Not that long ago, a laptop meant you’d be getting all the benefits of portability, but have to sacrifice the perks of a desktop, like greater memory, larger storage capacity, and better processing speed. But laptops — and tablets — have come a long way since then. The best laptops these days offer a whole different experience, with the ability to work and play portably, without worrying about a dead battery or slow startup speeds.
While laptops can be beneficial in every line of work, finding the right device depends on a few different factors.
What Are the Best Laptops For Work?
The best laptops for work should be able to run a number of applications at once, with enough battery life to last you through a full work day. We also found models that are lightweight and portable enough to carry around with you, whether you’re working from home — or the coffee shop.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Laptop
Processor: This is what drives everything. The processor is the central chip in your machine that receives commands from applications and tells all the other components inside what to do. The more gigahertz (GHz) in your processor, the faster it can process. Speed without slowdowns is key for anyone looking to multitask and run as many apps as they want. Whether working, or watching movies (or both at the same time), a decent processor will keep up the speed with little to no lag. Anywhere from 3-5GHz should suffice for the average user.
Screen: There’s been a resolution revolution in the past few years, and laptop screens can now be as beautifully detailed as your home flatscreen, often in 1080p with sharp, rich color. Some laptops even offer a touchscreen too. And size matters – screens can be compact or go all the way up to 17+ inches. If you’ll be working on-the-go, some screens offer an anti-glare coating, which can be extremely helpful when working outside or on a flight. Contrast and brightness makes a big difference too, and can really bring out the crisp details in every pixel.
RAM: Not to be confused with storage capacity, RAM is where everything goes before it’s processed. Any time you load an application, file, or even your operating system, your device opens up that data in RAM, meaning the more gigabytes you’ve got, the more programs it can run at once. For the average person using their laptop for things like work and movie streaming, 8-12GB should be just fine. Serious gamers and those running lots of heavy programs all at once can go up to 32GB and even 64GB.
Storage: Just like RAM, the more gigabytes you’ve got, the more your machine can handle. Think about it like this: RAM is your computer’s short-term memory, and storage is its long-term. Everything it’s doing or thinking in the current moment is processed by RAM, whereas all the data you want to save for later goes into storage. Some files, like movies and image editing software, take up much more space than a word-processing document, but anywhere from 250 to 500GB should be enough depending on your needs.
Keys: It may seem like an afterthought, but comfortable keys definitely count. Go for something that’s evenly-spaced and doesn’t require hard pressing, with just enough spring and bounce-back to let your fingers fly when you’re taking notes or get a sudden idea or inspiration. Some are also backlit for night-typing, perfect for when the cabin lights go off during your next overnight flight.
Trackpad: Another overlooked aspect is the trackpad. If you’re connecting an external mouse, this won’t matter as much. But consider what you’ll primarily be using your laptop for: artists using a stylus pen need more room to comfortably move around rather than someone who’ll be mostly typing.
Frame/Body: The material your laptop is made from matters. It’s not just about aesthetics – this is what’s protecting everything inside. Make sure it’s made from something durable, such as steel or carbon, and can withstand everyday elements like dust, heat, cold, and UV radiation. For a space-saving option, some laptops even transform into a tablet with just a quick flip.
Weight: While laptops have definitely gotten lighter, they can still be a drag to someone who’s constantly having to schlep it around. There are plenty of light options available now that’ll barely add any weight to your backpack or briefcase.
Ports: Thunderbolt seems to be rapidly replacing USB, so it’s important to have at least one of those built in (along with USB A and C ports if possible, and Ethernet). HDMI is also a crucial one, both for hooking up presentations on the big screen at work, or connecting to your TV at home to watch movies or set up a workstation. Along with USB, 3.5mm headphone jacks are vanishing on some devices, so be sure to check if your choice has one. A microSD card slot can be a lifesaver too when a little extra storage space is needed.
Battery: Remember when batteries gave you a whopping 15 minutes? Batteries now can last up to 15 hours, providing the full HD experience while you’re away from a power source. Being based at home or the office, this may not matter as much, but if you’ll be running around, a long-lasting battery wipes away the constant worry of your device dying when you need it most.
1. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Fueled by the 8th generation Intel Core Processor, the Surface is not only blazing fast, but also super slim and lightweight at only 1.7 pounds. The user interface is speedy, clean and boots up in seconds, while the display is bright, vibrant and crisp, bringing out full colors and making precision photo-editing easy. Switch from laptop to tablet in one flip, and bounce between open apps without any lag.
With an extremely long-lasting battery life of 13.5 hours, this device is ideal for everyone, whether you’re a student, creative, or CEO. Or if you prefer hands-free, the built-in Cortana AI assistant makes things even smoother, digging through facts and getting things done quickly with just a simple voice command.
2. HP 17.3″ HD+ Flagship Laptop
This absolute beast of a machine features a 17.3-inch HD screen, full-size keyboard with number island, and 512GB of storage (and can still be upgraded if you want more). It’s all packed into just 5.4 pounds, which is heavier than other models on our list but still compact and easy to carry.
The 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U Quad-Core Processor is sufficiently fast and ranges from 1.60 GHz to 3.9GHz. The built-in speakers are powerfully loud, and ports are plentiful – with USB 2.0 and 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet and headphones.
Battery life is decent at around nine hours, and this comes with Windows 10 all set up and ready to go.
3. Dell Latitude E5470 HD Laptop
For over 36 years, Dell has been a major player in the PC world, providing reliable machines that get the job done. The Latitude’s Intel 6th Generation Dual Core Processor cranks up to 3.70 GHz, working with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD encrypted hard drive, so speed is rarely an issue for everyday tasks.
The internal battery is built for long stretches, and the exterior body is crafted with a sturdy shell to survive minor dings and dents. For working outside or under bright lights, the anti-glare, 14.6-inch HD screen is a huge help, while the backlit keyboard is perfect for pulling all-nighters.
4. Newest Lenovo IdeaPad Business Laptop
There’s lots to like about this Lenovo, such as the AMD A6-9225 Dual-Core Accelerated Processor, which can range from 2.6GHz up to 3.0GHz. But the amount of free hard disk space is what really sticks out among the attributes here.
With 1TB available, over four times the amount of some of the others, this should definitely be considered by those who need to both save and have fast access to large bulky files and applications. The 8GB of RAM is usually enough to handle work projects and school assignments too.
The 15.6-inch screen features an anti-glare matte finish, and though they aren’t backlit, the full-size keyboard has a smooth and breezy feel when typing.