If you’re going to be working away your home office all the time, then a laptop makes perfect sense.
Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you should buy a laptop because everyone else has one.
Most of the “novelists” and “entrepreneurs” you see sitting in Starbucks every day spend most of their time on YouTube or chatting with their buddies on whatever social network is popular right now.
Very few of them are actually working, because that means being truly productive, and being really, really productive means not being surrounded by distractions like the ones you find in coffee shops.
If you telecommute for a living, then a laptop makes perfect sense but that probably only accounts for about 2% of the people reading this.
Laptops do offer you a huge amount of flexibility in where you can work, but just be honest with yourself about how much of a requirement that actually is for you.
So, what is the best laptop for a small business or person working from home?
Again, it all comes down to what type of work you’ll be doing.
This is the entry-level when it comes to laptop processors, which is fine as long as you don’t expect blistering speed, because you’re not going to get it.
Celeron-based computers are fine for basic word-processing, spreadsheet or database application use, web browsing, email, and watching videos online. They’re affordable, consume very little power, but just don’t have enough processing power for something like Photoshop.
A laptop with a Core i3 processor is a huge step up from one using a Celeron, and you’ll notice this when you’re running more than one program at any one time. Just bear in mind that a Core i3 is still at the entry-level range of processors, and your laptop will feel sluggish if you have multiple applications running.
This is the workhorse of laptop processors, and in many cases is better suited to certain types of tasks than its more powerful cousin, the Core i7. A laptop with 8GB of RAM and a Core i5 processor should be able to cope with pretty much anything you figuratively throw at it.
Look, let’s be honest here – the only reason you’re buying a laptop with an i7 processor is because you want to play games when nobody is watching. Or you’re a professional video editor who needs to stay mobile. Or you have more money than sense. Or maybe a combination of all of these reasons. Seriously though, an i7 laptop is a powerful beast, and an expensive one, so be certain you need the processing power before handing over your hard-earned money.
If you’re environmentally minded bear in mind that the faster the processor, the more power it consumes, generally speaking. High-end processors also tend to only have a 25% increase in performance over “slower” processors, but they’re often 100% more expensive.
What screen size is right for your laptop?
Depending on what brand you’re considering you’ll find there are several laptop screen sizes to choose from, ranging from 10 to 17-inches.
Smaller screen sizes are far more compact, but staring at a 10 or 12-inch screen for long periods of time will lead to eye strain. Screens of that size are fine for occasional use, but not if you have to stare at it for several hours each day.
You only have two real choices for a laptop you’ll use for work – either a 15 or 17-inch screen.
Physically larger, giving your more digital desktop space to work with. This makes them ideal for people doing any kind of desktop publishing, or design work. The downsides of a 17-inch screen is your laptop will be bulkier and heavier as a result, and bigger screens will drain your battery life in hurry, as well as being more expensive to buy.
Offer a much smaller working area, but it’s usually more than enough for web browsing, word-processing, and all the other stuff you do on a day-to-day basis. They consume less power, your laptop weighs less, and most laptop backpacks come in 15-inch sizes by default.
There’s a “coolness kudos” to owning a laptop with a ginormous screen, but that wears off pretty quickly when you have to lug it around an airport with you, or when you’re trying to find space on a train or airplane to get some work done.
Dual Screen Laptop Setup
An easy way around the screen issue is to set your laptop up with dual screens, using a desktop screen as well as the built-in display for when you’re working from home.
This gives you the best of both worlds because you have large screen to work on at home, and only have to rely on the smaller laptop display when you’re mobile or working away from your home office.
Always test the keyboard
There’s absolutely nothing worse in the world than buying a laptop based on specs, only to realize that typing on it is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting yourself in the hands with a hammer.
Not all laptop keyboards are created equal.
In fact, some of them leave you feeling like you’ve developed gigantism in your hands overnight.
That’s why it’s so, so important to actually test the keyboard on any laptop before you buy it.
If that’s not possible, then read as many in-depth reviews of the model as you can to find out if typing on it is comfortable or not.
Yes, you can always use an external keyboard, but you shouldn’t have to. Is the keyboard really that big a deal? It’s not if you enjoy having to retype pretty much every sentence you write on one. Apart from that it’s a pretty big deal.
What about touchscreen laptops?
Windows 8 did its best to make this technology popular with computer users, but it’s kinda died a death over the last few years.
There was a time when you’d walk into a computer store and literally every computer on display had a touchscreen, but the demise of Windows 8 (and good riddance) has left a lot of computer users wondering if laptops with touchscreens are just a gimmick, or if they’re actually useful?
If you look online you’ll find that 99% of new and refurbished laptops are shipping with Windows 7 or Windows 10.
Neither of these operating systems actively use touchscreen technology, so it doesn’t serve any real purpose in terms of how you interact with the laptop. Unless you want to go and install Windows 8 on it…
The only single reason you should buy a laptop with a touchscreen is if you have a specific need for that, which could include basic accessibility for you because you suffer from a physical impairment, or you might be a digital artist or designer who needs to interact with the screen in this way.
Apart from that you should probably avoid using laptops featuring touchscreens because they’re heavier, they’re far more expensive, and they drain laptop batteries quicker than a politician can take a bribe.
The day will come when using touchscreens on laptops and desktops makes perfect sense, but we’re just not quite there yet.
How long does the battery last?
If you need to be mobile with your laptop then battery life is an important consideration. Battery life on certain laptops can be incredibly short-lived.
Well in some cases it can be as little as 3 hours. That’s why sub-laptops and notebooks with 13-inch screens are so popular with journalists, etc – they have a battery life of anywhere from 8 to 14 hours, depending on usage.
For anyone working from home on a laptop you can stick to whatever specs you want, because you can charge it as often as you need to. For those of you who need a laptop with the longest battery life possible then you need to look at models with smaller screens, usually in the 11 to 13-inch range and a next-generation CPU.
Why get one with the latest processor?
Simply because they’re designed to drain less power when in use, and even less power when your laptop is asleep or in hibernation mode.
Here are some other tips on how you can get more from your laptop battery life.
What is a laptop docking station?
On its own your laptop provides a whole lot of flexibility and power. But what about the times when you miss using a keyboard and mouse to work on your stuff?
Or when you need more USB ports, or a way of hooking your laptop up to an external monitor.
That, folks, is when you need a docking station, or what’s also referred to as a port replicator.
A laptop docking station is a small piece of hardware that your laptop connects to, effectively converting it into a desktop computer.
These are very popular in office environments where everyone has a laptop because they need to stay mobile, or work from home, but need all the functionality of a desktop computer when they’re actually in the office.
The benefits of a docking station include being able to connect a keyboard and mouse to your laptop, dedicated Ethernet ports to physically connect to a network (far more secure than using any type of Wi-Fi connection).
You can also connect an external monitor, instantly giving you a dual screen setup , plus you get access to additional ports for speakers, headphones or USB devices.
What type of docking station or port replicator you can use varies from laptop to laptop, but it’s worth getting one as part of a laptop bundle when you buy it.
Doing this gives you the additional peace of mind of knowing that you own the right docking station for your laptop, as opposed to some piece of generic junk that gives you nothing but hardware headaches.