Buyer's guide to Office Laptops

Over the past decade the laptop has replaced the desktop as our main computing device, particularly as more people work from home and hot desk.

The business laptop must cope with basic email and web browsing, as well as run sophisticated business applications. It also needs to be light enough to carry around and have a long battery life.

It’s a good idea to look at how a laptop performs with Microsoft Office. It should be able to create a simple Word document, manipulate data in a large Excel spreadsheet and display multimedia PowerPoint presentations on a projector.

Which laptop you choose depends on your main requirements, and always involves compromise: the more powerful the processor, the shorter the battery life; the bigger the screen, the heavier the device. We’ve pulled out the main features to consider and our quick info panel provides an at-a-glance guide to machine specifications.

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Performance Features Design Features
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Operating system

Which applications the laptop can run are decided by the operating system (OS). Apple Mac-based devices are high-end but may not run every application. Microsoft Windows-based devices have millions of applications written for them and the OS is familiar to most employees. Chrome and Android-based laptops are best for users looking to do simple web and email applications and who have guaranteed internet connectivity.

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Memory and processor

The processor determines how fast applications like Microsoft Office run. Generally the more cores available, the more powerful the laptop and the less time you spend waiting. The laptop’s memory – measured in GB – decides how many applications you can run simultaneously as well as the laptop’s speed loading and moving between them.

An Intel Core i5 processor should be adequate for running Microsoft Office. More processor-intensive packages such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) require an Intel Core i7 processor.

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Next, consider storage. How many files, pictures, emails and videos you can store is determined by the storage capacity measured in GB/TB. If you frequently work away from the office, or plan on using your laptop as a desktop, then a minimum 500GB hard drive is essential. Protect against accidents from dropping your device by choosing a Solid State Drive (SSD), which has no moving parts.

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For taking the laptop into meetings or working away from your office, you’ll need a reasonable battery life, otherwise you’ll be forever carrying a cable and charger.

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Also consider your laptop’s connectivity. You’ll need to connect to the home network and the internet. An Ethernet connection will connect you to the wired network in your office. Wi-Fi lets you connect wirelessly to local Wi-Fi access points and to wireless devices such as printers. If you’re going to be away from Wi-Fi hotspots, or you need a secure internet connection, buy a laptop that comes with a mobile broadband connection which gives full coverage wherever a mobile data signal is available.

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If it’s only going to be used for occasional mobile use and/or as a main desktop replacement, consider adding a second external monitor with an external keyboard and mouse, and a docking station if you don’t want to continually plug and unplug leads. If you’re using a secondary screen, buy a laptop that matches the screen resolution so you can have multiple applications on screen.

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Screen size

Screen size is important if you’re using your laptop on the road or as a portable desktop. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to switch between applications, but a 14-15-inch screen should be enough for most applications. A larger screen means a heavier laptop and reduced battery life.


Chromebooks are designed to work with web apps and are quick to boot up – less than 10 seconds – and resume instantly. The Chrome operating system is designed to be always up-to-date and secure. Updates are downloaded and installed automatically, and data is stored in the cloud rather than on the device, to maintain security. Additionally, the management console allows IT departments to manage and control user, device and app policies across a fleet of Chromebooks.

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