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Best of the Best
Business laptops have long inhabited their own special corner of the laptop market. While traditionally pricey in comparison to lesser machines, business laptops have always been considered far more durable and useful than their mere consumer-level brethren.
Today the durability of the business laptops continues, but the price barrier surrounding them has started to erode. Buying a capable business laptop for about $1000 dollars isn't difficult at all. As a result, business laptops aren't just for business anymore. Anyone who wants a tougher-than normal laptop should seriously considering a business-class notebook as their next mobile PC. The following notebooks are the best of the best, and should be suitable for anyone looking to buy a business laptop.
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Best Mainstream Business Laptop - Lenovo T400/500
The T-series Thinkpad is something of a legend. It was introduced as the flagship for IBM's Thinkpad line-up around the turn of the century with the Thinkpad T20 notebooks and has maintained its status as the premium notebook in the Thinkpad line-up ever since. The T400 - or T500, for those who prefer the 15" screen - is now manufactured by Lenovo, but the quality control has actually improved since the Thinkpad series was turned over to its new corporate parent.
The difference between a T400 and a normal consumer laptop is apparent at first glance. While most laptops have plastic hinges, the T400's hinges are metal and allow for the screen to be opened 180 degrees. The screen is reinforced with a roll cage which prevents flex during both normal use and in the event of the laptop being dropped. There is very little give in the unit when it is held from one edge. There are less apparent details, as well, such as the shock-mounted hard drive which helps prevent data loss if the laptop is damaged and small drain holes in the keyboard which make the laptop more resistant to any liquid spill on top of it.
Besides the durability of the T400, its functionality is superb. Thinkpad keyboards are legendary as the best on any laptop, and the T400 continues the tradition. The screen is bit brighter than most other laptops, and when equipped with the optional 9-cell battery the T400 can last seven or eight hours on a charge. A well equipped T400, with discrete graphics and the mentioned 9-cell battery, will cost a little over $1000 dollars, which is quite reasonable for such an excellent business laptop.
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Best Ultraportable Business Laptop - Lenovo X200
Those who are looking for a business laptop that they can take anywhere will want an ultraportable. Again, the Thinkpad series conquers what little opposition exists with its X200 business ultraportable.
What is most remarkable about the X200 is how little the feel of the laptop differs from the larger T400 model. The X200 is thinner and lighter, yes, but these things do not translate into a more cramped experience or a laptop which feels less durable. Taken side-by-side, the X200 simply looks like a Thinkpad which has been put under a shrink-ray. The keyboard remains superb and the build quality impeccable. The only catch is that the X200 offers no trackpad. The trackpoint works very well - some users such as myself have come to prefer it over a traditional touchpad solution on any laptop - but it will take some getting used to.
The X200 isn't priced as high as one might think, either, with the base models coming in at just over a thousand dollars. That is quite a bit more than a netbook, an those looking at an X200 who are not actually business users might want to consider a 12" netbook over a true business ultraportable like the X200. But netbook solutions simply do not offer the same level of quality. The X200's battery life is superb, as well - equipped with a 9-cell battery, it is capable of up to 10 hours of battery life.
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Best Budget Business Laptop - Acer Timeline Series
While Acer's new Timeline series of laptops is not marketed as a business product, it is easy to see why the Acer Timeline would fit in among the standard business laptop fair. Clad in a gunmetal finish and super-slim, the Acer Timeline AS3810T is interesting but understated, attracting perhaps a second glance but never looking scandalous. The AS3810T looks as rugged from a distance as a Lenovo product to boot, although it doesn't compare on closer inspection.
The main reason to recommend the Acer Timeline is that it soundly thrashes any similar product offered from the business-oriented branches of Lenovo, HP, and other common business laptop manufacturers. Its 13" screen is bright and has decent viewing angles, and while the island-style keyboard feels mushy, it seems durable enough. The large trackpad is better than average, as well.
Where the Acer Timeline AS3810T really impresses, however, is its combination of size, battery life, and price. With a 13.3" screen and eight hours of battery life from a standard six-cell battery, this laptop is nearly as portable as the Lenovo X200. Yet it costs only $599.99, making it an amazing value. Those looking for the same great battery life but who desire a larger screen can look into the 14" and 15.6" models, which offer a cheaper alternative to the Lenovo T series.