Laptops have been a key part of the small business office environment for some time now. This is especially true for roles involving client or site visits. However, the shift to working from home means businesses whose staff used desktops in the office have had to adapt. Looking forward this will continue to be true. A hybrid workplace mixing home and office means that even businesses with laptops may need to re-evaluate their setup.
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Our buying guide for small business laptops is here to help you understand the key factors and considerations. We want to make sure you maximise your budget; keep your staff happy and productive; and invest in your business technology for long term growth and future proofing.
The business laptop market is a competitive one, with lots of brands fighting for your budget. However, all this choice can cause analysis-paralysis. Too many options means that finding the right laptops for your SME can be tricky.
You might have cash to spend, but that doesn’t mean that top of the range laptops are the right decision. Conversely, you might be on a tight budget but still meet your team’s needs without breaking the bank.
Can my team use their own laptops for work?
Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses needed to put together quick solutions. This may have required staff to work using their own devices. This isn’t a long term solution. It is vital small businesses create a clear line between home and work-from-home. What may seem like a cost-saving could quickly turn into something very damaging,
Security is a key driving factory here. If you allow your employees to access work data on their personal devices then that creates a route for hackers. It could also enable insider-threats, and means that the chance of a data leak increases. It is also more difficult for managers to mandate security policies on their employee’s devices.
Similarly, you should discourage employees from using work devices for personal use, whether it’s online banking or social media. Small businesses may blur the lines between personal and private, but small business laptops should stay work-only.
Five Key Considerations For Buying Small Business Laptops
Gareth Blades, from IT support provider Stone Group believes reliability and agility should be top priorities.“With hybrid working now commonplace, SMEs should seek to deploy devices that are reliable and agile”. Small business laptops should be “slim and lightweight for mobility, yet also durable enough to withstand drops or scratches”.
1 – What type of work does my team need to do on their laptops?
The type of business you are in is a key factor in the type of laptop you need to buy.
Professional services companies will need to make sure they can run all the office applications their team will be using. However finding the right balance between cost, battery life and portability can complicate the decision.
For businesses where staff work ‘on site’ – such as hospitality, retail and restaurants form factor and weight will be key. Some businesses might consider whether a small business laptop at all is the answer, or if a tablet more appropriate.
Different teams in your organisation will also have varying needs. Design teams are likely to need (and often prefer) Apple MacBooks. Sales teams who make customer visits may need the flexibility and portability offered by a 2-in-1 device.
2 – What specification and setup does my team need on their laptops?
From battery life to processors, when you start searching the market you’ll find long lists of tech specs. Here’s our simple guide to what to look out for when evaluating the tech specs of small business laptops:
Speed and Processing
- RAM – this is the ‘quick access’ memory. It’s what your laptop needs to run the applications that you’re working on right now. It stands for Random Access Memory. The more RAM you have the more applications and documents you can run at that moment. It roughly equates to how ‘quick’ your laptop feels to run.
- CPU – the processor and ‘brains’ behind your device. Intel and AMD are the most common names you’ll see listed on the specifications. The better the processor the better your laptop’s performance will be. There are lots of benchmarks available, but for most day to day applications the difference between the brands at your price point will be minimal. It does however start to have an impact if you’re running intensive graphic design or similar applications.
Adapting to new ways of working
- Storage options – the world of work has moved to cloud, accessed with tools like Microsoft Teams. This means storage is less about size and more about efficiency. A good solid state hard drive (SSD) will improve your laptop’s performance. It makes loading up your computer and accessing files much quicker than a traditional hard drive. Gareth Blades explains, “a modern processor and good amount of SSD storage is key for any professional working on multiple tasks at once.”
- Screen size and form factor – There are lots of options here to fit every working environment. Laptops designed to replace desktops, lightweight and portable, or able to act as a tablet when needed. It all comes down to the type of work environment you need to create. Think about where, when and how your team uses their laptops. If you’re making a permanent move to remote work then your team might be fine with a bulkier option. If they need to come to the office several days a week they might not be so happy. With additional screen, a tablet style device can offer the best of both worlds. But writing out proposals could quickly become tiring without one (and potentially create an unsafe work setup).
- Operating system – there are three key operating systems you’ll be able to consider. Windows, Mac OS and Chrome OS. While Windows is the traditional option, and Mac OS is widely favoured for those in the creative sectors. Chrome OS is also a great option for those who are looking for something lightweight and cost effective interface. Especially if most of your business is based online and teams work remotely. You’ll need to think about any training or onboarding problems if you’re moving teams away from systems they’re used to. As well as the availability of key office and speciality applications as well.
