From Windows to Ram - what you need to look for
1 What specifications should I look for in a business laptop, without risking overkill?
A basic, decent configuration for a laptop should have at least 4GB of Ram. The processor (chip) should be an Intel 'Core' type or an AMD 'A' type. (Intel Celeron or Pentium chips are generally only for ultra-budget models, as are AMD 'E' processors.) For most, the size of the laptop's storage hard drive size won't matter too much: anything over 128 gigabytes (GB) is enough to work with.
Newer, slimmer models tend to have smaller hard drives, but it's worth the compromise as they're 'solid state' drives, meaning they have much longer battery life and are faster. Speaking of battery life, only budget models deliver less than five hours: you should look for at least six hours per charge. Finally, a good screen is a luxury worth paying for if you are going to use the laptop as a leisure tool (for Netflix, for example): look for a basic 1,920x1,080 specification here. (Low-end models generally have a 1,366x768 screen.)
2 Which Windows version should I get and am I stuck with Windows 8?
Most people prefer Windows 7 to Windows 8. But because Microsoft is moving on (to Windows 10, later this year) it is phasing out Windows 7 and most laptops now only come with Windows 8. However, you can still get Windows 7 on some laptops. For example, Dell still offers Windows 7 on some of its work-based laptops. Bear in mind that Microsoft will soon start ending support for Windows 7 machines, so it may not be a good long-term choice anyway.
3 Should I get laptop insurance?
It's mostly a waste of money, as your general warranty will cover the majority of issues likely to crop up. That said, if your laptop is critical to your day-to-day workflow, buying 'care' packages dramatically cuts down the time you will get a laptop diagnosed, fixed and returned.
4 Should I be getting a touchscreen business laptop for any reason?
No. Unless you're used to using apps for work (and are therefore getting a tablet hybrid), there are almost no mainstream touchscreen work processes for laptops. So you won't be missing out on any emerging hot tech trend.
5 Why are many 15-inch laptops cheaper than 13-inch or 12-inch ones?
Because they're based on older factory-builds that have cheaper components. It's quite rare to see a 15-inch Windows laptop with a modern, battery-friendly solid-state drive.
6 What about Chromebooks?
Chromebooks - which are made by Dell, HP, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba - are great if you're looking for a high-performing web laptop on a budget. (For journalists, they're excellent.) But they don't run a lot of software considered important for some business users. They're also not ideal for people who are still basically uncomfortable with internet software such as Google Docs and who prefer older Microsoft software. For this reason, they're not usually regarded as business laptop material.
7 Macs used to be considered not for business. Can I use one now?
For small businesses, absolutely: most generic business software processes are now cloud-based anyway, meaning they work on Macs and PCs. But it's a different story for corporate users, which still control laptops largely using Windows-based software.