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Updated Nov 08, 2023

Why You Shouldn’t Cheap Out on Business Laptops

Understand the specifications and features that will make your business laptop an excellent investment.

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Joshua Stowers, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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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 essential to consider other factors that contribute to the quality and durability of the product, because it will receive heavy daily use. 

Why price isn’t the only consideration when buying a business laptop

When buying laptops for your business, your goal is to find durable devices that improve productivity and ensure ease of use. To do so, you must focus on long-term usage instead of inexpensive pricing. While laptops range in price 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 discounts, it’s best to focus on laptops with specs that ensure efficient daily task performance. Cheaper laptops typically have cheaper components, which can result in poor performance because of issues like slow processing. 

Underperforming machines can impede employee productivity. In contrast, high-performing devices with more functionality, longer battery life, larger solid-state drives (SSDs) and faster processors support work efficiency. 

Consider the following factors when you start your business laptop search: 

  1. Laptops are typically 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 dropped.
  2. Cheaper laptops tend to have low-grade battery packs. Lower-grade battery packs can make battery life unpredictable. Unpredictable battery life can wreak havoc on critical projects and presentations. A laptop that must be tethered to an electrical outlet at all times defeats one of the primary 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. Without sufficient storage and processing power, your disk space could be maxed out quickly if you work with numerous files and large documents. Additionally, slow processors can kill business productivity by making sorting through files and documents a nightmare for remote employees

To avoid these issues, consider a laptop’s price-to-performance ratio to help you evaluate if a machine’s price tag matches its performance and durability. This 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 receive peak performance for the extra money spent.

TipTip
Proactively upgrade your business technology periodically to boost security, keep employees happy and maintain the ability to run the latest software applications.

What is a good laptop for business?

Business and consumer laptops have different purposes. Business laptops are typically designed for portability and prolonged periods of use compared to consumer models. Business laptop security is also paramount because organizations must keep their data safe.

Before buying a laptop, it’s important to evaluate your expected usage to ensure you select the right machine. According to Tiffany Bloomer, president of Aventis Systems, understanding the following three usage levels can help you select the right devices for your business.   

1. Basic usage

The basic usage level is for companies that need only essential functionality from their business laptops, such as sending emails, streaming videos, browsing the web and using SaaS applications. These are the most cost-effective options. For example, Chromebooks and other devices that support Google’s Chrome OS, like Android tablets, are a good fit for basic usage. 

Here are two good options to consider at the basic usage level:

  • HP ProBook laptops: HP ProBook laptops range from $500 to $6,600. These devices are well engineered and feature the latest and greatest processors. They also have decent memory capacity and touch screens on select models. For roughly $740, you can buy the HP ProBook 455R G10 Notebook PC, which comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 processor, 8GB of memory, 256GB of NVMe storage and a 15.6-inch HD display.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad laptops: Lenovo ThinkPad laptops range from $500 to $1,000. They’re simple and affordable and boast a long battery life, which is key for employees who travel often or work remotely. For about $730, you can buy the ThinkPad E16, which has an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U processor, a 16-inch WUXGA IPS anti-glare screen with a touch display and more than 47 watt-hours of battery life. 

2. Above-average usage

The above-average usage level covers basic usage functions and adds the processing power to handle intensive business software (such as video- and photo-editing tools) and increased multitasking. Laptops suited for above-average usage include MacBooks, MacBook Air devices and Lenovo IdeaPads. 

Here are two good options to consider for above-average usage:

  • Dell Latitude laptops: Dell Latitude laptops start at $559 for compact machines and go up to $2,579 for extreme laptops. They are powerful, customizable devices with the latest processors, robust security, and ample memory and storage space. You can buy the Latitude 5340 laptop for a starting price of $1,469. Options for this 13.3-inch business-class notebook include a 13th-generation Intel core i5 processor, a class 35 SSD, up to 16GB of LPDDR5 memory and an Intel integrated graphics card.
  • HP EliteBook laptops: HP EliteBooks vary in price depending on customization options. These powerful laptops are similar to the Dell Latitude line in specifications. However,  they have more built-in security features to help stave off mobile cyberattacks, an eco-friendly design, and AMD and Intel processor options. Prices start at about $1,500 for an HP EliteBook 860 16-inch G10 Notebook PC Wolf Pro Security Edition, but various customization options (processors, memory, storage, etc.) will significantly affect the price. 

