What's the Better Buy: a Consumer or a Business Laptop?

Four Reasons to Buy a Consumer Laptop

Despite the many advantages of business laptops, we can still cite several reasons why you might want to stick with a consumer model.

Ability to test drive before you buy: It's not common to find business laptops in stock at, say, Best Buy or other retail establishments. This is a problem if you want to inspect a laptop before purchase. If you want to see how a laptop looks and feels, many more consumer models are available for you try out than business ones.

More selection and styles: Similarly, there's a lot more selection with consumer laptops than with business ones. Want a girly pink laptop? No problem. A gaming laptop that's under an inch thick? Okay. Anything from a tiny netbook to an 18-inch laptop? Or something that costs under $500? You'll find a wide range of laptop styles, sizes, and types on the consumer side to suit your tastes and needs. That is not as true with business laptops.

More premium features now available: Consumer laptops are being built better and better every year, especially powerful entertainment laptops. Models like the HP Pavilion dv6t, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y470, and the Asus U36SG--all mentioned above--offer discrete graphics cards for better video performance, HDMI for connecting to your TV, and bright HD displays.

And a category like Ultrabooks--the new class of ultrathin laptops--is largely targeted at consumers. Most models in this category sport high-performance solid-state drives, long-lasting batteries, and premium build materials, as well as some added security features like remote lock and location tracking.

Lower cost and (sometimes) better specs for the money: Business laptops tend to cost more than their consumer counterparts, and often you can get consumer laptops on sale with many instant discounts and free upgrades.

The consumer-oriented HP Pavilion dv6t.
For example, the HP Pavilion dv6t was recently offered at $580 after an instant rebate of $100 at the HP Home and Home Office Store, plus a free 6GB memory upgrade and a free 640GB hard-drive upgrade.

Meanwhile, in the Business store, HP offered the ProBook 4530s for $589 in a "Smart Buy" preconfiguration with just 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive--no extras thrown in. Build-to-order options in the business section can be even pricier. The HP ProBook 4530s starts at a whopping $1353 if you want to configure it yourself rather than buy a preconfigured model.

Of course, a price advantage for consumer models doesn't always hold, depending on when and where you shop. Sometimes the prices between consumer and business laptops are comparable, or the business laptops cost even less, so it makes sense to shop around.

Why You Should Shop Both the Consumer and Business Departments

In the end, there's no reason to limit yourself to just the "home and home office" laptop section. It's a good idea to see if there's a business version of the consumer laptop you're interested in. Sometimes laptop vendors will even have a business model that's the exact same laptop, with just a few differences--ones that you might be interested in.

The Toshiba Portege R830 series is one example. This ultraportable is available as the Portege R835 for consumers in several configurations and as the Portege R830, which is "built for business."

The Toshiba Portege R830 business laptop.
The business-oriented Portege R830 is priced at about $250 more than the R835, but for that premium, you get:

  • The Windows 7 Professional operating system instead of Windows Home Premium
  • A matte, antiglare display rather than your typical glossy screen
  • A three-year warranty versus the R835's standard one-year warranty
  • Additional security features, such as a fingerprint reader and a TPM security module for encrypting your laptop's data

The Portege R830 is also the only model of the two that you can configure to your specifications, such as choice of processor, amount of memory, a choice of drives (such as a 7200-rpm hard drive or up to a 512GB solid-state drive), and more.

A matte display, longer warranty, more security, and more configuration options. All you have to decide is whether these features are worth the extra money to you.

If they are not, then, in this example, buy the consumer-oriented Portege R835.

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