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The best business laptops for 2021

A good work laptop makes the difference when it comes to productivity, and the best business laptops will keep you productive. We’ve rounded up seven laptops that do the trick for road warriors and home office veterans alike, combining power with portability and great build quality.

Although we’ve picked several laptops with different features and prices, one stands out. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 is our top pick. It’s built to withstand even the toughest beatings, all while packing in the latest and most powerful components. You can also take a look at our list of the best laptops overall for more options.

Top best business laptops for work in 2021

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3

Why you should buy this: It’s the most powerful 15-inch business-oriented laptop on the market.

Who it’s for: Any business professional who needs speed along with great support and durability.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3:

Few laptop lines are as iconic as the ThinkPad. If you spend most of your time in a conference room rather than a coffeehouse, then chances are you’ve at least considered one of these laptops. The best is Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3, a 15.6-inch laptop offering the best mainstream components with the usual ThinkPad aesthetics, build quality, and support.

The base configuration comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti 4GB. A high-end configuration packs an Intel Core i9-10885H, 64GB of RAM, and up to 4TB of SSD storage spread across two drives.

Lenovo pairs the internal parts with a 15.6-inch Full HD display, which you can upgrade to a 4K OLED model or a 4K IPS display with 600-nit peak brightness. Both of these high-end displays look gorgeous, though they’ll tax the ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s already limited battery life.

Like many other ThinkPad machines, the X1 Extreme Gen 3 is built for the MIL-STD 810G standard, and the keyboard is excellent. For ports, it comes with two USB-A, two USB-C, DisplayPort, a 4-in-1 SD card reader, headphone/microphone combo jack, and HDMI 2.0. The USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 3 ports, offering power delivery and data transfer.

Read our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review

HP ZBook Studio (2020)

Why you should buy this: It crams the power of a desktop workstation into a surprisingly portable package.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs massive number-crunching and visualization power on the go.

What we thought of the HP ZBook Studio:

If you edit 4K video, design buildings, or use 3D modeling to develop products, then you need more processor and graphics power than you’ll find in the typical laptop. Chances are, you have a workstation desktop sitting in your office and you need something almost as powerful to take on the road. That’s where portable workstations come in, and the 15-inch HP ZBook Studio is one of the best laptops for video editing.

It all starts with a choice of true workstation-class components, including up to an eight-core Intel Core i9-10885H, Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q graphics, and 32GB of RAM. These are optimized for applications like Adobe’s creative app suite, Revit, Navisworks, Enscape for architects, and AutoCAD and Solidworks for engineers. HP offers a 4K DreamColor display, too, that’s incredibly bright at 600 nits, and has 100% Adobe RGB coverage and true 10-bit color.

The HP ZBook Studio‘s ports also are ready for anything, including USB-A 3.0 and 3.1, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C with DisplayPort support, and HDMI 2.0. All this is packed into a chassis that’s relatively light at 4.4 pounds and thin at 0.74 inches. That’s plenty of highly portable power — if you can handle the price.

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the smallest 13-inch laptops you can buy, and one of our favorite all-around laptops.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs the full power of a modern laptop but without the weight.

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13 (2020):

Dell’s XPS 13 isn’t exactly a “business-class” laptop, but Dell is no stranger to equipping enterprises. And if you’re looking for the smallest and lightest laptop you can carry around without sacrificing too much power or compatibility, the XPS 13 remains among our top choices.

The latest 2020 version comes with the cutting-edge 11th-gen Intel Core processors, starting with the i3-1115G4 but with plenty of upgrade options, ideal if you want top performance. RAM starts at 8GB, and storage starts with a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. All versions come with a choice of Full HD or 4K displays, and you’ll enjoy the excellent design and build quality along with a stellar keyboard and touchpad.

Base model graphics capabilities are standard, but not truly impressive, with the integrated Intel UHD. Other models get a boost with Intel Iris Xe graphics, but it’s still not the best choice if you really need high-powered dedicated graphics power for design work. However, the Dell XPS 13 remains the best 13-inch laptop we’ve seen overall, and Dell continues to improve it.

Read our Dell XPS 13 review

HP Envy x360 (2020)

Why you should buy this: You get all the advantages of a business-class laptop with the flexibility of a pen-enabled 2-in-1.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to draw and take notes — and relax with a little Netflix on the side.

What we thought of the HP Envy x360 (2020):

HP makes some of the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy, a top pick if you need business features that a consumer convertible laptop just can’t provide, such as enhanced security and extra durability.

The 2020 version of the Envy x360 remains one of the best options in this field, with a spacious 15-inch FHD touchscreen, 360-degree convertible design, and ports including USB-A 3.2, USB-C, and HDMI (plus compatibility with Wi-Fi 6).

Inside, you’ll find a six-core Ryzen 5 4500U processor and integrated Radeon graphics, plus 8GB of RAM and 256GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage (both upgradeable). Ports include USB-C, USB-A, HDMI 2.0, and a multi-format SD media card reader.

Keep in mind, with that large screen and a keyboard that includes a numeric keypad, carrying and converting the HP Envy x360 is going to be a much bigger job than it would for a smaller 13-inch laptop. However, the extra display room is also nice for sketching more detailed notes or drawings, so there’s also an advantage to the size. Just make sure you have enough room!

Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen)

Why you should buy this: A light and surprisingly powerful laptop for a very affordable price.

Who it’s for: Anyone on a budget who needs a laptop capable of serious work.

What we thought of the Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen):

Typically, a budget laptop has to compromise on something, be it power, size, or storage. Acer’s Swift 3 manages to offer powerful features with relatively little compromise anywhere. Most notably, the 14-inch HD laptop comes equipped with a Ryzen 7 4700U process with an impressive eight-core design — something that’s hard enough to find on any laptop, let alone for this price.

Inside, you’ll also find integrated Radeon graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Ports include USB-C, USB-A 3.2, DisplayPort-over-USB-C, and HDMI. All this is in a design that’s only 2.65 pounds, easily portable for on-the-go business work.

The Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen) is also up to date in all the right ways, including compatibility with Wi-Fi 6. There’s even Alexa voice assistant support for voice commands, and professionals will appreciate the built-in fingerprint reader for security. Note if you want to save even more money, you can look for a renewed version of this model, but for this excellent price there’s no downside to buying new.

M1 MacBook Pro

Why you should buy this: Apple’s M1 chip does wonders for one of the best MacBooks you can buy.

Who it’s for: Apple fans looking to upgrade, and anyone interested in a laptop that’s silent and powerful.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad T14:

Apple’s M1 system on a chip (SoC) has done wonders for the MacBook Pro. Performance is on-par or better than the Intel parts that proceeded the M1, all while staying cooler and quieter. Some applications still aren’t optimized for the M1, but developers have been pushing updates for Apple’s new platform. Now, all of the apps that matter run on Apple’s new silicon, and sometimes, they even run better.

Outside of the M1 boost, the MacBook Pro remains the marvel of a machine it has always been. The keyboard is one of the best on the market, and the screen puts most Windows laptops to shame.

For power, the M1 packs eight cores of CPU power, eight cores of GPU power, and up to 16GB of RAM. The base 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with 256GB of SSD storage, but you bump that up to 2TB depending on your configuration.

The latest MacBook Pro comes with all the upsides of previous models, plus a little more. It comes with all the downsides, too. The latest model sports two Thunderbolt ports and nothing else. Thankfully, you can get past the limited port selection with a decent Thunderbolt dock.

Read our M1 MacBook Pro review

HP Pro C640

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the best Chromebooks on the market, and you can configure it with solid parts.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the power of a Windows laptop without the clutter.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad T14:

The HP Pro C640 is one of the pricier Chromebooks on the market, though still cheaper than most of the other laptops on this list. It’s the best of both worlds, combining parts like an i7-10610U with the ChromeOS’s supreme usability. The base configuration comes with an Intel Pentium Gold 6405U, 8GB of RAM, and 32GB of flash storage. You can trick the C640 out with up to an i7-10610U, 16GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

If you jump between web-based apps, the C640 is a great choice. ChromeOS is streamlined, allowing you to focus on the apps that matter without too much clutter (or OS overhead). The keyboard is clicky and responsive, though it still falls slightly short of the best laptop keyboards.

Additionally, the C640 comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 on-board. For ports, you have access to two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, a microphone/headphone combo jack, and an HDMI 1.4 connection. All four USB ports are USB 3.1, and the USB-C ones support power delivery and DisplayPort.

The only downside of the C640 is its screen. The base configuration comes with a 14-inch non-touch display with a resolution of 1,366 x 768. At 14 inches, we recommend upgrading to the Full HD display option, which is brighter and supports touch.

In your line of work, you need a laptop that boosts productivity, handles your workflow with ease, and comes at an economical price that won’t break the bank. We’ve discovered a few excellent laptop options for business owners and operators in this guide, and we’d happily advocate for any of them.

Frequently asked questions

What should I look for in a business laptop?

There are several factors that go into choosing a business laptop. Externally, choose a laptop that has a build and form factor you like. You’ll be working on the laptop, so you want to make sure it’s comfortable. Under the hood, most business laptops rely on their CPU performance. A mid- to high-end CPU from Intel or AMD will help tear through spreadsheets and most demanding applications. If you’re new to the world of processors, make sure to read our CPU buying guide.

How much RAM do I need for a business laptop?

We recommend at least 8GB for a business laptop. The amount of RAM you need mostly depends on what applications you’re running, but 8GB is great for browsing, office applications, and messaging applications. If you’re working with large Photoshop files or something similar, consider upgrading to 16GB. Make sure to read our guide on how much RAM you need if you’re still lost.

Are business laptops good for gaming?

Business laptops aren’t inherently good for gaming, but there’s some overlap. Top business laptops come with powerful processors and a lot of RAM, both of which are good for gaming. However, most business laptops don’t come with a dedicated graphics card. Without that, most business laptops are only good for light gaming. Some models are available with a dedicated graphics card, though, such as the Dell XPS 15.

Can I claim my laptop as a business expense?

You can claim your laptop as a business expense as long as you use it solely for business. The IRS allows you to deduct the business portion of usage only. So, if you split your time evenly between work and personal time, you can deduct half of the cost of the laptop. Additionally, you can deduct the cost of equipment at once or over the course of several years as a depreciating asset.

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