Pandemic or no pandemic, it looks like the world of hybrid working is here to stay, and that means it pays to ensure your hardware is up to the task. But trying to find one of the best business laptops in 2023 that best fits your needs is not always a straight forward task, especially when you never know where you'll be working from.
Not all laptops are created equal, however, and so it’s important to pick the best laptop for your personal circumstances. If your workload consists of emails, word processing and spreadsheets, then the portability of an ultrabook would be ideal, but if you routinely edit photos, videos, develop software and manage databases, then you’ll need something more powerful.
There are factors that are universally important, of course. A comfortable keyboard, a reliable trackpad and decent battery life are all massively important, and something we’ve always prioritised in our laptop reviews.
What to look for in a business laptop
When shopping for a business laptop, there are a few key things to consider, many of which may not be as important as with consumer-grade devices. Performance, for example, is just as important with personal laptops as with business machines (albeit with a focus on different tasks), and you should look for a machine with at least a mid-range processor from the last two years to ensure competitive performance over the device’s lifespan, but operating system versions probably won’t enter into the discussion.
Opting for a device that comes with the professional version of Windows out of the box gives you more access to business-friendly tools like increased deployment and encryption options, and if you’re shopping for a new machine, it makes sense to pick one that’s compatible with the latest version of Windows for the sake of future-proofing - if not one that already comes with it pre-installed.
It’s also important to note what ports you’re likely to need, taking into account things like your most commonly-used devices and peripherals, and the kinds of connections that your office infrastructure uses for things like hot-desk equipment or AV systems. While the do-it-all flexibility of USB-C is incredibly versatile, it’s a good rule of thumb to ensure you’ve got at least one full-size USB type-A port on hand to save having to carry around an adapter.
On the flip-side, display quality probably isn’t going to be a major factor unless you’re working with art assets or graphic design. As long as the screen’s bright enough to see clearly and colours don’t appear overly muted or unnaturally vibrant, a less-than-perfect display isn’t likely to impede your workflow too much.
Battery life is arguably one of the most important factors to look for, and anything that manages to last ten hours or more in our battery benchmark tests is likely to be a solid option for workers that spend a lot of time travelling or away from a power source. Many machines will even have fast-charging features to help you juice back up quickly.
Can you use a gaming laptop for business?
If you’re an avid PC gamer and you’re looking to spend some money on a new laptop for work, it may be tempting to try and have your cake and eat it too by buying a high-end gaming laptop that you can use in your off hours as well as at the office. The good news is that - from a technical perspective, at least - this isn’t too outlandish.
Modern gaming laptops have a huge amount of processing power that will allow them to blitz through the vast majority of standard work tasks. They’re also ideally suited to compute-intensive roles like graphic design, video editing and anything that benefits from hardware acceleration (although usually not professional engineering applications). On top of that, they’re usually designed with high-quality screens and large, comfortable keyboards.
It’s also possible to pick up a gaming laptop that won’t look out of place in a professional setting, and isn’t festooned with garish RGB lighting and overly flashy vents. Many gaming machines are now relatively sedate, and straddle the line between enthusiast devices and mobile workstations.
The biggest downside with using a gaming machine for work is that they tend to be heavier than most other machines, and their powerful components typically result in a significantly shorter battery life. If you’re only going between your home and the office, this may not be an issue, but for those who do a lot of offsite work, this may prove to be a dealbreaker.
Why are business laptops more expensive?
You may have noticed that laptops which are specifically aimed at business buyers tend to be noticeably more expensive than those which are mostly consumer-focused. Although this is partially attributable to the fact that businesses can usually afford to drop a little more cash on their purchases, there are several good reasons why business laptops are more expensive.
For one thing, they’ll often come with AMD Ryzen Pro or Intel vPro chips. These special professional-grade components don’t confer any additional performance advantages, but they include extra security and manageability features designed to make it easier for IT admins to manage large fleet deployments.
Business machines are also more likely to have a wider range of ports and connectivity options, as many offices still rely on older connections like HDMI or even VGA for connecting to projectors and other peripherals. Other additional features like biometric security and better access to internal components for the purposes of repair and upgrade are a more common sight on business devices, too.
How long do business laptops last?
Another factor in why business laptops tend to command higher price tags is that they last longer than personal machines. The manufacturer’s warranty will generally cover a standard consumer laptop for a year, but business machines often come with a three year warranty.
Even beyond that, the typical device refresh cycle for most companies tends to be around five years - which means that business laptops will need to last for at least that long with no major problems in order to avoid unhappy customers. In fact, some companies can sweat their laptops for as much as ten years before replacing them - although they may upgrade certain components such as storage and RAM every so often.
Should I buy a convertible business laptop?
Convertible laptops allow users to seamlessly flip between tablet-style operations and the more traditional laptop form-factor. In theory, this offers increased flexibility and greater productivity, but while it can be a convenient way to display your screen for an informal presentation to colleagues, you may find its workplace utility to be somewhat limited unless you’re a big fan of taking handwritten notes or doing digital illustration.
The convertible form factor also comes with certain trade-offs. They often tend to be more expensive than regular clamshell models, and the touchscreen can sometimes get in the way when trying to reposition the display. Moreover, the touchscreen usually prevents any form of anti-glare coating from being applied to the display, which can limit its usefulness outdoors. If you’re keen on working with a stylus, then you may find that these are sacrifices worth making, but in most cases, a convertible form-factor does little to improve a business laptop’s overall appeal.
