With so many options on the market, buying a laptop for business can be a tough decision. For starters, consider how you’ll use the laptop. Do you already have a desktop computer and want a portable laptop for travel or working at home? If so, your major concerns will be portability and battery life. Will you be using the laptop as your primary computer? If so, you’ll want features like a large display, lots of power and the ability to add peripherals to make the experience more ergonomic.

Another question to consider - should you buy a business laptop, or will a laptop targeted to consumers work be sufficient? The answer depends on your business needs. If you primarily need a laptop to work with documents, surf the Web and reply to email, a consumer laptop might be all you need. However, if your business requires running lots of applications at once; using memory-hogging applications like graphics, video or audio files; or securing sensitive customer or business information, a business laptop is likely a better bet. Business laptops typically have more power, more memory and built-in security features such as hard drive encryption that the majority of consumer laptops lack.

Here are some other features to consider when choosing a business laptop.

Platform

The three major platform options include:

-Chrome: Lightweight Google Chrome laptops are designed to access everything in the cloud. However, since you need an Internet connection at all times, they aren’t ideal for most business users.

-Microsoft Windows: If your small business runs on Windows, a Windows laptop is your best choice; Windows machines also generally cost less than Macs.

-Mac OSX: If your business is in a graphics-oriented field, a Mac might be your laptop of choice.

Processor Speed

If you are looking for a business PC, the Intel Core i5 or i7 is a good processor. If you’re choosing a consumer PC, look for Intel Core i3 or i5. The higher the processor, the faster your computer can run.  

Memory

Look for a minimum of 4GB of memory, or 8GB if you use data-intensive applications or multi-task between programs. Keep in mind that memory also affects the speed of your machine by enabling you to open more applications and windows at once.

Storage

Today, 500GB hard drives are pretty much standard, and a 1TB hard drive is a good idea. If you will be lugging your laptop around a lot, look for one with a solid-state hard drive (SSD). These drives don’t have spinning parts, which makes them more durable. If you handle sensitive data, consider an encrypted hard drive.

Display Size/Resolution

A 15-inch screen is a good, basic display size, but if you will be using the laptop as your primary computer or frequently have multiple windows open, a larger screen is well worth the investment. In terms of display resolution, look for a minimum of 1440 x 900.

If you do graphics-intensive work such as editing photos or video, you’ll want a laptop with 1920 x 1080 or above. Along the same lines, most laptops have an integrated graphics card, which isn’t powerful enough for graphics-intensive work. If you need to do graphic design or video editing, look for a laptop that has a dedicated graphics and/or video card.

Connectivity

Today, business laptops usually include mobile broadband wireless modems that are built into the machine and use cellphone signals to give the laptop broadband Internet access. Look for a laptop with enough USB ports for your needs (connection for your mouse, headphones or USB drives) and an HDMI port if you ever plan to connect it to a larger monitor.  

Battery Life

Unless you plan to use your laptop as a desktop replacement and will always be near an outlet, battery life is a major concern. The lighter the machine, the less battery life it usually has, and vice versa. In general, a four-cell battery will keep a charge for four to six hours; a six-cell battery for six to eight hours; and a nine-cell battery for nine to 12 hours.

Other Factors

  • Can’t find a business laptop that comes standard with the exact features you need? Most manufacturers allow the option to customize your laptop by adding more memory or a better graphics card.
  • Consider maintenance costs. In addition to the purchase price, consider the cost of repairs. Investigate warranty options—it’s generally worth purchasing a business-grade warranty if available. Also find out how easy it is to upgrade the laptop with additional memory and what costs to expect if you do so.
  • If you need more features than your budget can handle right now, one option is to purchase a certified refurbished laptop. Look for a machine that’s relatively new, choose a reputable seller, and make sure to get an extended warranty.
  • Don’t skimp. Your computer is the backbone of your business. Technology changes fast, so buy a laptop that has room to grow with your business. Get a faster processor and more memory than you think you need—you won’t regret it.

For more information, read the reviews of top-rated laptops suited for business use in PC Magazine, Business News Daily and TopTenReviews

Laptop