If you think finding the best budget notebook for yourself is hard enough, try buying a slew of them. That’s what reader Manaf, the owner of a small business is charged with doing: he has to buy seven laptops for his staff, as well as a higher-end one for himself. He writes:
They should be light enough so that the technicians won’t have trouble carrying them from a customer to the other (they visit three locations a day for service, plus the office) and should be a little sturdy and with decent battery life of at least two and a half hours. And they also shouldn’t be too expensive, as I will be buying seven of them.
For me, I need something that can do all the above and a little more, as I often travel and visit customers and use my laptop for work and for entertainment. I also need something that can withstand moderate abuse. It is important that the laptop can also run some engineering software such as Matlab and Autocad.
While he’s looking for a 13- or 14-inch notebook for his employees, he’s considering screens as small as 12 inches for himself, and would prefer discreet graphics. Likewise, his budget for his employees’ computers is $800, and he’s willing to spend up to $1,500 on the notebook that will double as his work and personal PC. Manaf, who had done his homework, was already looking at the Dell Vostro 3400 for his staff, and either the Toshiba Portege R700, HP dm4t, or ASUS U33jc for himself. Just to be sure, though, he asked us what we’d suggest for both him and his workers. After the jump, see what we recommended.
For a small business looking for a bunch of 13- or 14-inch notebooks at a reasonable price, we recommend either the Lenovo ThinkPad T410 or the thinner and lighter ThinkPad Edge 14. The T410 has a reputation for being one of the best small business notebooks, and there’s a reason: its performance is powerful, it boots quickly, and it boasts Lenovo’s signature comfortable, sturdy keyboard and pointing stick. The Edge 14 offers strong performance and long battery life, but it has a more modern design, including a chiclet-style keyboard, and weighs less, at 5 pounds (with a six-cell battery).
For the boss:
While the Toshiba Portege R700 is a fine computer (it won our Editors’ Choice after all), even we have to admit that the model we tested didn’t get the best battery life. If long battery life is essential, we’d instead steer you toward the 14-inch T410 (again) or the 13-inch HP ProBook 5320m, the update to the Editors’ Choice-winning ProBook 5310m, which is out in Europe right now, but likely to come to the U.S. at some point.
While both machines are powerful, and are offered with comparable specs (e.g., Intel Core i5 processors and 7,200 rpm hard drives), the T410 weighs 5.2 pounds to the 5310m’s 3.8. If Manaf waits for the 5320m, he can get a configuration with a Core i5-450M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive, a 6-cell battery, and broadband, though we have no idea for what price. As for the T410, he can get one with the same specs for $1,204 (that’s with no Microsoft Office or discrete graphics added).