Shopping for a laptop can be overwhelming. There are Chromebooks, Ultrabooks, 2 in 1s, tablets that act like laptops, laptops that act like tablets, and more! There are 5+ generations of processors made by multiple companies with different variations, sub variations and graphics cards. You must choose from a HDD, SSD or SSHD hybrid, decide how much RAM and of what type, and pick from a selection of wireless LAN cards that might as well be written in Latin. All together, we calculated an average of 23 separate decisions required when purchasing a laptop.
Additionally, there are a nearly unlimited number of reviews and/or rankings out there when it comes to business laptops. Each list has its own criteria specific to the purpose the author had in mind at the time of writing: best performance, fastest, lightest, prettiest, most mobile, longest battery life, etc. One criteria that is often forgotten, is security.
While the 23 decision points and the unlimited ratings lists are important and valuable to the sophisticated technical decision maker, they can be debilitating to a small business owner that doesn’t know computers. That’s where we come in. We have simplified the process by reviewing and recommending one, and only one, laptop for the small business professional. We sought out the best value that works for the most people. In other words, what laptop gives you the most bang for your buck over its entire life. We have in mind the business owner that doesn’t want to think, just wants someone who knows technology to recommend a good value that will meet their needs. We also take it a step further, and recommend exact configurations for the laptop.
Finally, we believe we separate our recommendation by putting our money where our mouth is as we actually use the recommended laptop in our own small business, and frequently recommend it to our small business clients when they are in the market for a new computer.
Before revealing our choice, a little education for the non-technical savvy. These ground rules apply to any computer you purchase.
- Performance typically means hardware. Specifically, a small business professional needs 8GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive and a >2GHz processer. You can eliminate Chromebooks & Ultrabooks from the start, as they lack the hardware to support a self-employed business professional.
- Security must be worth the trade off from a cost and performance stand point. As a security company, we put a premium on security features. A computer must have the ability to handle security without suffering unacceptable performance degradation. Any computer you buy should have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0, however we suggest against a self-encrypting drive (SED) for the time being. SEDs have a separate processor just for encrypting your hard drive, theoretically increasing security without losing performance. This sounds great, and it is when it works, however there have been past compatibility issues and security researchers have shown these hard drives are still vulnerable to some of the same attacks as software based drive encryption, which is a more common approach to disk encryption and therefore has been tested more. We love the SED concept; however, it fails our compatibility test and the complexity is not worth the tradeoff, yet. Instead, we recommend software based encryption configured in your operating system (OS) for now. If configured properly, you can avoid some of the attacks referenced in the article above.
- Value is constantly changing. We eliminate solid state drives (SSDs), a faster and more advanced form of hard drives, even though we love them because they are priced significantly higher than alternatives. That will likely be different in next year’s version of this article, but for the time being we advise a hybrid SSHD, which gives you some of the performance gains in a SSD without the hefty price tag.
- Compatibility matters. Unfortunately, this often excludes Macs from our analysis. Any computer you are purchasing today should have an HDMI port as opposed to a display port which lacks compatibility. In our selection, we have finally thrown in the towel on CD/DVD drives as we rarely see a client use one anymore. Finally, for those of you that like to use a laptop docking station at your office, USB-C is a must.
And the winner is...
The HP ProBook 440 G4 Notebook PC with the following configurations:
- Windows 10 Pro 64
- 8 GB RAM DDR4-2133 PC4 SO-DIMM memory (1 DIMM)
- 500 GB 5400RPM SATA SSHD Hybrid hard drive - 8GB NAND Cache
- 14" diagonal FHD (1920x1080) Anti-Glare LED UWVA for HD Webcam with 2 Antennas slim
- Intel® Core™ i5-7200U dual-core processor (2.5GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)
- HD 720p Webcam with Dual Array Microphone
- Intel® 7265 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2x2) nvP + Bluetooth® 4.2
- HP 45-watt Smart AC Adapter (Quantity: 2)
- HP Premium Keyboard - Full-sized spill-resistant chiclet
- No WWAN, fingerprint reader
- Optional docking station
Total Price (as configured): $854.40
That’s it for now. Next month, we’ll recommend a wireless router & access point for those that work out of their homes.