The best business laptops | Digital Trends

A good work laptop makes the difference when it comes to productivity, and the best business laptops will keep you productive. We’ve rounded up seven laptops that do the trick for road warriors and home office veterans alike, combining power with portability and great build quality.

Although we’ve picked several laptops with different features and prices, one stands out. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 is our top pick. It’s built to withstand even the toughest beatings, all while packing in the latest and most powerful components. You can also take a look at our list of the best laptops overall for more options.

lenovo thinkpad x1 extreme gen 4 review

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4

An upgradeable powerhouse of a business laptop

Pros

  • Excellent build quailty
  • Superior entry-level display
  • Solid performance
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Very powerful configuration options

Cons

  • Performance was inconsistent
  • Battery life was middling

Why you should buy this: It’s the most powerful 15-inch business-oriented laptop on the market.

Who it’s for: Any business professional who needs speed along with great support and durability.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4:

Few laptop lines are as iconic as the ThinkPad. If you spend most of your time in a conference room rather than a coffeehouse, then chances are you’ve at least considered one of these laptops. The best is Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4, a 16-inch laptop offering the best mainstream components with the usual ThinkPad aesthetics, build quality, and support.

The base configuration comes with an 11th-generation Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti 4GB. A high-end configuration packs an Intel Core i9-11950H, 64GB of RAM, up to 4TB of SSD storage spread across two drives, and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU.

Lenovo pairs the internal parts with a 16-inch 16:10 WQXGA (2560 x 1600) display, which you can upgrade to a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) IPS display with 600-nit peak brightness. The high-end display looks gorgeous, though it’ll tax the ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s already limited battery life.

Like many other ThinkPad machines, the X1 Extreme Gen 3 is built for the MIL-STD 810G standard, and the keyboard is excellent. For ports, it comes with two USB-A, two USB-C, DisplayPort, a 4-in-1 SD card reader, headphone/microphone combo jack, and HDMI 2.1. The USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 4 ports, offering power delivery and data transfer. Note that there’s a fifth-generation coming soon with Intel 12th-gen processors and other improvements.

lenovo thinkpad x1 extreme gen 4

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4

An upgradeable powerhouse of a business laptop

hp zbook studio g8 review  02

Mark Coppock

HP ZBook Studio G8

The businessperson’s workstation

Pros

  • Solidly built
  • Spectacular display
  • Thin and light for a workstation
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Good productivity and creative performance

Cons

  • Too expensive
  • Performance doesn’t match the price
  • Terrible battery life

Why you should buy this: It crams the power of a desktop workstation into a surprisingly portable package.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs massive number-crunching and visualization power on the go.

What we thought of the HP ZBook Studio G8:

If you edit 4K video, design buildings, or use 3D modeling to develop products, then you need more processor and graphics power than you’ll find in the typical laptop. Chances are, you have a workstation desktop sitting in your office and you need something almost as powerful to take on the road. That’s where portable workstations come in, and the 15.6-inch HP ZBook Studio G8 is one of the best laptops for video editing.

It all starts with a choice of true workstation-class components, including up to an eight-core Intel Core i9-11950H, Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q graphics, and 32GB of RAM. These are optimized for applications like Adobe’s creative app suite, Revit, Navisworks, Enscape for architects, and AutoCAD and Solidworks for engineers. HP offers a 4K DreamColor display, too, that’s incredibly bright at 600 nits and has 100% Adobe RGB coverage and true 10-bit color.

The HP ZBook Studio’s ports also are ready for anything, including USB-A, Thunderbolt 4/USB-C with DisplayPort support, and HDMI 2.0. All this is packed into a chassis that’s relatively light at 3.96 pounds and thin at 0.69 inches. That’s plenty of highly portable power — if you can handle the price.

hp zbook studio g8

HP ZBook Studio G8

The businessperson’s workstation

dell xps 13 9310 review featured image

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Dell XPS 13

A thin-and-light laptop for businesspeople

Pros

  • Streamlined design
  • Tiny bezels all around
  • 16:10 display adds to productivity
  • Keyboard and touchpad are larger and excellent
  • Solid productivity performance

Cons

  • Connectivity is limited
  • Battery life has been downgraded

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the smallest 13-inch laptops you can buy and one of our favorite all-around laptops.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs the full power of a modern laptop but without the weight.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13:

Dell’s XPS 13 isn’t exactly a “business-class” laptop, but Dell is no stranger to equipping enterprises. And if you’re looking for the smallest and lightest laptop you can carry around without sacrificing too much power or compatibility, the XPS 13 remains among our top choices.

