What to Look for In a Work Laptop – The average business laptop lasts for 3-5 years while consumer-grade machines typically need to get replaced every 2-3 years.
If you’re in the market for a business laptop, there are some important features to consider. Let’s look at what you need to know when choosing a laptop for your business.
Choose Your Operating System
The first decision you should make is what operating system you want to use. There are three main platforms for laptops:
- Windows 10
- Chrome OS
Windows is the most versatile of the three options. You can comparison shop between different brands to get the best model for your needs.
If you use macOS, you only have one option for the vendor — Apple. You can still choose from a range of models but there’s nowhere near as much diversity.
Chrome OS is Google’s laptop operating system. It looks similar to Windows and macOS but it’s designed to work with Google’s cloud-based tools like Gmail and Google Docs. It can’t run desktop applications like MS Office, Photoshop, and other common business software.
Do You Want a Convertible or 2-in-1 Laptop?
If you settle on a Windows-based laptop, the next decision to make is whether you want a traditional laptop design or a convertible or 2-in-1 system.
Convertible laptops like the Microsoft Surface Pro have a detachable keyboard. When you connect the keyboard, the device works like any other laptop. If you detach the keyboard, it works as a tablet instead.
2-in-1 designs also work as tablets but instead of a detachable keyboard, the screen pivots and folds back on itself. The keyboard is still connected but flips around to the back of the device.
Consider the Display
There’s more to consider about laptop displays than whether or not they turn into tablets. The size, GPU (graphics processing unit), and touch support also come into play.
Typical laptop screens range from 12 inches to 17 inches in size. As you can probably guess, larger displays mean larger, heavier laptops.
You need to weigh the portability of a laptop against how you expect to use it when choosing a screen size. If you need to have a lot of windows on-screen at once or you work with photos, video, and other types of files that need more screen real estate, a larger screen is important.
If you want an ultraportable laptop that lets you work almost anywhere, a smaller screen is the better choice.
The size of the screen is one half of the equation when it comes to what a laptop can display. The other half is the type of graphics card, or GPU, driving it.
Games are one of the most graphics-intensive types of software so if you’re buying a laptop to use for work and play, make sure you get a gaming-grade GPU. You also need a powerful graphics card if you do a lot of 3D rendering or other complicated graphics processing.
Some laptops come with a touchscreen even if they don’t convert into full tablet mode. If you like the idea of being able to tap the screen for some functions but want a traditional laptop design, look for a model with a touchscreen display.
Choose a Good Keyboard and Pointing Device
If you’re going to use your laptop for work, chances are you’ll do a lot of typing and mousing around the screen. The quality of the keyboard and accuracy of the pointing device have a big impact on how efficient and enjoyable it is to use a laptop.
Look for a model with full-size keys. This is especially important when you look at smaller laptops since some manufacturers shrink the keyboard along with the rest of the machine.
Make sure the trackpad works smoothly and accurately. Apple’s MacBook line has some of the best trackpads on the market but other well-known brands like Lenovo and Dell are catching up.
Specifications to Consider When Choosing a Laptop
Going beyond the major options we’ve covered so far, there are several other specifications you’ll need to consider for a new laptop.
The CPU, or central processing unit, is the “brain” of a laptop. It does all the calculations, runs apps, and processes anything you’re working on.
Laptop CPUs range from lower-powered, highly efficient chips to high-end workstation processors. The right choice for you will depend on what type of applications you run.
For typical business applications like MS Office, web browsing, and communication tools like Zoom, a mid-range CPU like the Intel Core i5 is a good choice. You’ll get better battery life than with higher-performance chips but still have plenty of horsepower to run your apps.
RAM is the type of memory where your applications run, the operating system files get loaded, and any files you’re actively working on get stored.
More RAM helps speed up your laptop by giving you more working space. It also lets you run more apps at the same time.
For most business users, 8GB is the minimum amount of RAM to consider. 16GB or even 32GB will improve your laptop’s performance and give you more headroom over the next few years as operating systems and applications get more complex.
Storage Size and Type
Storage is the other type of memory on a laptop. This is where applications get installed, the operating system files get loaded, and all your data gets saved.
Some types of files take up more space than others so the amount of storage you need partly depends on the type of work you do. Images and video files take up much more space than word processing documents and spreadsheets, for example.
There are also two types of storage — hard drive and SSD. An SSD (solid-state device) is much faster than a hard drive so the laptop’s performance will be noticeably better.
The only real disadvantage of SSD storage is the higher cost compared to a similar-sized hard drive but that gap is getting narrower all the time.
Number and Type of Ports
Another factor to consider is the number and types of external ports on a laptop. If you need to connect devices like a full-size monitor, webcam, mouse, or printer you’ll need ports on the computer that they can plug into.
This is another factor that’s partly dictated by the laptop’s size. A smaller laptop physically doesn’t have as much space for ports so you’ll get fewer than you will on a larger computer.
Figure out what devices you’ll need to plug into your laptop first. Then look for a model that includes all the connections you need.
Battery Life Is Important
If you plan to use your laptop on the go, battery life will be an important consideration. This is especially true if you have to get work done in places with no power outlets nearby.
Some business laptops have removable batteries so you can swap in a new one when it runs out of juice. But most of them aren’t replaceable so you need to get a model that can run long enough on a single charge to get you through your workday.
Some CPUs, like Intel’s Core i3 series and Apple’s new M1 series, run more efficiently than some other alternatives. This can give you anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of battery life, depending on how you use your laptop.
Service and Support Is Critical
One of the most important things to look at when comparing work laptops isn’t so much about the computer itself as the company that makes it. Service and support are critical for a business computer since any downtime likely means it’s costing you money.
Check the manufacturer’s warranty to see what kind of coverage they provide.
- Is it on-site or do you have to ship the laptop away for servicing?
- Do they provide a guaranteed service standard, such as next-day repairs?
- Can you get servicing in any major city and in other countries if you travel?
Many manufacturers offer service contracts on their business laptops, providing faster service and other support options that aren’t available on their consumer-grade computers.
You’ll spend a bit more for a laptop that includes this level of support but one support incident could pay for itself by getting you back up and running quickly.
Do Your Homework When Buying a Laptop
Make sure you don’t rush into a quick decision when choosing a laptop for work. By taking your time to do your homework and make sure you’re getting a laptop that meets all your needs, you’ll save time and money in the long-run by not having to replace it as soon.
Be sure to check out the Tech and Business categories on our site for more helpful articles about using technology in your business.
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