Business vs. Consumer Laptops: What’s the Difference? – Business.com

Does your company need a business laptop or is a consumer model good enough?

Different manufacturers and retailers categorize their laptops in a variety of ways. You’ll see notebooks, Chromebooks, Ultrabooks, gaming rigs, 2-in-1s, touch screen laptops, portable workstations, and general use models. It can all seem very confusing. However, when it comes right down to it, there are two parent categories: consumer laptops and business laptops.

Price Tag

Business laptops generally cost more than their consumer counterparts, with the exception of high-end gaming rigs. There are some valid reasons for the price hike, starting with the fact that business laptops need to be sturdily constructed. High-quality components also give these machines a substantially longer lifespan and require less maintenance than a comparable consumer model. Laptops aimed at businesses also have to withstand frequent use and be able to tolerate the demands of daily power users. So while you pay more for the unit initially, it’ll save you money in maintenance and replacement costs down the line, making business laptops cost-effective in the appropriate setting.

Warranty and Service

Another benefit to business laptops are the longer warranties. Plus, manufacturers often offer a robust tech support and servicing package with each sale. The vast majority of business laptops are also user-serviceable. While you’ll find the occasional low-end to mid-range consumer model that has some degree of user serviceability, it’s getting increasingly rarer. Business laptops often either have friction locks or simply require a screwdriver to access the internal components, giving IT professionals the ability to make repairs or replace components.

Availability

With consumer-grade laptops, particularly low-end to mid-range models, manufacturers expect users to purchase only one or two units for their home and upgrade them every couple of years. So consumer models and the parts for them may only be available for 6 months to a year, after which, a shiny new model is introduced. Business laptops, on the other hand, need to be available for a substantial period. Businesses do not want to have to upgrade their laptop fleets frequently, nor do they want the inconvenience of managing a random selection of units. Therefore, to help business users standardize their laptop fleets, most manufacturers commit to keeping models and replacement parts available for up to 5 years, as most businesses keep their fleets in service for at least 3 years.

Ports and Connectivity Options

It’s a sad truth that manufacturers hike their prices for laptops that include all the shiny new bells and whistles, like bleeding-edge tech and ports. The Thunderbolt 2 port is a prime example. Yes, it can transfer data twice as fast as USB 3.0 at a whopping 20 Gbps but it’s not strictly necessary, is taking a very long time to catch on, and is only compatible with a handful of devices at the moment. But it’s new, it’s shiny, and it’s got potential, so many consumers will happily pay a premium for it. Businesses generally won’t. Business laptops usually include a variety of standard ports, but little to no cutting-edge or unproved ones. They will, however, have plenty of standard and older ports and connectivity options. Alongside USB 3.0 and HDMI, you’ll also find DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, SmartCard, ExpressCard and even VGA.

Security

Whatever your industry or the nature of your business, you’ll have large quantities of sensitive data that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, so security is a primary concern. A laptop with a SmartCard stops an unauthorized user accessing a laptop while it’s unattended. Models with fingerprint scanners ensure only specific users can access the device, and encryption software scrambles data as it writes to the hard drive. Most business laptops will have a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, which helps enable tamper-resistant full-disk encryption without requiring extremely long passphrases.

Lack of Bloatware

If you’ve ever purchased a consumer laptop or desktop, you’ll undoubtedly have seen the copious amount of completely unnecessary bloatware that’s pre-installed. There will be games, free trials, resource links, demos and all manner of stuff you’ll never, ever use. This doesn’t tend to happen with business models. IT departments don’t want to spend valuable time cleaning up junk-laden laptops, so manufacturers simply don’t include it on business-grade models. Instead, you’ll get a basic range of essential software or none at all. And, if your business buys laptops in bulk, you can most likely request the exact software you require.

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