The latest version comes with 11th-gen Intel Core processors, starting with the i3-1115G4 but with plenty of upgrade options, ideal if you want top performance. RAM starts at 8GB, and storage starts with a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. All versions come with a choice of Full HD or 4K displays, with a 3.5K OLED option as well, and you’ll enjoy the excellent design and build quality along with a stellar keyboard and touchpad.

Graphics capabilities aren’t truly impressive with the integrated Intel Iris Xe. It’s not the best choice if you really need high-powered dedicated graphics power for design work. However, the Dell XPS 13 remains the best 13-inch laptop we’ve seen overall, and Dell continues to improve it.

dell xps 13 9310

Dell XPS 13

A thin-and-light laptop for businesspeople

hp envy x360 15 ryzen review 2021 4

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

HP Envy x360 15 AMD

A fast and secure business convertible 2-in-1

Pros

  • Excellent productivity performance
  • Convertible 2-in-1 flexibility
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Better-than-average security features

Cons

  • Large in tablet mode
  • Build quality is a little flexible

Why you should buy this: You get all the advantages of a business-class laptop with the flexibility of a pen-enabled 2-in-1.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to draw and take notes — and relax with a little Netflix on the side.

What we thought of the HP Envy x360 15 AMD:

HP makes some of the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy, a top pick if you need business features that a consumer convertible laptop just can’t provide, such as enhanced security and extra durability.

The Envy x360 15 remains one of the best options in this field, with a spacious 15.6-inch FHD touchscreen, 360-degree convertible design, and ports including USB-A 3.2, USB-C, and HDMI (plus compatibility with Wi-Fi 6).

Inside, you’ll find a six-core Ryzen 5 5500U processor and integrated Radeon graphics, plus 8GB of RAM and 256GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage (both upgradeable). Ports include USB-C, USB-A, HDMI 2.0, and a multi-format SD media card reader.

Keep in mind, with that large screen and a keyboard that includes a numeric keypad, carrying and converting the HP Envy x360 15 is going to be a much bigger job than it would be for a smaller 13-inch laptop. However, the extra display room is also nice for sketching more detailed notes or drawings, so there’s also an advantage to the size. Just make sure you have enough room!

hp envy x360 15 amd

HP Envy x360 15 AMD

A fast and secure business convertible 2-in-1

acer swift 3 2020 review ryzen

Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen)

A faster yet budget-oriented portable business laptop

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Supreme performance
  • Great value
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons

  • Mediocre touchpad
  • Dim display, narrow color gamut

Why you should buy this: A light and surprisingly powerful laptop for a very affordable price.

Who it’s for: Anyone on a budget who needs a laptop capable of serious work.

What we thought of the Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen):

Typically, a budget laptop has to compromise on something, be it power, size, or storage. Acer’s Swift 3 manages to offer powerful features with relatively little compromise anywhere. Most notably, the 14-inch HD laptop comes equipped with a Ryzen 7 4700U processor with an impressive eight-core design — something that’s hard enough to find on any laptop, let alone for this price.

Inside, you’ll also find integrated Radeon graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Ports include USB-C, USB-A 3.2, DisplayPort-over-USB-C, and HDMI. All this is in a design that’s only 2.65 pounds, easily portable for on-the-go business work.

The Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen) is also up to date in all the right ways, including compatibility with Wi-Fi 6. There’s even Alexa voice assistant support for voice commands, and professionals will appreciate the built-in fingerprint reader for security. Note that if you want to save even more money, you can look for a renewed version of this model, but for this excellent price, there’s no downside to buying new.

acer swift 3 (ryzen)

Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen)

A faster yet budget-oriented portable business laptop

apple macbook pro 13 m1 review 06

MacBook Pro 13 M1

A MacBook for business professionals

Pros

  • M1 is insanely fast
  • Beautiful display, as always
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Speakers sound brilliant
  • Top-notch keyboard and trackpad

Cons

  • Only two Thunderbolt ports
  • Touch Bar is still frustrating

Why you should buy this: Apple’s M1 chip does wonders for one of the best MacBooks you can buy.

