Business laptops typically have understated but rugged bodies, and offer plenty of processing power for number crunching, graphics rendering and other demanding tasks. Reviewers say the best laptop for business is actually an Ultrabook: The Dell Latitude 6430u (Est. $900) simply blows past rivals in tests. Experts look at an upgraded version (Est. $1,300) that boots Windows 8 Pro in a scorching 10 seconds, three times faster than the average ultraportable; flies through file transfers twice as fast as average; and races through spreadsheets 25 percent faster than average.
The upgraded Latitude packs an Ultrabook-standard third-gen Intel Core i5 processor -- no Haswell processor as of this update -- 8 GB of RAM and a speedy 128 GB SSD to "help you breeze through your to-do list before quitting time," says Laptop Magazine. Business-friendly extras win critics' hearts: spill-proof seals on the 14-inch screen and super-comfortable keyboard, a user-swappable battery that lasts more than seven hours, and a fingerprint-proof, soft-touch exterior that testers can't keep their hands off of. However, it lacks a touch screen. Pre-configured versions of the 6430u are available via a host of retail sites, or you can customize the laptop's processor, memory, storage and more at Dell's site.
The 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (Est. $1,300 and up) does have a touch screen; a really nice, high-resolution one, testers say. This makes computing easier and more intuitive, especially with touch-friendly Windows 8. Lenovo is also synonymous with rock-solid reliability, and its tech support proves much better than Dell's in reviews.
The X1 Carbon Touch is nowhere near as fast as the Latitude 6430u in tests. More powerful configurations are available, but they're pricey, and battery life is mediocre at just 4.5 to 5.5 hours. Finally, the Dell has a longer three-year warranty compared to the Lenovo's one year, and the former gets a handful of important ports that the latter skips including HDMI, VGA and Ethernet. Dell's customer support has come in for criticism in the past, but the latest round of testing by Laptop Magazine shows greatly improved satisfaction in that regard.
"It's a very close call, but at the end of the day the Latitude 6430u rightfully earns our Editors' Choice for business ultrabooks" and ousts former champ Lenovo, says PCMag.com. PC World, ComputerShopper.com and other top sources agree, naming the Dell as the best business laptop.