3. Superior usage

Superior usage means you require the highest processing power to run multiple labor-intensive applications simultaneously. These users are often in industries like computer gaming, design and engineering. Financial professionals also commonly have this usage level for computing large data sets. In some instances, you may need to go beyond a laptop at this stage. 

Here are some powerful laptops to consider for superior usage:

  • MacBook Pro: Apple’s MacBook Pro is a favorite for many businesses because of its brand cachet and top-notch specs. Prices start at $1,299 for a 13-inch model and $2,400 for a 16-inch model. This laptop operates exclusively on macOS and provides easy connectivity and file sync with all other Apple devices and software. For $2,699, you can get a 16-inch MacBook Pro equipped with a 6-core Neural Engine, 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16GB unified memory, 1TB of SSD storage and three Thunderbolt 4 ports.
  • Dell XPS 15: The Dell XPS 15 Windows laptop is sleek, portable and an overall great choice for office work. Prices start at $1,499. These laptops have a solid graphics card, a backlit keyboard and HD resolution. Many also have 4K displays. For $2,399, you can get the XPS 15 laptop, which comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics card, 8GB of GDDR6 memory and a 6-cell battery with 86 watt-hours of life. 
TipTip
If you don't feel tech-savvy enough to evaluate potential business laptops, consider hiring a chief technology officer (CTO) or working with a tech consultant to ensure your devices will stand the test of time.

What should I look for when choosing a business laptop?

Buying a new business laptop can be daunting. Many of the best models look similar, use the same operating system and provide many of the same features. The first step in choosing the best business laptop for your employees is to review each option’s specifications.

Sarah Petrova, senior hardware engineer at Intel and co-founder of Techtestreport.com, listed the following specifications to 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. Ensure your laptop can handle 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 significant performance, so the laptop should have at least 8GB of RAM. There should also be enough memory to ensure fast access and data transfer. The device should have an SSD instead of a hard disk drive (HDD), as SSDs are faster and more durable.
  • Processor: Business laptops should be equipped with the latest-generation Intel Core CPU (11th gen and later) or an equivalent AMD processor (3rd gen and later) for maximum performance and higher speeds. Newer CPUs operate at higher clock speeds than older generations, so they’re faster.
  • Cooling: Higher performance requires better cooling. Usually, the slimmer the laptop is, the worse the fan, which may be an issue because 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 low noise, you must closely examine 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 lifecycle. Running these operating systems can leave your device vulnerable to cyberattacks. (Even Windows 10 lacks the features, AI-enhanced efficiency and security of Windows 11.)
  • 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 much heavier; anything heavier than that could be a burden if you carry it around regularly.
  • Display: Widescreen formatting is increasingly popular in the business sector, as it’s 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 metal. 
Did You Know?Did you know
Mobile device management solutions for your business laptops, smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology can secure applications, permissions and policies across various platforms and providers.

Business laptop FAQ

Business laptop costs range from $500 to $3,000 depending on the model, processing power, screen quality, battery life and amount of RAM. 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 include a stronger battery, a better graphics processing unit (GPU) and additional USB ports. "You can get solid business laptops that you could use for at least three to four years for $1,200," Petrova explained. "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 require only essential office-work functions like web browsing, emailing and drafting documents, 8GB of RAM is enough for most users. If you often run multiple programs and execute numerous tasks simultaneously, 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 rotating magnetic disk and can handle more writing cycles than a standard 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 advised. "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.
Business laptops are built differently than consumer laptops in various ways. For instance, business laptops usually last longer and have more configuration options. They're also built more for security, as they typically store sensitive information. On the other hand, consumer laptops typically include unnecessary, preinstalled software and more creative design features.
Typically, laptops last between three and five years. After that period, you might need to replace the computer, as it might not be able to support the advanced and necessary applications your business must run. Desktop PCs usually last about a year longer than laptops.

Invest in the right business laptops

Due to small business budget constraints, choosing the cheapest business laptops on the market can be tempting. However, sacrificing quality isn’t a good idea when it comes to business laptops. Weigh your business’s needs and the available options and specs to choose a laptop that best supports your company and employees.

Sammi Caramela contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article. 

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Joshua Stowers, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
Joshua Stowers is a business.com and Business News Daily writer who knows firsthand the ups and downs of running a small business. An entrepreneur himself, Joshua founded the fashion and art publication Elusive Magazine. He writes about the strategic operations entrepreneurs need to launch and grow their small businesses. Joshua writes about choosing the choosing and building business legal structures, implementing human-resources services, and recruiting and managing talent.
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