Business owners and IT managers come to us all the time before buying a laptop to find out what we would recommend for their team. As with many technology decisions, the answer is not the same for every person and it is different for every business! There are a number of factors to take into consideration before you make this investment, regardless of whether you’re buying 1 laptop or 100 of them.
This decision is part of an overarching shift towards more flexible working schedules and strategies that many companies are adopting. The mobile workforce continues to grow thanks to evolving employee expectations, technology advances, and globalization. Working at least one day a week outside of the office is not out of the norm. This trend means new business operations models that make efforts to reduce commutes, maintain employee job satisfaction, and build opportunities for additional productivity and other advantages to the company in the process.
These 5 things we work through below are not heavily opinion-driven or brand-focused. This is a rough guide to buying a laptop that should give you a better understanding of best practices as well as some of the relative considerations that come into play.
It is important to mention here that there are a few things to look for in order to decipher whether a laptop is meant for consumer or business use. With business-class machines you will see more conservative style and generally better durability, as well as longer standard warranties and better service packages. Otherwise, performance features depend heavily on the industry and specific use cases so they are harder to distinguish. Your IT resource will often guide you with high-level standards to ensure you are buying a laptop that will support your business needs.
You need mobile technology that enables high quality remote work, but you want to keep other factors like budget and portability in perspective. So, what laptops are right for you and your team?
Form Factor – Size and Shape
Of course you’re looking for the best performance out there, and there are a number of ways to ensure that you’re getting a machine that will give you that. That said, start asking these questions:
How big do you need to go to get what you’re looking for? Do you need your machine to be particularly spill-resistant because you work with liquids? Do you need something fairly shockproof, a rugged model, because you will be working in high-traffic spaces with moving parts? Will you need a touchscreen, or even a hybrid machine that converts to a tablet? Do you need a backlit keyboard because you will be working in some dark areas? Do you require a comfort keyboard that will give you a more ergonomic experience if you’re not jumping from place to place?
In terms of the laptop’s size, that’s generally dictated by screen measurement. A screen in the 11-inch to 15-inch range is a sweet spot for many laptop users. It fits in the average commuter bag and yet can still pack a punch in terms of speed, storage, and processing ability.
There are really 3 main “categories” that cover most of what mobile workers look for:
These tend to have the smaller screens and the least power, but depending on how much your require and how often you carry it you may want to consider this option. Pay close attention to the ports available – these tend to leave out available connections to keep their compact size.
- Mid-Size Modern
These are typically a solid mix of portability and performance. You’ll likely benefit from more port options, solid processing power (if you choose carefully of course), and a better viewing experience, especially if you opt for a higher resolution screen.
- The “Desktop Replacement”
If you rarely take your laptop around with you and you’re looking to maximize screen real estate, there are models with screens above 14 inches that will give you that experience. These boast much beefier specifications, and they should considering that they’re much bulkier and definitely sacrifice the slim and lightweight designs of other options out there.
Processing Power – CPU
You absolutely cannot overlook this critical step when buying a laptop. This is the “thinking brain” for your computer! Determine you and your team’s requirements before making this decision!
This will essentially dictate your machine’s performance.
When it comes to business laptops, look for fast processors with integrated graphics cards that at least support multi-tab browsing and day-to-day programs like your Microsoft Office suite.
There are a variety of “value” laptops out there with processors that are fine for basic tasks, but their multitasking capabilities will truly limit or stop your productivity in a work day.
So, how do you choose a CPU that will be “just right”?
Keep in mind that the best performance usually means the inverse for your battery life. If you opt for the cheapest option you’re going to get a slow, frustrating machine even though your machine can run longer on battery.
If you’re working with a lot of big media files or you play video games on your machine, you need a more superior set of graphics, memory, and RAM on the machine. This means that the cost goes up… and the battery life goes down.
We always recommend Intel’s core-based CPUs. They offer superior performance and power efficiency.
Not all business laptop users require Core i7-level CPU power, so again it is important to gauge use cases to make make the call. Make sure, when you are taking price into consideration most notably, that you also look at whether your CPU will support other components necessary for the working experience you need.
Also note that a high-powered performance CPU will produce a lot of heat, so you’ll need to be careful if you plan to actually have the computer on your lap a lot, even if your machine has a good system for keeping its own temperature in check.
Hard Drive – Internal Storage
Trust us when we say that you need an SSD – a solid-state drive as your hard drive. Do NOT opt for the mechanical hard drives, or hard disk drives (HDD)!
With SSDs there are no moving pieces internally, which means cooler and quieter storage drives.
You’re going to experience speed – almost instantaneous program loading thanks to flash memory. That’s because there’s no mechanics involved in looking for the data to retrieve, which is what a hard drive would do.
You’ll also be using less energy, so you increase the life of your battery.
Don’t fall prey to those super-amazing-seeming deals without checking out the hard drive specification. Often times, those options are cheap because companies are looking to get rid of their remaining HDD models since SSD models are taking over the industry!
RAM – Working Memory
RAM (random access memory) is so important because it’s what helps your computer handle multiple things at once. In computer terms, “memory” can refer to either RAM or the hard drive. Hard drives are where things get stored when not in use. The hard drive is like the filing cabinet, where as RAM is active “temporary” storage, like your notebook on your desk during a meeting. It’s actively being worked on as part of what it’s trying to achieve for you.
The standard used to be 4GB minimum to make the most of the average computer. Nowadays, 8GB should be treated as the minimum, especially when it comes to business laptops! More available RAM means loading things and using more apps or accessing more documents and files without any slowdown.
In order to determine your unique requirements, you’ll need to look closely at your line-of-business applications and processes and figure out what resources those require compared to any other tasks that may need to be possible on your laptop simultaneously.
Price – Your Budget
A great way to ensure that you’re optimizing your resources is to set a rough budget ahead of the investment. Since this can’t always be done at the time of the purchase in the case of small businesses especially, it is so important to plan ahead by way of roadmapping. If you set aside a budget in advance you won’t need to stress as much about overspending or underspending as it relates to your overarching business cash flow.
You should start the process by working through the different needs across different areas of your business and what those users might need in order to “spec out” (AKA determine the unique requirements of their machines and what they might coast) ahead of time and plan for those. Another obvious benefit of roadmapping, of course, is that you’ll stay ahead of warranty end dates and can ensure that your device is supported. If you are not the business owner and will need to petition to have funds allocated for appropriate machines, this will also build in the time to do so.
Striking a balance between performance, quality, and cost can be really tricky. On top of that, it’s very helpful to standardize choices for your business for both ordering and managing devices ongoing. Enlist your IT person or team to help you with these decisions for your business, in addition to assisting in the budget planning of this!
Buying a laptop or thinking of investing in laptops for your team members? We can help you to make the right mobile technology decisions for your business.
Get in touch with us to get started!