Business and General Purpose
Business notebooks offer a combination of mid to high end components, but with an emphasis on extra durability and longer battery life. Many of them also come with increased security features that normally aren't found in mainstream consumer laptops. This category encompasses a little bit of everything, but commonly you'll find 14 and 15-inch screens, integrated or discrete graphics, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, perks like a fingerprint reader and plenty of connectivity options.
Lenovo ThinkPad T410
The latest revision of the popular T-series ThinkPad brings new dedicated and integrated graphics options, along with Intel's latest Core processors, to the same sturdy and well-built package that Lenovo fans have come to know and love. As expected from a business machine, the ThinkPad T410 has a full set of ports and plenty of enterprise-oriented features, including an optional fingerprint reader and Smart Card. The internal roll cage design helps protect the notebook from damage, while an accelerometer sensor will shut the hard drive in the event of a drop to keep your data safe.
Besides these and other features targeted at business users the ThinkPad T410 features a 14-inch screen with a native 1440x900 resolution -- after a $30 upgrade. The base model actually starts at $829, but if we were to configure it a little more to our liking for around $1,340 you get a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 540M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, built-in WWAN and Bluetooth support, and a 9-cell battery good for 6+ hours of use. Throw in an extra $100 and you can upgrade Intel's integrated graphics to an Nvidia NVS 3100m card -- at the expense of battery life.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $1,344|
|Processor: Intel Core i5 540M 2.53GHz||Graphics: Intel GMA HD|
|Memory: 4GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs)||Storage: 320GB 7,200RPM HDD|
|Display size: 14.1" (1440x900)||Optical: DVD burner|
|Weight: 5.2 lbs (2.4 kg)||Battery: ~6.0 hours|
Apple MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro Spring 2010 refresh retains the iconic unibody aluminum construction of previous models, as well as the large glass multi-touch trackpad and chiclet-style keyboard, but under the hood graphics capabilities and processing power have received some welcomed upgrades. Both the 15 and 17-inch models are now available with a Core i5 chip as standard and the i7 as an option. Although the 13-inch model still uses a Core 2 Duo, Apple has increased the base RAM configuration to 4GB on all models and bumped the hard drive and SSD options.
Graphics are powered by the Nvidia GeForce 320M on the 13-inch model and GeForce 330M on the 15 and 17-inchers. These two also feature a proprietary graphics switching technology, similar to Nvidia's Optimus, that automatically alternates between the on-package Intel HD integrated graphics and the discrete GPU when needed. The result is a healthy boost in battery life that will give you roughly 8 hours of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. Depending on screen size and configuration options, a MacBook Pro laptop can cost you anywhere from $1,199 to $2,299 and beyond.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $1,799 (15-inch base model)|
|Processor: Intel Core i5 520M 2.4GHz||Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 330M 256MB|
|Memory: 4GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs)||Storage: 320GB 5,400RPM HDD|
|Display size: 15.4" (1440x900)||Optical: Slot-loading 8x SuperDrive|
|Weight: 5.6 lbs (2.54 kg)||Battery: ~7.5 hours|
HP EliteBook 8440p
The HP EliteBook 8440p is a stylish and powerful business notebook built tough for durability. With a 14-inch display and starting weight of 4.7 pounds, it's not as easy to carry around as an ultraportable, but you'll get a nice mix of processing power and features for less than a grand. The base $979 model features a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 520M processor, Intel HD integrated graphics, 2GB of RAM and 250GB 7200RPM hard drive, as well as perks like a fingerprint reader, above-average 2.0-megapixel webcam and a pointing stick as an alternative to the touchpad.
Connectivity options are aplenty. These include three USB 2.0 ports plus an additional eSATA/USB for faster devices, a FireWire port, an ExpressCard port for upgrades, an Ethernet jack, 802.11n Wi-Fi and even a modem. There's also a Smart Card reader, standard SD/MMC card reader, optional Bluetooth and HP Mobile Broadband, and both analog VGA and digital DisplayPort outputs. Graphics can be upgraded with an Nvidia Quadro NVS 3100M, and so can the default 1366 x 768 resolution matte display, which can be exchanged for a 1600 x 900 resolution panel. Battery life is adequate but not stellar at around 4.5 hours. Other than that, this is a serious business notebook offered at a very competitive price -- you might want to upgrade its paltry 2GB of RAM, though.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $979|
|Processor: Intel Core i5 520M 2.4GHz||Graphics: Intel GMA HD|
|Memory: 2GB DDR3-1333 (1 DIMM)||Storage: 250GB 7,200RPM HDD|
|Display size: 14.0" (1366x768)||Optical: DVD SuperMulti w/LightScribe|
|Weight: 4.7 lbs (2.12 kg)||Battery: 6-cell (~4.5 hours)|
Dell Vostro 3000 Series
Positioned between the Latitude and Inspiron lines, Dell's Vostro family is designed for the "small and medium business" market combining a reasonably priced machine with the latest hardware and an elegant plastic and metal exterior. It comes in screen sizes from 13.3-inch up to a 17.3-inch desktop replacement. Besides offering some more screen real estate, the latter also features Nvidia GeForce GT330M graphics and optional Core i7 720QM processor. Otherwise, all of them sport Core i3 or i5 dual core chips, GeForce 310M graphics, 7200RPM hard drives, and up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
Battery life is nothing to call home about on its base configuration, but if you get the 8-cell battery pack it will run for ~5 hours. More importantly, the Vostro 3300's price -- starting at $569 for a Core i3 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive, it's very affordable. Like other business oriented notebooks, the Vostro includes perks like a fingerprint reader and plenty of connectivity options -- including a combo USB/eSATA port. Configuration options abound, as is often the case with Dell laptops, so tailoring one to your needs shouldn't be a problem.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $569 (base Vostro 3300 model)|
|Processor: Intel Core i3 350M 2.26GHz||Graphics: Intel GMA HD|
|Memory: 2GB DDR3-1066 (1 DIMM)||Storage: 250GB 7,200RPM HDD|
|Display size: 13.3" (1366x768)||Optical: DVD-RW|
|Weight: 4.3 lbs (4-cell), 4.8 lbs (8-cell)||Battery: 4-cell (~2.5 hours), 8-cell (~7.5 hours)|
This CULV-equipped laptop combines over 8 hours of battery life with good performance and switchable Nvidia Optimus graphics in a well-designed metallic package.
Price range: $730 - $840
Sony Vaio Z Series
At just over three pounds, the latest Sony Vaio Z refresh packs some seriously beefy specs into the same beautifully designed form factor that characterizes this series.
Price range: $1,800 - $3,600