of metal. 

[Read related article: What You Need to Know About Laptop Specs] 

The cost of business laptops ranges from $500 to $3,000 depending on the model, processing power, quality of the screen display, battery life and how much built-in RAM is included. 

Business laptops tend to be more expensive than consumer models. However, for this extra price, you'll receive a higher-quality product with additional components that can last for years. These components can include stronger batteries, a better graphics processing unit (GPU) or additional USB ports. 

"You can get solid business laptops that you could use for at least three to four years for $1,200," Petrova told Business News Daily. "However, when you need more performance, high-end GPU and processing power models can cost anywhere from $2,300 to $3,000. These models will be good for the next four to five years." 

Since most businesses only require essential office-work functions such as web browsing, emailing and drafting documents, 8GB of RAM is enough for most users. If you often run multiple programs and execute numerous tasks at once, then you might need 16GB or more. 

To ensure your data transfers as quickly as possible, your business laptop should have SSD storage instead of the traditional HDD. SSD storage is usually quieter thanks to the lack of a magnetic disk and can handle more writing cycles than a normal HDD. Most of the time, 256GB to 512GB of SSD memory is enough. 

AMD and Intel have become the go-to processor brands for many business laptop buyers. They usually offer high processor speeds at affordable prices. While these processors are generally safe options, gauging processor speed depends on the number of cores, according to Anh Trinh, managing editor of GeekWithLaptop

"A quad-core [processor] with 1.8GHz is better than a dual-core with 2.2GHz," Trinh said. "For a business laptop, you're going to need more than 1.6GHz to compete with modern-day software." 

Laptops usually operate more slowly than desktop CPUs because they are designed for energy conservation. Most laptops have two cores, though some high-performance laptops have four cores. For higher processor speeds, you'll want at least a quad-core system.

Joshua Stowers

Joshua is a staff writer based in New York City. He is a former entrepreneur who started a fashion and art, print and digital publication called Elusive Magazine, serving as the features editor for several issues. Previously, he worked in product development for DirectTV and for a content agency that wrote for Verizon and Google. He is a New Jersey native in love with the city lights and skyscrapers.