Buying the best Windows laptop for business use is very different than buying one for education or casual consumer use. Priorities change, but the need for a great laptop remains. Whether it’s from Dell, Microsoft, Huawei, or HP, some truly great business laptops are out there.
Best Overall – Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
You can’t look for a business laptop and not at least consider the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The 9th Gen model has finally launched, and as cliche as it is, it’s definitely the best one yet. It keeps the same traditional design as its predecessors, including its trademark ruggedness and lightweight nature.
It still looks great on the outside, and the features that business customers care about are still present and correct. New for 2021 are some great improvements like a 16:10 display and, for the first time, 5G connectivity. The bump to 11th Gen Intel CPUs also provides a boost to performance and battery life.
Staples such as Windows Hello biometrics and a webcam privacy shutter return for another year, as does the all-important port selection. You’ll find Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB-A, and HDMI on the latest X1 Carbon, along with an expansion dongle in the box for even more.
Fans of the red pointer will also be happy to see it continues to live on in the X1 Carbon in 2021. The more things change, the more they stay the same! The latest X1 Carbon is slated to be available in February 2021.
- Superb display
- Built-in privacy and security features
- Thin, light, and durable
- Great battery life
- Red pointer for Lenovo fans
- Gets expensive
- Lacks inking support
Best Tablet – Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ for Business
The Surface Pro is a tablet. It’s also a laptop. You have the flexibility to use it like a convertible but also completely free of a keyboard. And this “tablet” packs a full laptop’s worth of hardware inside. Throw in a pen, kickstand, and a terrific-looking display, and you have an incredibly versatile business machine.
The latest version, the Surface Pro 7+, is specifically targeted at the business crowd, too. It’s incredibly versatile and shows off the very best of what Windows 10 has to offer. This one comes with LTE, 11th Gen Intel processors, a removable SSD, up to 32GB of RAM, and the best battery life yet.
On the outside, it’s essentially the same as other recent Surface Pro releases, which isn’t necessarily bad. Still, it is starting to show its age next to the more modern design of the Surface Pro X. There’s also, still, no Thunderbolt 3 or 4, which limits external connectivity somewhat and hides the best behind a first-party connector.
But add a Surface Dock, and this can be your desktop machine in the office. Attach the Type Cover and Surface Pen, and it’s your laptop for hitting the road. It’s truly a laptop for all situations.
- Intel 11th Gen and Xe graphics are fast
- Improved optional 4G LTE is quick and reliable
- Up to 32GB of RAM
- Removable SSD
- Longest battery life yet
- Dated design, thick bezels
- Still no Thunderbolt 4
Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ for Business
It is faster with LTE
Addressing the needs of enterprise and education markets, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+ brings a few new features to its classic laptop. With an option for LTE, removable SSD, and the latest Intel processors, Surface Pro 7+ should be an excellent choice out in the field.
Best Rugged – Panasonic TOUGHBOOK 33
Not all business is conducted in the comfort of an office. Many situations demand something that can take a serious beating. Industries such as healthcare and construction, for example, would be better suited to the practically indestructible Panasonic TOUGHBOOK 33.
This chunky 2-in-1 can operate like a tablet or a laptop, and whatever the conditions, it’ll keep on working. It even comes with a pen included for digital inking in the workplace. The list of features this laptop has is truly mind-blowing, but each has been added to meet the TOUGHBOOK buyer’s needs.
The latest version improves the internals and adds eSIM for the first time, alongside Band 48 CBRS support, louder speakers for use outdoors in noisy environments, hardware buttons for easy operation in gloves, a great looking display, tons of ports, and a body that you’d have to run over with a truck to stand a chance of breaking.
It has weaknesses, like a poor trackpad and no additional battery in the keyboard portion, but go anywhere laptops go, which is unbeatable.