3 – What are my budget limitations?
- Most businesses can get a good quality Windows small business laptop in the range of £450 – £700. This is very much the default option for most businesses, and staff will be familiar with the software.
- MacBooks will certainly push your budget up, with an entry level MacBook air starting at £999. Depending on your business this may be an essential purchase for some team members. It can worth kitting out your whole team if budget allows. It means everyone is running on the same devices and accessories, reducing some costs.
- Chromebooks can be acquired for much cheaper, but you’ll need to be aware of the trade offs. You could kit out your team for as little as £200. However they’re designed for use with the cloud which some team members may struggle to get used to.
4 – Should we buy a specific small business laptops or one designed for home or enterprise use?
The advantage of buying a business laptop is that they often come with office applications and required subscriptions pre-installed. They also offer business-specific extras. This could range from support packages, financing deals and security options such as fingerprint security.
Business laptops are also geared towards portability. They may have higher-quality (or longer lasting) keyboards, touchpads and functionality than those designed for the home market.
While not strictly necessary, small business laptops will help you get long term returns from your investment.
As your team grows your needs may change. It will often be worth investing in these now to save in the long run. Of course, budget will be a constraining factor here.
5 – What other accessories and support will my team need to get the most out of their laptops?
Kitting out a team with laptops is only scratching the surface of remote and hybrid working.
Most team members will also want an external keyboard and mouse. A second screen is also great for when they’re working at home or in the office. For some departments and managers, privacy screen covers for small business laptops is also a good choice. Especially if they need to work while travelling, or in co-working spaces.
From a cost perspective, it’s vital you understand the additional implications of extra devices and accessories. You’ll also need to ensure you’re buying compatible equipment. Check the USB ports, bluetooth and HDMI options before you make a decision.
SME Technology Guide’s Top Laptops For Small Businesses
- 15.6 Inch Screen
- 2-in-1 Laptop
- Intel Core i3
- 4 GB RAM
- 10 Hours Battery Life
The Lenovo IdeaPad offers a versatile way to work – run it in laptop mode or tablet mode to adapt to your environment. This makes it perfect for the transition from home office to on-site meetings, or adapting into your team’s work from home environment seamlessly. Pair it with a second screen and external keyboard and mouse, and your team will be set for working however they want. This small business laptop also features a rapid charge giving 2 hours power in 15 minutes so is great for teams on the go.
Dynabook Satellite Pro L40 and L50 (£709 – £779)
- 1.6 – 1.8 KG
- 14 – 15.6 inch screen
- 8GB RAM
- 10 hours battery life
The dynabook Satellite Pro L40 and L50 offer the latest technology for teams. Combining light-weight portability with long battery life, this is a great option for SMB teams who are remote working. With plenty of battery life from a single charge, it can comfortably handle general usage and multi-tasking throughout the day without slowing down. Comprehensive security options and rigorous testing gives businesses peace of mind that their data is safe and investment protected.
Stonebook Lite (£519 excl. VAT)
- 14” Full HD Screen
- Intel Core i5-1035G1
- 8Gb RAM
- Windows 10 Pro
- 6.5 Hours Battery Life
The Stonebook Lite features the latest technology to keep your modern workforce connected wherever they are. It’s ultra-portable, and comes with USB Type-C connectivity which means your team can plug in monitors, docks and other accessories neatly whether they’re in the office or working at home. There are also plenty of configuration options available if you need something bespoke.
- 14 Inch Screen
- AMD Dual Core A4, 4 GB RAM
- 100 GB Cloud Storage with Google One Subscription
- 10 hours of battery life
- Chrome OS
The HP Chromebook is thin, light and portable, perfect for basic tasks and getting your team kitted out on a tight budget. This is perfect if you run your business using Google’s set of G-Suite tools, and it comes with a one-year subscription to Google One which means 100 GB of Cloud Storage for you to use.
Apple MacBook Air (£999)
- 13.3-inch Retina display with True Tone technology
- Backlit Magic Keyboard and Touch ID and Force Touch trackpad
- Up to 11 hours of battery life
- Intel Core i3 processor
- 8GB of memory
Top of the range bringing both an impressive range of specifications to a classic design. This option will stretch your budget, but if you’re looking to kit your team out with a lightweight, long lasting laptop this is a great option to consider.