Who it’s for: Apple fans looking to upgrade and anyone interested in a laptop that’s silent and powerful.

What we thought of the Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1:

Apple’s M1 system on a chip (SoC) has done wonders for the MacBook Pro. Performance is on-par or better than the Intel parts that proceeded the M1, all while staying cooler and quieter. Some applications still aren’t optimized for the M1, but developers have been pushing updates for Apple’s new platform. Now, all the apps that matter run on Apple’s new silicon, and sometimes, they even run better.

Outside of the M1 boost, the MacBook Pro remains the marvel of a machine it has always been. The keyboard is one of the best on the market, and the screen puts most Windows laptops to shame.

For power, the M1 packs eight cores of CPU power, eight cores of GPU power, and up to 16GB of RAM. The base 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with 256GB of SSD storage, but you bump that up to 2TB depending on your configuration.

The latest MacBook Pro 13 comes with all the upsides of previous models, plus a little more. It comes with all the downsides, too. The latest model sports two Thunderbolt ports and nothing else. Thankfully, you can get past the limited port selection with a decent Thunderbolt dock.

m1 macbook pro 13

MacBook Pro 13 M1

A MacBook for business professionals

hp elite c1030 chromebook review

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

HP Elite C1030 Chromebook

A Chromebook tailored for business

Pros

  • Strong performance
  • Excellent 3:2 display
  • Outstanding keyboard and touchpad
  • Solid build quality and conservative good looks
  • Chrome OS Enterprise perpetual license included

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Active pen is optional
  • Very expensive

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the best Chromebooks on the market, and you can configure it with solid parts.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the power of a Windows laptop without the clutter.

What we thought of the HP Elite C1030 Chromebook:

The HP Elite C1030 Chromebook is one of the pricier Chromebooks on the market, though still cheaper than some of the other laptops on this list. It’s the best of both worlds, combining options for capable CPUs like an i7-10610U with Chrome OS’ supreme usability. The base configuration comes with an Intel Core i3-1011U, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage, but you can trick the Elite C1030 Chromebook out with up to an i7-10610U, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.

If you jump between web-based apps, the Elite C1030 Chromebook is a great choice. Chrome OS is streamlined, allowing you to focus on the apps that matter without too much clutter (or OS overhead). The keyboard is clicky and responsive, though it still falls slightly short of the best laptop keyboards.

Additionally, the Elite C1030 Chromebook comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 on board. For ports, you have access to two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, a microphone/headphone combo jack, and a microSD card reader.

In your line of work, you need a laptop that boosts productivity, handles your workflow with ease, and comes at an economical price that won’t break the bank. We’ve discovered a few excellent laptop options for business owners and operators in this guide, and we’d happily advocate for any of them.

hp elite c1030 13.5" chromebook

HP Elite C1030 Chromebook

A Chromebook tailored for business

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for in a business laptop?

There are several factors that go into choosing a business laptop. Externally, choose a laptop that has a build and form factor you like. You’ll be working on the laptop, so you want to make sure it’s comfortable. Under the hood, most business laptops rely on their CPU performance. A mid- to high-end CPU from Intel or AMD will help tear through spreadsheets and most demanding applications. If you’re new to the world of processors, make sure to read our CPU buying guide.

How much RAM do I need for a business laptop?

We recommend at least 8GB for a business laptop. The amount of RAM you need mostly depends on what applications you’re running, but 8GB is great for browsing, office applications, and messaging applications. If you’re working with large Photoshop files or something similar, consider upgrading to 16GB. Make sure to read our guide on how much RAM you need if you’re still lost.

Are business laptops good for gaming?

Business laptops aren’t inherently good for gaming, but there’s some overlap. Top business laptops come with powerful processors and a lot of RAM, both of which are good for gaming. However, most business laptops don’t come with a dedicated graphics card. Without that, most business laptops are only good for light gaming. Some models are available with a dedicated graphics card, though, such as the Dell XPS 15.

Can I claim my laptop as a business expense?

You can claim your laptop as a business expense as long as you use it solely for business. The IRS allows you to deduct the business portion of usage only. So, if you split your time evenly between work and personal time, you can deduct half of the cost of the laptop. Additionally, you can deduct the cost of equipment at once or over the course of several years as a depreciating asset.

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