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 aren't normally found in mainstream consumer laptops. This category encompasses a little bit of everything, but commonly you'll find 14, 15 and 17-inch screens, integrated graphics, at least 4GB of RAM, niceties like a fingerprint reader and plenty of connectivity options.

Lenovo ThinkPad W520

The ThinkPad W520 is a 15.6-inch desktop replacement workstation for content creators and business types, packing a choice of Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors - up to the 2.5GHz Core i7-2920XM - along with up to 32GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro graphics, and a dedicated color calibrator.

The W520 offers an impressive, extensive span of ports. Just as the W510 before it, this workstation has two USB SuperSpeed 3.0, one USB 2.0, one USB 2.0/eSATA, VGA, DisplayPort out, FireWire 400, ExpressCard/34, SDHC-card reader, and a headset combo jack.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,499
Processor: Intel Core i7-2720QM 2.20GHz Graphics: Nvidia Quadro 1000M Graphics with 2GB DDR3
Memory: 4 GB PC3-10600 DDR3 1333MHz (2 DIMM) Storage: 320GB 7200rpm HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1600 x 900) LED backlit display Optical: DVD recordable multiburner
Weight: 5.95 lbs Battery: 9 cell Li-Ion Battery

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple has brought their popular MacBook Pro notebooks up to date with Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors, including quad-core CPUs in the more expensive 15- and 17-inch models. Perhaps the most significant addition is the introduction of Intel's Light Peak, which has been renamed Thunderbolt, doubling as a DisplayPort connector and boasting 10Gbit/s bi-directional bandwidth.

Graphics are powered by Intel's integrated HD 3000 processor on the 13-inch model and AMD Radeon HD 6490M (256MB) or HD 6750M (1GB) on the 15 and 17-inchers. These two feature graphics switching technology that automatically alternates between the integrated and discrete GPU when needed to save battery life or boost graphics performance. Apple also touts a new 720p webcam and better FaceTime support. Depending on screen size and configuration options, a MacBook Pro can cost you anywhere from $1,199 to $2,499 and beyond.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,799 (15-inch base model)
Processor: Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6490M 256MB GDDR5
Memory: 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.4" (1440x900) Optical: Slot-loading 8x SuperDrive
Weight: 5.6lbs (2.54 kg) Battery: ~7.5 hours

HP EliteBook 8460p

HP's overhauled EliteBook adds new processors and a sturdier, more power efficient design based on the so-called "Forge" framework. This means aluminum-alloy hinges, titanium-alloy display latches, a bottom-case drain in case of spills, and a special enclosure that actually manages to comply to the MIL-STD 810G military testing spec.

The 14-inch EliteBook 8460p starts at $999 and can be outfitted with Intel's latest Core i5 and i7 Sandy Bridge processors, a 1GB Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics chip, up to 16GB of RAM, mechanical or flash storage, as well as Windows 7, SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 or FreeDOS. HP touts up to 32 hours of runtime with an HP BB09 Ultra Extended Life battery. As an alternative, the 15-inch HP ProBook 4530s offers a great feature set for small businesses and starts at around $500.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $999 ($1,199 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6470M 1 GB
Memory: 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3 Storage: 320GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 14.0" (1366x768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti w/LightScribe
Weight: 4.56lbs (2.07 kg) Battery: 6-cell

Lenovo ThinkPad T420

Earlier this year Lenovo refreshed its business-oriented lineup with new 2011 Core i5 and i7 processors, integrated and discrete graphics options, new video and voice calling functionality, improved power management, and new features for better IT management.

The latest models in the ThinkPad T series include the 14-inch T420 and the slimmer T420s version along with the 15-inch T520. The first two start at $749 and $1,249, respectively, and are available with Nvidia Optimus graphics. The slim, four-pound T420s is said to boot 30% faster than the previous model, and the slightly thicker T420 will last up to 30 hours on a charge with its nine-cell slice extended battery.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $749 ($1,179 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5GHz Graphics: NVIDIA N12P-NS1 Optimus 1GB
Memory: 4 GB DDR3 1333MHz (1 DIMM) Storage: 320GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 14.0 (1600 x 900) LED backlit display Optical: DVD recordable multiburner
Weight: 5.2lbs (2.4 kg) Battery: ~6.0 hours
Other noteworthy options in business laptops

Dell Vostro 3000

Dell has refreshed its budget-friendly Vostro 3000 series laptops with Intel's Sandy Bridge while keeping everything that was great about their predecessors. That includes the aluminum build, backlit keyboard, and matte displays, plus a 12-hour battery option.

Price range: $500 - $800