Business on the go: The five laptops worth looking at for your working needs
Dell XPS 13
Why: Its clever screen design, high specs and strong battery life make Dell’s updated XPS 13 the best general-purpose business laptop.
What it does: Dell has squeezed a superbly high resolution 13-inch screen into a frame more reminiscent of a 12-inch (or even 11-inch) device. It does this by shaving the screen’s borders to a hair’s breadth. This is a big deal for anyone who travels with a laptop. Otherwise, the laptop has a superb high resolution screen (up to 3,200 x 1,800) and really good battery life at up to ten hours (Dell says 15 but that’s a real stretch). It also adds Intel’s 5th generation (Broadwell) Core processors and high basic configurations of Ram (8GB) and solid-state drives (from 256GB).
Any downside? Aesthetically, the outer shell design is still a little dull compared to some rivals. In Ireland, it also appears to be available only with a touchscreen, which wastes about €150 of your money.
Best configuration: 256GB hard drive, 8GB Ram, Intel Core i7 processor (€1,400).
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13
Why: It’s the best-designed full-power laptop on the market.
What it does: Apple’s MacBook laptop remains the benchmark against which other laptops are measured in design terms. The overall mix of screen, keyboard and chassis is what does it. The Pro Retina range, which comes in 13-inch and 15-inch variants, brings Apple’s full-power models closer to its light MacBook Air models by ditching older, heavier hard drives in favour of lighter, faster, battery-friendly solid-state ones. For those who don’t require specialist office software, its own software is powerful and user-friendly, while the OSX operating system is much more attractive than Windows 8. Its ‘retina’ pixel screen is among the best, while dual Thunderbolt ports make it very fast at transferring data.
Any downside? Not as light as some rivals.
Best configuration: 13-inch, 256GB hard drive, 8GB Ram, Core i5 (€1,550)
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (3rd Gen)
Why: It mixes a lot of power and extra security into a thin, light frame. It’s an excellent all-round business laptop.
What it does: Lenovo has not dropped the ball in preserving IBM’s Thinkpad pedigree in the business laptop hierarchy. Thinkpads are good because they tend to be light, powerful and security-conscious. They’re also masterfully ergonomic and really easy to type on. The 14-inch third generation of the X1 Carbon has a faster, battery-friendly solid-state drive and an excellent high resolution (2560x1440) screen backed up by nice backlit keyboard.
It’s also really light, at 1.3kg, and it uses the newest type of Intel Core i5 processor (‘Broadwell’), which adds to battery life.
Being a Thinkpad, it also keeps the tracking navigation button that most rivals abandoned long ago. It comes in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions, although it’s hard to see why anyone would opt for the touchscreen edition.
Any downside? It’s relatively expensive.
Best configuration: 128GB hard drive, 4GB Ram, Intel Core i5, non-touchscreen (€1,600)
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Why: It’s very light, very flexible, has a fantastic screen and great audio. It’s the best Windows laptop for those who also use their machine a lot for leisure.
What it does: The Surface Pro series was originally pitched as a business tablet that turns into a laptop until everyone realised that it was actually the other way around. Its operating system is indistinguishable from a regular laptop, other than the fact that it also has a fully functional touchscreen. The keyboard (which costs extra but it makes no sense to buy this without one), snaps on and off and acts as a cover for the screen. It matches the power and battery life of any other laptop, being configurable up to Intel Core i7, 8GB of Ram and 512GB of solid state hard drive storage.
Any downside? It doesn’t have quite as many ports and connections as some similarly-priced laptops. Also, if you’re buying it for its tablet qualities, there aren’t as many apps available as for iPads or Android tablets.
Best configuration: 128GB hard drive, 4GB Ram, Core i3 (€1,155 with keyboard).
HP Elitebook Folio 1040
Why: It’s basically a MacBook Air in a powerful Windows PC format.
What it does: If you asked HP to come up with its best attempt of replicating a MacBook Air in a full-power PC format, this is what you would get. The 14-inch aluminium-cased Elitebook Folio 1040 is very slim, quite light (1.5kg) and packs considerable power under its hood. It doesn’t mess around with touchscreens (a dubious enterprise feature) and it’s one of the few laptop ranges you can still order with Windows 7 on it instead of Windows 8.
Its ‘Forcepad’ touchpad gives you more finger control (such as the ability to pinch and zoom) and there’s also a sim-card slot for mobile broadband connectivity. Other features include a decent anti-glare screen and HP’s own encryption technology. The battery life is good, at between six and seven hours.
Any downside? It’s very pricey compared to rivals.
Best configuration: 128GB hard drive, 4GB Ram, Intel Core i5 (€2,100)