Best business laptops under £500
Midrange laptops can offer a bit more poke for business use. We round up the notebooks you should ponder purchasing
It's hard work running a business, but sometimes it can be harder still to find a decent laptop to get you through the working day. However, with prices falling, it's now easier than ever to find a laptop that is robust, secure, light, long-lasting and powerful.
Many laptops nowadays can double up as tablets, thanks to Windows 8 (soon to be Windows 10). But no matter what the form factor is, many need a notebook that won't let them down, and performance is always a key concern.
4GB of RAM is usually the minimum we expect from a business notebook, but many now sport 8GB and beyond for powering through spreadsheets and design documents.
Battery life is also an issue. A big battery will help get you through a day, but will add to the weight of a long commute or business travel, and can make an otherwise portable machine unweildy.
Here are some of the best laptops you can get for under 500.
Microsoft Surface 3
Microsoft hasn't made the mistake of trying to run Windows on ARM with the Surface 3, and has returned to the Intel fold, albeit with an Atom processor. Happily, this means that the Surface 3 runs full-fat Windows and so should appeal to business.
This hybrid laptop/tablet sports a 10.8-inch display and at 622g and 8.7mm thick, it's the slimmest and lightest Surface yet. While it can be used as a tablet, as a Windows machine, normal laptop use is a better bet for most organisations.
Unlike a lot of other tablets, the Surface 3 has as many connectivity options as we would expect from a laptop, with a total of one USB 3, a microSD slot, a 3.5mm headset jack, and one Mini DisplayPort).
Price: 419 (base model)
Acer Aspire V3-371
While this laptop leaves out a touchscreen display, this is no bad thing. This device focuses on improved wireless connectivity and fast 500GB SSHD storage.
A fairly meaty Intel processor gives improved graphics and overall performance as well as longer battery life. The 4GB of memory should ensure that normal users will get by, although more intensive tasks will strain it.
Connectivity-wise, there are two USB ports, one for USB 2.0 and one for USB 3.0. There is a spring-loaded Gigabit Ethernet port along the narrow edge of the laptop, and complementing this is an SDcard slot and a headphone jack.
While the Wi-Fi is limited to 802.11n, it has dual antennae and dual-band capability. In tests, the laptop managed around 11 hours of battery life, way above the manufacturer's claimed seven hours.
This general purpose laptop is reasonably well built and weighs 2.2kg, so can just about be carried around all day.
It sports a single USB3 port, Ethernet, headphone jack and an HDMI port on the left side, while on the right are two USB ports and a DVD writer. Inside is a 1TB hard disk and a quad-core AMD A8-6410 processor, which runs at a base clock speed of 2.4GHz.
Battery life is average, knocking up five hours nine minutes in tests by sister publication Expert Reviews. It also sports 8GB, which should help with more intensive tasks.
Toshiba Satellite Pro NB10-A-10P
The Satellite Pro-NB10-A-10P is well built and comes with enough grunt to carry out basic work and multimedia tasks.
It sports a 2GHz quad-core Intel Pentium N3510 running at 2GHz, along with 4GB of RAM. The 11.6in screen is a TN panel, and has a resolution of 1366x768 pixels, which is on the low side of anything a manufacturer would claim was HD.
The integrated Intel graphics mean it is perfectly adequate for business purposes, but will prove disappointing for after-hours gaming.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300LA
The Transformer Book Flip should give us some unsubtle clues as to the features of this laptop. The display can be flipped all the way back to become something of a thick tablet.
This Asus has a keyboard deeply reminiscent of a MacBook Pro. Luckily, it also is good too with edges that don't dig into the wrist allowing extended sessions on the keyboard. Mouse buttons are also incorporated into the touchpad, which is very responsive.
As a laptop, this Asus model is light at 1.75kg, but perhaps a tad heavy compared to tablets. It also sports a 1.9GHz Intel Core i3-4030U processor. This is a dual core chip with hyperthreading, meaning you have four virtual cores.
Lenovo N20p Chromebook
This Chromebook from Lenovo comes with a display hinge that can rotate 300 degrees back to stand in "tent" mode, allowing users to watch video or perhaps a presentation.
This laptop has both a physical keyboard, or if needed, an on-screen one. The screen itself has a resolution of 1,366x768. It is powered by a dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830 processor and sports 4GB of memory.
As it features ChromeOS as the underlying operating system, it is able to do all your web-based tasks, as well as document editing and watching video. It allows the transfer of documents and files to USB sticks and SD cards directly through the laptops ports. As you'd expect from a Chromebook, it works well with Google Drive's cloud storage and users get 100GB of free storage for two years.
HP ProBook 450 G2
An increasing rarity among laptops, this HP comes with Windows 7 installed instead of Windows 8. (although with Windows 10 around the corner, many user may well see this as an opportunity to upgrade).
The chassis sports a rubberised coating that doesn't pick up grease easily, so perhaps one to consider for more industrial settings (although this is not marketed as a rugged device).
There are four USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0. There is also both an HDMI and VGA interface for connecting to all types of monitors.
Toshiba Satellite Click 2 L30W-B-10D
Another hybrid, this time from Toshiba. This device can easily detach the screen from the keyboard by sliding the unlock slider and lifting the screen away.
But being a hybrid has a weight cost. The combined tablet and keyboard dock weighs in at 2.1kg, which is heavier than some 13-inch laptops.
Unlike laptops, the Click 2 has all of the ports around the tablet screen, so you can still use peripherals when in tablet mode. It has a Micro HDMI port for connecting up to an external monitor or projector, a USB 2.0 port and a multi-card reader.
The device boasts a quad-core 2.16GHz Intel N3530 that also supports Intel Turbo Boost up to 2.58GHz - when temperatures allow - and this is paired with 4GB of memory.
Toshiba Chromebook 2 (CB30-B-104)
This Chromebook from Toshiba is a 13.3-inch laptop with a Full HD (1920x1080) display; it's possibly the cheapest Full HD laptop on the market. This should make working with two windows side-by-side a snap.
Not only does it boast a great display, but it is also lightweight at 1.35kg, with a 19.3mm depth. Thinness comes at a cost, however, and the number of USB ports has been reduced from three to two. But there is still room for a full-size HDMI port and a headphone jack.
The battery lasts over seven hours but there is also a lightweight charger in case you run out of juice.
It has 16GB SSD on-board storage and like other Chromebooks, there is 100GB of free storage from Google for two years.
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