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The best business laptops for 2021

Some businesses keep you on the road, while others demand high output and presentations every day. Having a reliable laptop as your portable workstation can be the difference between a productive day or a lousy one. Of course, being lightweight and having a touchscreen is also helpful. We picked the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 as our top choice because not only is it fast, but it is also durable and business oriented.

With this in mind, we’ve gathered the best business laptops for every kind of person. Whether you are always on the move or need a high-powered touchscreen, there is something for everyone on this list.

The best business laptops

The best business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2

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 2:

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’re considering one of these laptops. The best is Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2, a 15.6-inch laptop offering the best mainstream components with the usual ThinkPad aesthetics, build quality, and support.

Before the X1 Extreme, the ThinkPad line depended on smaller laptops like the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon to compete against larger business-class models. But the ThinkPad X1 Extreme changed that equation while the second-generation enhanced it. Lenovo’s current model upgrades the CPU to Intel’s ninth-generation, with options for a modest quad-core — the Core i5-9400 — up to an eight-core 9880H. Combined with up to 64GB of memory, and an optional Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics chip, this laptop competes favorably against other mainstream laptops.

The X1 Extreme includes the ThinkPad line’s MIL-STD-810G certification promising superior durability, a gorgeous 4K display with high dynamic range (HDR) and an OLED option. You’ll also find up to a terabyte of PCIe SSD storage, enterprise-oriented service and support, and security options like the ThinkShutter webcam screen. That’s a laptop perfect for the most demanding business buyers.

While the battery life of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 does suffer when using the highest-end configurations, and the price is higher than we’d like, there are some fantastic sales to be had if you buy one at the right time, so keep your eyes peeled.

The best workstation: 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.

It all starts with a choice of true workstation-class components, including a six-core Intel i9-8950HK processor, Nvidia Quadro P1000, 32GB of RAM, and 1.5TBs of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. 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 offers 100 percent Adobe RGB coverage and true 10-bit color.

The HP ZBook Studio‘s ports are also 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.

The best for road warriors: 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 full review of a slightly earlier XPS 13 2020 model here.

The best 2-in-1: 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 360-degree 2-in-1s 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!

The best budget laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad T490

Why you should buy this: It provides most of what you want from a ThinkPad, except for the premium price.

Who it’s for: Anyone on a budget who loves the ThinkPad’s design and business chops.

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad T490:

We favor the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 as the best overall business laptop. We have to acknowledge that it is a higher-priced option, though. If your budget comes in around $1,000, don’t give up hope: The ThinkPad T490 has most of what makes the X1 Extreme an excellent pick — but at a fraction of the price. It’s the evolution of a more affordable, modest ThinkPad. Yet it still offers many of our favorite features of the ThinkPad range.

The T490 is thinner and lighter than the previous T480 model we loved. It showcases a noticeably leaner design that fits in well with the more streamlined, modern laptop options at this price. It’s not a MacBook Pro or XPS 13, but ThinkPads don’t aim to imitate the competition. Overall, though, this is a business laptop that won’t be as hefty to carry around.

With the T490, you have room for either eighth or 10th-generation Intel CPUs. Each offers suitable speeds and graphics for business people seeking a considerable boost. The PCI Express storage is quick, and can you can easily increase it to 16GB of memory. Although the 1080p isn’t anything to brag about, the keyboard is quite impressive. If you’re looking for a comfortable laptop with dead-on typing accuracy, the T940 may be your best bet, especially for those who are constantly writing emails and documents.

The Lenovo ThinkPad T490 possesses the standard ThinkPad features such as the red nubbin for mouse control and a satisfactory trackpad. However, one particular upgrade that distinguishes the T490 from other models is the incredible, long-lasting battery life and affordable price.

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. If you’re ready to purchase a new laptop, but it’s not in your current budget, you can always wait for the Black Friday laptop deals and buy one then.

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