Choosing a laptop is an important decision for any business user. As your primary work machine for staying productive, a laptop even rivals a smartphone in terms of how often we use the device, what we do on it during the day and what we can accomplish with it.
Fortunately, it can help if you narrow down the brand of the laptop, because then you can investigate the models available. If you decide on the HP brand because of the quality components, long history in the computing field (the company has been offering laptops for decades), and more durable construction compared to budget laptops, you can then look into more of the specifications, configurations, and "trim" levels in terms of the market segment for each model.
HP laptops tend to fall into one of three categories. There are basic consumer models meant for everyday tasks such as word processing and web browsing. There are midrange business models that offer exciting features and a trendy design but are not meant for high-end professional use. Then there are workstation and professional models that can meet almost any need.
One of the first steps is to consider your business needs. This might involve a group discussion with your team or a superior, or maybe a careful analysis of your job and what you will do in the next year. It's not an easy task, because you might decide to start editing more photos, working on rich documents or even editing videos. All those tasks require a higher-end system like the HP ProBook. If you work in such fields as web design or web programming, you may even need a full workstation, something like the HP ZBook.
You should also think about cost. Once you have an idea of how you will use the system, cost becomes a critical factor, because you can then start determining your needs in terms of RAM, local storage amount (disk space) and processor speed. All the suggested laptops below can run many of the most common business apps, but it's only when you add more memory, storage and processor ability that you can run high-end apps.
Before diving into the HP lineup, it's also important to decide which specs will work best for your needs. As a general guideline, you will want to choose 8GB of RAM for basic computing like word processing and web browsing but move up to at least 16GB of RAM if you decide to do any photo or video editing. Programmers and visual artists should go with 32GB of RAM.
For disk storage, the decision is a bit easier. Most laptop users fall into one of two distinct groups. If you tend to mostly use the cloud for your computing needs, including almost all your storage, then a 512GB drive is plenty. However, if you work in a field where private, sensitive business files need to be housed securely on a local disk (this might include the medical field, the finance industry or a startup that is in stealth mode), then upgrade to at least 1TB. Visual artists, video editors, programmers or those who work on business analytics might even opt for a higher-end laptop such as the HP ZBook and choose to outfit the system with two drives.
The processor is where you typically have three main choices for HP laptops. The Intel Core i3 is fast enough for most business users and keeps the costs down. Step up to the Intel Core i5 if you need more processing power for word processing, documentation, marketing plans and basic photo editing.
If you need the most power and don't mind spending a little more, the Intel Core i7 is the high-end processor that is ideal for web programming, photo and video editing, and business analytics work. HP also offers AMD processors on some laptops, including the HP Essentials line – another option to keep the cost down.
A final consideration is the screen size. Many business users prefer the 13-inch or 14-inch screen, which is great for documents, web and email. For photo editing and videos, you can move up to the 15-inch or even the 16-inch screen. Web programmers, artists, designers and video professionals tend to prefer the 17-inch screen, which is also ideal for anyone wanting to do high-end analytics work.
With the HP Essential line, the key specification is affordability. It's not uncommon to find a laptop like the HP Essential 15z for as low as $310 on sale, and many other HP Essential models are below $900. These systems are more than suitable for basic business tasks, including word processing, web browsing and email. They still provide HP-quality components with a laptop enclosure that feels sturdy and won't sag like some budget-minded laptops.
It's common for business users to choose Chrome OS on some of the more consumer-friendly notebooks; this reduces not just the cost but also the complexity. Chrome OS means the system will boot up quickly and there are no apps to install, maintain or update. There are relatively few security concerns as well.
From a business standpoint, the HP ProBook line provides almost endless configuration options for serious users. These are not consumer laptops by any stretch, and they have the power and flexibility many users need. The only distinction to make is that the ProBook is not a workstation in that it is the highest-end laptop HP offers, and that the EliteBook line tends to offer a few extra features related to durability. A typical laptop in this line is the HP ProBook x360 440, which sells for $799 yet has a bright and clear 14-inch screen.
Laptops in the ProBook series typically run Windows 10 Pro, which means you benefit from some added security features and management tools. Many of the ProBook laptops are well suited to business needs with a trim, unadorned look.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the HP EliteBook line is that these systems tend to be durable enough for field work yet will fit right in at boardroom meetings. This line also emphasizes extra business security features. Every HP laptop has some features related to security, but the EliteBook models offer even more business security options, such as fingerprint readers, face detection and other biometrics.
An EliteBook model like HP Elite x2 1013 G3 provides flexibility as well – the tablet detaches from the main keyboard. More than anything, EliteBooks tend to be more durable and can withstand more jostling and even short drops to carpet because of the way they are built.
Of all the systems mentioned so far, the HP ZBook line is a step above, because these laptops are true mobile workstation computers. The term "workstation" is an important one; it means these systems can handle the highest-end processors, the most RAM and the most storage. It's not uncommon to configure an HP ZBook with a cutting-edge processor, max out the RAM, and add 2TB of storage because you have needs related to sophisticated 3D design, web programming, or making a movie from start to finish.
A best-selling model such as the HP ZBook 15 is powerful enough for almost any modern-day computing task, including high-end business analytics, and is highly customizable in terms of storage. A workstation is for those who don't want to make any compromises.