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Grow Your Business Technology

Business vs. Consumer Laptops: What You Need to Know

image for Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock
  • Though business laptops are sometimes used for personal reasons and consumer laptops are sometimes used for business reasons, there are still two categories of laptops.
  • Business laptops are made for a 40-hour work week. They might not have all of the bells and whistles that consumers want, but they support business needs.
  • There are many options for business and consumer laptops.

If you're in the market for a laptop that you plan to use primarily or partially for business use, you may be wondering if there's a real difference between devices marketed as business laptops and those sold as consumer products. Despite the increasingly blurred lines between most modern workers' work lives and personal lives, laptops still live in two distinct classes. While you may still opt for a consumer laptop for business use, as many solopreneurs and side hustlers do, it's good to know what you're getting into ahead of time.

A business laptop is used solely for business. These laptops are typically made to travel and be used for a longer period of time than consumer laptops intended for personal use.

It depends what you're looking for and which model you choose. If you want a business laptop with a lot of storage or bandwidth, the laptop can be expensive. Many businesses usually require this type of laptop, but some do not. Some businesses need laptops that connect to internet but do not require storage.

Many times, business laptops have longer warranties than consumer laptops do because they are expected to work longer. Service options for business laptops are also different from those for consumer laptops. Often, companies have a different service line for business users.

Here are the main differences between business laptops and consumer laptops:

When laptop companies design consumer laptops, they do so assuming buyers will want to upgrade frequently to stay on top of the latest trends. They also assume consumer users are not as tough on their laptops as business users. Both ideas influence the way business and consumer laptops are built.

Business laptops are created for long-term, all-day usage. Because companies don't want to constantly upgrade entire fleets of laptops, business designs don't vary drastically from year to year. Consistent design makes it easier to maintain laptops over time, and features such as swappable batteries extend the overall life span of business-focused devices. Additionally, quality business machines are built to be durable; many are water- and dust-resistant and are built to withstand occasional drops and knocks. Consumer laptops, on the other hand, are built with planned obsolescence in mind and aren't intended to be used 40 hours a week for years on end. [Looking for the right business laptop for your company? Check out our top picks.]

Business laptops have gotten slightly better-looking, but there's no denying that consumer laptops are much nicer to look at and handle than business laptops.

Consumer laptops tend to have bright, glossy displays; modern, island-style keyboards; and eye-catching chassis. Historically, consumer laptops also have offered more versatility, thanks to daring design features such as 360-degree hinges, built-in styluses, detachable screens and roomy touchpads. That's still the case, but business laptops are finally starting to catch up. Business 2-in-1s, which were once nonexistent, can now be purchased from big names such as Dell and Lenovo, and styluses are increasingly being used in business contexts outside of graphic design.

The demand for attractive business devices isn't going away anytime soon, but for now, the most eye-catching designs belong to the consumer market. If design is a major motivator for you, as it is for many business shoppers, make sure you opt for a consumer laptop that's comfortable to use all day long; glossy screens and shallow keyboards are OK for sporadic use but grow tiresome quickly.

Because businesses don't typically purchase laptops one at a time, lines of business laptops are designed with diverse users in mind. As such, many business laptops offer lots of configuration options. While consumer laptops may provide some opportunity for custom specs, like additional storage or a higher-quality display, they don't come close to offering the custom options available for business machines.  

Dell and Lenovo are undoubtedly the industry leaders in customization, allowing business shoppers to select everything from the processor, to the battery, to the keyboard backlighting. Additionally, online business shoppers can sort results based on specs, which is helpful when you're buying in bulk for divisions with different requirements.

Biometric fingerprint scanners are practically standard on business laptops, even on entry-level models, but they're still relatively rare on consumer laptops. Business laptops are also typically built with software that makes it easier to manage and secure devices on enterprise-class networks. While this gives business devices an edge over consumer laptops, this is an area where the difference between business and consumer laptops is narrowing. As mobile device management cloud solutions become more user-friendly and less expensive, it will be progressively easier for businesses (including small ones) to manage business and consumer products at the same time.

For now, many small and medium-sized businesses are still better off sticking to business devices when they can. Business laptops often come with optional security subscriptions, and many laptop sellers offer additional (paid) tech support for smaller companies that don't have in-house tech expertise.

As you can see, there are more compelling reasons to opt for a business device than a consumer device when you're buying work laptops. However, the most important thing is productivity, and many small businesses successfully manage consumer and business hardware side by side.

Mona Bushnell

Mona Bushnell is a Philadelphia-based staff writer for business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.A. in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and has previously worked as an IT technician, a copywriter, a software administrator, a scheduling manager, and an editorial writer. Mona began freelance writing full time in 2014 and joined the Business News Daily/business.com team in 2017. She covers business and technology.