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The best business laptops for 2020

Finding the right laptop for work or business isn’t necessarily about opting for the nicest graphics cards or the most exuberant storage setup. It’s more about having a machine that travels by your side and doesn’t stop working when you need it most. The laptop that best meets the needs of business users, especially in terms of durability and support, is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 — and it doesn’t hurt that this is one fast and furious laptop to boot.

But all the laptops outlined below — pulled from our hundreds of reviews and our thousands of hours spent digging through the best laptops you can buy — cover all these bases and more, giving you strong hardware with a function-first approach.

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’s it 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 the Dell XPS 15 and 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 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

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

Who’s it 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, and 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 HP ZBook Studio is one of the best.

It all starts with a choice of true workstation-class components, including Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro graphics. 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.

All that 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, and given its high-end components, the ZBook Studio is reasonably priced as well.

The best for road warriors: Dell XPS 13

Riley Young/Digital Trends

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

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13:

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 2019 version was nearly perfect, with the last generation’s poor webcam placement fixed without compromising the XPS 13’s tiny bezels. As seen in a hands-on review during CES 2020, the 2020 version thins the bezels a little further, but it’s in the hardware upgrades where it really shines.

The XPS 13 sports Intel’s 10th-generation CPUs, starting at the capable Core i5-10210U, and stretching up to the Core i7-1065G7. All of these new laptops enjoy Intel’s 11th-generation graphics, which make the XPS 13 surprisingly capable for entry-level gaming in the off-hours. 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.

Wait a few months, and you’ll be able to buy a version with Intel’s latest Comet Lake CPU that offers up to a six-core/12-thread processor within the same 15-watt power package.

The best 2-in-1: HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5

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

What we thought of the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5:

HP makes some of the best 360-degree 2-in-1s you can buy, including our favorite, the Spectre x360 13. But sometimes you need business features that a consumer laptop just can’t provide, such as enhanced security and extra durability.

That’s exactly what the EliteBook x360 1040 G5 provides. You get the same 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the display around into tablet mode — perfect for inking with the included HP Active Pen — but with the added confidence afforded by MIL-STD-810G standards testing. Intel vPro support provides for enterprise remote management and security, as does a self-healing BIOS and HP Sure Run to protect from viruses.

HP’s Sure View privacy screen lets you keep your information safe from onlookers. Combine that with the option of a super bright Full HD display, the most up-to-date components such as 8th-gen Intel Core CPUs, and you have a 2-in-1 that your employer may approve for your next budget.

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

What we thought of the Lenovo ThinkPad T490:

We named the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 as the best overall business laptop, but that’s a high-price option. If your budget comes in around $1,000, don’t give up hope: The ThinkPad T490 has most of what makes the X1 Extreme great but at a fraction of the price. It’s the evolution of a more affordable, modest ThinkPad that still enjoys many of our favorite features of the ThinkPad range.

Thinner and lighter than the previous T480 model we loved, it’s 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 aren’t designed to be. This is a business laptop that won’t be as hefty to carry around.

Under the hood you have options for eighth and 10th-generation Intel CPUs, delivering decent clock speeds and graphics for those who need a little grunt. Storage is fast (PCI Express) and there are options for up to 16GB of memory. The 1080p display isn’t exactly exciting, but the keyboard is fantastic. If you write a lot of emails or documents, few laptops can measure up to the T490’s long term comfort and accuracy when typing.

The T490 enjoys classic ThinkPad features like the red nubbin for mouse control, a decent trackpad, and solid battery life that improves upon its predecessors. It’s a workhorse of a laptop that will leave some money left over for other investments.

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