If you travel for business and need to take your laptop with you everywhere, you should pass on the average Ultrabook. They aren’t hardy enough and lack certain features you might need. Here are some of our favorite laptops for business.
What’s a Business Laptop, Anyway?
Unlike Intel’s Ultrabooks, no one owns the definition of the Business Laptop category. So, you won’t find the same set of features on every laptop that markets itself to business professionals, but they generally share some of the same features.
Business laptops usually have a muted, simple design, hardened materials, biometric readers (like a fingerprint scanner or access card reader), easy access to components for upgrades, a lock system (usually from Kensington), and more ports than the average Ultrabook. Because of these features, business laptops are also typically heavier than Ultrabooks.
Muted designs don’t mean business laptops are ugly. But they don’t tend to have visual extras, like glowing LEDs or fancy colors. Think of it like a mature adult who graduated to grown-up body wash and left Axe behind. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done, and it looks presentable for the office.
With that in mind, here are our top picks.
The Best Overall: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
Remember when we said not every description and feature above applies to every business laptop? Well the Thinkpad X1 Carbon set our design comments aside by flirting with Ultrabook status.
Sleek, light, and on the thin side, when it’s closed, you might confuse the X1 Carbon for an average Ultrabook. When you open it, though, all the familiar Thinkpad stylings reveal themselves, from the Trackpoint pointer to the classic Thinkpad trackpad. The X1 Carbon doesn’t skimp on other specs; it features a powerful Intel i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. It doesn’t skimp on ports either. It has an ethernet jack, 4 USB ports (including 2 Thunderbolt USB-C ports), and a full-size HDMI port.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptop, High Performance Windows Laptop, (Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Windows 10 Pro), 20KH002JUS
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon is a sleek business laptop that has the power and ports to get you anywhere.
Best Convertible: HP EliteBook x360
If you need 2-in-1 (a laptop that sometimes acts like a tablet), it’s hard to say no to the HP Elitebook x360. When you need it, the keyboard is a decent size. When you need a tablet, you just fold the keyboard behind the screen.
The Elitebook x360 features USB-C and USB-A ports, along with a full-sized HDMI port. With an Intel i5 processor and 16 gigs of RAM, this HP laptop can handle anything short of intensive gaming.
HP Elitebook X360 1030 G3 13.3" Touchscreen LCD 2 in 1 Notebook - Intel Core i5 (8th Gen) i5-8350U Quad-Core (4 Core) 1.70 GHz - 8 GB LPDDR3-256 GB SSD - Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (English) - 1920
The HP EliteBook x360 is an excellent 2 in 1 laptop that features an i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB drive. Plenty of ports mean you should be able to plug just about anything in.
Best Budget: Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E480
If you’re looking to spend less, Lenovo has you covered. And you get a surprisingly generous package for a great deal less than some other business laptops. The Thinkpad Edge E480 includes an Intel i5 Processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD.
You still have ports to spare, with a full-sized HDMI, ethernet jack, and USB-C and USB-A ports. It also has Bluetooth and a fingerprint reader. At over five pounds, though, you feel the weight of this laptop when you carry it around. However, that extra heft means it’s easier to take apart and upgrade than the Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E480 14" IPS FHD Screen Laptop Computer, Intel Dual Core i5-7200U up tp 3.1GHz, 8GB DDR4, 512GB PCIe SSD, Webcam, HDMI, Fingerprint Reader, Windows 10, Up to 13-hr Battery Life
Although heavier than some other picks, you get a lot of machine for fewer dollars with the Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E490. That includes plenty of ports, a strong processor, and even Bluetooth.
Best Rugged Option: Panasonic Toughbook CF-33
Most business-class laptops are durable, but sometimes, you need something designed to take a beating. If you work in conditions where frequent drops, high-temperatures, or liquid exposure is possible, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 is the laptop you need.
Built like a tank, the CF-33 has a few surprising tricks up its sleeve, like a detachable monitor that doubles as a tablet. You get a decent Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. When you need to dock, HDMI and VGA are on board. Not bad for a laptop that could probably break you.
Best Large Screen: HP Spectre x360
Many laptops—business-class or otherwise—sport 13-inch or smaller screens. That’s fine for portability’s sake, but sometimes work calls for a larger screen. For example, if you use Photoshop a lot, a large display with a higher resolution and a graphics card is a must.
The HP Spectre x360 fits that bill remarkably well. It’s an incredibly powerful laptop, with 32 GB of RAM, an Intel i7 processor, and a 1 TB SSD. But it’s not just sheer power that makes this laptop impressive. It features a 4K, 15-inch screen paired with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics, and it folds into a tablet. You even get a pen to draw with. It’s more expensive, but if you work a lot with visuals, this laptop can handle all your needs, and more.
For every laptop we listed here, there are dozens more you could choose. But we picked these machines based on their price points, features, and capabilities. Once you have a good idea of what serves you best in your field, you’ll know which category of laptops to choose from.
Laptop models change frequently. You might want to see if a newer version of the model you want is available, or if an older, more affordable version would meet your needs.