- Excellent display, design, and port selection
- Very bright 3:2 “2K” display
- Supports 4G, Band 48 CBRS, eSIM, inking
- Many modern features added
- Trackpad is dreadful
- Keyboard backlight is still dim
- Keyboard doesn’t extend battery life
Best Ultraportable – Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
Buying a laptop for business use likely also means buying a laptop that will be carried around a lot. In this case, you’ll do well to get something that’s compact and lightweight and won’t take up much space in your bag. All while ensuring the features you care about aren’t compromised.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the Lenovo ThinkPad lineup has something to offer. The X1 Nano is small and absurdly light, coming in at a hair over 2lbs. But despite its diminutive body, it packs everything the discerning business customer would want when buying a ThinkPad.
Obvious specs to highlight include the 11th Gen Intel processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of PCIe storage, and optional 2K display. Perhaps more importantly, the traditional ThinkPad focuses on business-friendly features like a dTPM 2.0 chip, both fingerprint and IR biometrics, a webcam cover, and cellular connectivity. Oh, and even though it’s small, it retains the trademark red pointer. It wouldn’t be a ThinkPad without it!
- Excellent display
- Cellular connectivity
- Security-focused with multiple forms of biometric login
- Compact and light
- Human presence detection
- Higher spec models are pricey
- Small touchpad
- Limited port selection
Best Convertible – HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7
HP’s top-of-the-line EliteBook x360 1040 G7 might have a mouthful of a name, but the laptop is all business. The latest version is thinner, lighter, has smaller bezels and optional 4G LTE connectivity while maintaining its convertible form factor.
On the one hand, you’re still getting older 10th Gen Intel processors with the option for Vpro and a 16:9 display ratio. But on the more important hand, for business customers, you get a ton of features. There are options for Tile integration (device tracking), cellular, an NFC module, up to 2TB of storage, Wacom AES 2.0 Pen, and displays from matte full HD to Sure View Reflect with 1000 nits of brightness up to 4K UHD with touch.
All of this while looking like the kind of convertible Ultrabook anyone would desire to own. It’s sleek, and slim, and packed with tech. Thoughtful software and hardware permeates the Elitebook x360 1040 G7, such as a single press of a button to cover the webcam. Toss in solid battery life, durable build quality, and surprisingly good audio, and you have yourself a winner.
- Beautiful, sturdy all-metal chassis
- Outstanding keyboard and trackpad
- Impressive audio for enterprise
- New presence-aware tech is neat
- Options for 4G LTE and pen
- Still 16:9
- Weak pen magnets
- Weird AC behavior
- Fans can be noisy
Best Battery Life – Dell Latitude 9410
Everyone likes to have good battery life on a laptop, but it’s even higher up the priority list when buying for business use. That’s where the Dell Latitude 9410 comes into its own because despite not having the biggest physical battery you’ll see, it has remarkable longevity.
The battery inside the Latitude 9410 is 52Wh, whichever configuration you buy, but it has different bonus features throughout the range. Some come with ExpressCharge, which can charge to 80% within an hour. Others are “long-life” batteries that come with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.
With Dell’s super low power display panels, the Latitude 9410 can deliver up to 27 hours of battery life, which is truly outstanding and, in most cases, could stretch two days away from a charger. It’s also FirstNet ready for first responders and comes with a suite of software and support from Dell.
The Latitude 9410 is also a convertible laptop with 10th Gen Intel processors, fast storage and RAM, lots of port selection, and a great-looking display. Not only will it last all day and then some, but it’s also just a great laptop to use.
Gone are the days of business laptops being some boring black boxes that weighed a lot and were as thick as an encyclopedia. We’ve been there, and we’re glad those days are long gone.
The lines between consumer, prosumer, and business user are getting closer and closer together, and this laptop is a perfect example of that. It’s packed with business-friendly features like incredible battery life with a power-sipping display and proximity-based security while also packing great audio and digital inking, which is great for a consumer as it is for a business user.
Remarkably, some of the very best laptops in recent times are the ones targeted at business customers. It’s great to see for the corporate world, but it can throw a real loop for more normal customers.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore, and Windows Central. Currently, you’ll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Daniel Rubino is executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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This post was written by Richard Devine and was first posted to WindowsCentral
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