What are the best business laptops in 2024?
Dell XPS 13 PLUS
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Dell XPS is a stalwart in the tech giant's laptop arsenal and its 13in 'Plus' variation is one of its very best. A refreshed design, smaller, portable size, and innovative keyboard design make the 13 Plus a laptop for the modern worker.
The keyboard design, known as 'zero-lattice', runs from edge to edge to house larger keys. The benefit here is that even the most inaccurate of typists can pick up a decent speed. The travel is good too, as it allows for a nice clean typing action across largely silent keys.
However, the real innovative part is the always-on illuminated symbols that run along the top of the keyboard. This appears to be Dell's take on Apple's ill-fated touch bar but with a more useful layout, with shortcuts for functions like print screen, volume dials, display controls play, and pause buttons.
You can also tap the Fn key and have the middle 13 of these symbols vanish to be replaced with backlit F1 to F12 icons. You can use the Fn-Lock to have the function key icons rather than the symbols as the default. Magic.
Read our full Dell XPS 13 Plus review for more information.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a bit of a mouthful. And yet, it still doesn't quite explain its innovative design. The device sports a dual-hinge mechanism that allows the screen to pivot forward into a few different orientations.
When you push the top of the display, the lower half unclips creating a flat 'stage mode'. Essentially this is a tablet mode with the keyboard now covered by the display, though it magnetically clips into a slot above the trackpad -- which makes this a good option for those wanting to present slides or graphs during a meeting.
You can pull the screen further so that it also covers the trackpad -- this is the 'Studio mode' that supports the use of a stylus, which appeals to creative workers. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 also supports the Surface Slim Pen 2, which is one of the best styluses around.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 review for more information
Dell Latitude 9440 2-in-1
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
When it comes to Dell laptops, businesses almost always come for the Latitude; it is the dependable work machine that lasts. And the 9440 2-in-1 model is a stylish new variation.
The 9440 is a seriously sleek-looking machine, but the weight of the laptop is a key selling point. At just 1.54kg, and measuring 31 x 21cm, the Latitude is surprisingly portable – easy to carry in a bag or in the hand but still packed with the power and innovation needed for modern work. The cravat here is a lack of ports, but that is the compromise Dell has made for portability.
Control and navigation on the 9440 is also a boon, whether that's using its pleasantly tactile keyboard or a stylus while in tablet mode. Battery life is fairly good at 11hrs and 10mins under the ITPro looped video test. And it's Geekbench 6 scores actually beat the more fancy XPS 15. All of those elements appeal to businesses that want dependable work machines, and the Latitude 9400 2in-1 does all that and a little bit more.
Read more of our Dell Latitude 9440 2-in-1 review for more information.
Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 is an outstanding machine with a wide range of capabilities. From Display quality to typing, the Zenbook is a premium laptop worthy of your attention.
The combination of its Intel Core i9 chip and its Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU gives users a snappy device with an immersive screen. The latter is a 14in Samsung-manufactured panel with touchscreen capabilities that should satisfy even the most demanding of users.
With gamut volumes of 171.6% sRGB, the Zenbook is a creative powerhouse, perfect for image editing. And its peak brightness score of 582cd/m2 is more than a match for the brightest conditions the UK can muster.
Admittedly, the Zenbook Pro 14 is an expensive machine, but rival machines like the MacBook Pro don't have the touchscreen capabilities, or Windows (if that's your preference). But for all-round performance, it is very much worth the price.
Read our full Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED review for more information
How we test business laptops
When we review a laptop, there are a number of tests that we use to determine its capabilities. To measure the quality of the display, we use the open-source DisplayCal app and a dedicated colorimeter to determine the maximum brightness, the contrast ratio and how much of the sRGB colour gamut it covers (as well as the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB gamuts where applicable) - which determines the range of colours the screen can reproduce. We also measure the average Delta-E rating, which indicates how accurately those colours are displayed.
Performance is tested by running it through our own in-house benchmarks, which consist of three tests: an image conversion test, which gives an indication of single-threaded speeds, a video encoding test, which makes greater use of multi-core processing, and a multitasking test which runs both processes simultaneously while also playing a video. This test is the most strenuous and is designed to push processors to their limits. These tests give us individual scores, as well as an overall result.
We’ll also run the Geekbench 5 performance test to confirm the accuracy of these results, as well as assessing its performance in day-to-day tasks throughout our evaluation period. Storage is tested using the AS SSD benchmark.
In order to measure battery life, we’ll charge the battery fully, then set the display brightness as close to 170cd/m2 as possible using a colour calibrator, turn on flight mode and play a looped video until the battery dies. This gives us a consistent figure to compare the battery life of different models, although it may not necessarily give us an indication of real-world battery life. For this, we assess how long the battery lasts over several days of actual use, subjecting it to a range of workloads and activities.
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After a false career start producing flash games, Alan Martin has been writing about phones, wearables and internet culture for over a decade with bylines all over the web and print.
Previously Deputy Editor of Alphr, he turned freelance in 2018 and his words can now be found all over the web, on the likes of Tom's Guide, The i, TechRadar, NME, Gizmodo, Coach, T3, The New Statesman and ShortList, as well as in the odd magazine and newspaper.
He's rarely seen not wearing at least one smartwatch, can talk your ear off about political biographies, and is a long-suffering fan of Derby County FC (which, on balance, he'd rather not talk about). He lives in London, right at the bottom of the Northern Line, long after you think it ends.