Business and General PurposeBusiness 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 aren't normally found in mainstream consumer laptops. This category encompasses a little bit of everything, but commonly you'll find 14 and 15-inch screens, integrated graphics, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, niceties 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 shutdown the hard drive in the event of a drop.
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 configure it a little more to our liking the price jumps to $1,450. That gets you a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 620M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 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 with support for Optimus automatic graphics switching.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $1,449|
|Processor: Intel Core i7 620M 2.66GHz||Graphics: Intel GMA HD|
|Memory: 4GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs)||Storage: 500GB 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 sleek hood, both the graphics and processing power have received welcomed upgrades. 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 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 for durability. With a 14-inch display and starting weight of 4.7 pounds, it's not as easy to lug around as an ultraportable, but you'll get a nice mix of processing power and features for under 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, along with a fingerprint reader, above-average 2.0-megapixel webcam and a pointing stick as an alternative to the touchpad.
Connectivity options are aplenty, including three USB 2.0 ports plus an eSATA combo 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 to an Nvidia Quadro NVS 3100M, and the default 1366x768 resolution matte display can be exchanged for a 1600x900 resolution panel. Battery life is adequate but not stellar at around 4.5 hours. Otherwise, this is a serious business notebook offered at a very competitive price -- you might want to upgrade its 2GB of RAM, though.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $999|
|Processor: Intel Core i5 560M 2.66GHz||Graphics: Intel GMA HD|
|Memory: 2GB DDR3-1333 (1 DIMM)||Storage: 320GB 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 a plastic and metal exterior. It comes in sizes from 13.3-inch to 17.3-inch, and besides offering more screen real estate, the latter features Nvidia GeForce GT330M graphics and an 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 write home about at 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 $599 for a Core i3 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive, it's very affordable. Like other business oriented notebooks, the Vostro hosts plenty of I/O ports -- including a combo USB/eSATA port. As is often the case with Dell laptops, the company offers tons of configuration options, so tailoring one to your needs shouldn't be a problem.
|Quick specs | Full specs||Starting price: $599 (base Vostro 3300 model)|
|Processor: Intel Core i3 370M 2.4GHz||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)|
Sony Vaio Z Series
At just over three pounds, the Sony Vaio Z packs some seriously beefy specs into the same beautifully designed form factor that has characterized this series. You get a choice of several Core i5 and i7 processors, Blu-ray, and even dual SSDs.
Price range: $1,800 - $4,700
Panasonic Toughbook C1
The Toughbook C1 is one of the lightest 12-inch convertibles tablet on the market and performs nicely thanks to a Core i5 processor, while being able to last up to 10 hours with a secondary battery. It's rather pricey but nothing beats it in terms of ruggedness.
Price range: $2,400 - $2,800