Buying a Business Laptop

It’s a metaphorical minefield out there. We have PC’s, Laptops, Ultra-lights, Tablets even Hybrid laptop / tablet variants doing their level best to be a Master Of All Trades. In fairness to them, for some users, they succeed in this aim although they often represent a specific use case that isn’t a good fit for general consumers.

The History Bit

There have always been ‘Home’ Computers and ‘Business Machines’. Heck, IBM named itself after the latter (it’s International Business Machines, for those who were about to Google). In the old days, the differences were obvious. In the 1980’s, Home Computers were basically used for playing games, which were marketed as “Arcade Quality” but in reality, were pale imitations of their state-of-the-art arcade equivalents.

The distinction between “Home Gaming” and “Arcade Gaming” blurred over the years, to the point where the latter has largely ceased to exist. Similarly, the Home Computer / Business Machine performance delta decreased too, to the point where, nowadays, it can be very difficult to determine the true intended use of a PC / Laptop / Tablet.

Economic Factors

Since the concept of selling began, vendors have sought to differentiate themselves from the competition through diversity in pursuit of those magical three letters – U.S.P. (again we potentially save you a Google search here; Unique Selling Point). By having a USP that the market desires, the vendor effectively does away with its competition in that market sector, giving them more freedom to inflate prices (and thus profits) so long as they stay within the spending range of their target market.

Step back, though, look at the big picture, and we start to see that as well as individual vendors “going their own way” in terms of technological path, branding and message, entire markets diversify to create sub-divisions within the same space. These sub-divisions are not determined by price (some Home Computers can cost ten times the price of a basic business machine) but rather, by feature set.

So what makes a Business Laptop?

As is so often the case, the answer to this is “it’s complicated”. To truly define what is meant by a Business Laptop, we have to first of all have some idea of its intended role. For example, a machine intended for use an in Accounts Department will have a far different feature set than one to be used in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) office.

That said, we do believe it is possible to distil a list of essential / highly desirable features that are common to most if not all business uses, and which are not generally required in a Home Computer with an otherwise similar specification.

To restate, we’re not listing hardware components here but rather, features that organisations will appreciate and often, downright insist upon. We’ve come across a number of businesses that have previously obtained machines directly and without advice, and they would have been better served with the prior knowledge we’re about to impart here!

1) A “Professional” Operating System, currently Windows 10
It will come as no surprise that Microsoft has segregated its Windows products to match its perception of the PC / Laptop market. There is “Windows 10 Home”, “Windows 10 Professional” and “Windows 10 Enterprise”. The latter is for the really big business that requires advanced features so we’ll discount that one. The sub-list below will focus, then, on the main differences between Windows 10 Home and Professional;

  • Windows 10 Professional will enable the machine to participate in a Windows Domain (which requires a Windows Server at its helm). This is essential for many small businesses who have not leveraged Cloud services, and who need to enforce local permissions and policies on their internally networked machines.
  • Windows 10 Professional supports BitLocker Drive Encryption, which protects against a thief extracting the storage device from a stolen computer and copying its contents to another drive

2) TPM, or Trusted Platform Module.

This ingenious device works in conjunction with 1(b) above for BitLocker Drive Encryption. When the machine starts up, the Operating System checks for the presence of the device and if all is present and correct, continues to boot into windows. It essentially removes the need for a user to have to type in a “BitLocker Password” before getting to the main logon screen. As they say in business, time is money!

3) Robustness

It’s a fact of life. Business Laptops are generally built better, and from generally stronger materials. They are designed to be used out in the field and to withstand the busier day to day life that a modern user will throw at it. By contrast, we’ve seen (and avoided!) some Home Laptops that seem to be designed only to sit in one place for its entire life!

4) Price

This is not always the case but as a rule, on a spec for spec basis, Business Laptops are more expensive then similarly specified Home machines. The reason for this comes down to the factors mentioned on this list but also, marketing; the widely held view of laptop manufacturers the wide perception (rightly or wrongly) is that Businesses have more money to spend than home users. Our experience is that this is not always the case and that budgets can be tight, but there it is.

5) Looks

This is inherently subjective, we know, but Business Laptops tend to be more, well, “business-like” with restrained lines, styles and colours. Home machines are often somewhat garish with a seeming fixation on all things neon!

6) Specs

We know we said that this list wasn’t about components but bear with us here. From our own experience we know this to be true. If you had a list of pre-built machines in ascending order of price, you tend to find that certain things go together to vastly bump up the spec under the label / branding of “Business Class”. It works for airlines, right?

For example, a 4GB SODIMM Module for a laptop costs about £40, and switching from a 500GB Hard Drive to a similarly-sized SSD usually costs around £60. The cost difference at source between Windows 10 Home and Professional is around £50. These three items, then, come to around £110. Despite this, we’ve all too often seen otherwise equivalent laptops carry a price delta of anywhere up to £300 simply because the trio of changes are very typical for the business market, or so the vendor believes.

So, how do I buy a Business Laptop?

The first thing to do is to establish exactly what you need it to do. Think about things such as;

  • How much data will it need to store on its drive?
  • What software will it be running and what are the hardware requirements of that software?
  • Is it to be used as a Desktop Replacement or an Ultra-portable? Think about screen size
  • Do you need an integrated DVD drive? Not possible with Ultra-portables
  • Desired battery life? Think in terms of hours off-power for “normal” use
  • Budget! This is usually the main constraint!

Oh, and Make sure it’s got a Professional version of Windows installed as upgrading from a Home version later is costly.

Final thoughts

Consider going to a good intermediary supplier (such as Nemark!) as they can very often circumvent the “Business Price Bomb” by selecting a good platform build and then economically upgrading it to “Professional Specification”. This route does not void your warranty and on higher-spec builds, can save you hundreds of pounds versus the vendor’s off-the-shelf equivalent.

If any of the above has left you anywhere between confused and interested, please feel free to contact us for more information, an informal chat, and the possible procurement of the right laptop(s) at the right prices.