Finding the best laptop for remote work is a big decision, especially when you consider how popular the work-from-home lifestyle has become in the last two years. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, just 20 percent of workers did their jobs from a home office or coffee shop.
That changed to 71 percent in just over a year.
Remote workers come in a variety of industries. Each has its own set of tools that are vital to the jobs that they do.
There are crossover tools (think spreadsheets and word processors), as well as specialized programs (proprietary software meant to serve a specific industry). To meet each need adequately, hardware is vital.
In all, there are seven specific focus areas that you’ll want to use as a litmus test for the machine you choose to purchase. Let’s look closer at each one. In this article, we look at the factors to look at when selecting the best laptop for remote work, as well as our top picks.
The most commonly used tool for workers of any type, onsite or off, is the internet. Internet processing speeds must come in at a minimum of 25 Mbps, and the higher the better.
Your laptop will need a high-speed processor to keep up and get the most out of connectivity times. What constitutes a good processor? The Intel Core series, i3 through i9, are used in most Windows-based computers.
The higher the series, the faster. AMD also makes a series of chips appealing to the budget-conscious without losing much of the Intel speed. Look for Athlon, Ryzen, and A series as a guide.
The great thing about remote work is that it can be done from almost anywhere. If you enjoy sitting in a home office or the kitchen table, knock yourself out.
Coffee shops more your speed? There are more than 63,000 in the United States alone. That’s more than 1,200 per US state. If you want to work outside the US as remote work allows, you’ll have even more from which to choose.
But as you make your decision, keep in mind that screen size could limit you or at least make the digital nomad lifestyle more difficult. For that reason, many remote professionals prefer a smaller screen size.
If you do plan on staying around the house, however, a larger screen (up to 17 inches or more) becomes a viable option. There aren’t really any “right” or “wrong” answers as screen size has little to do with under-hood performance.
Another factor to focus on when it comes to picking the best laptop for remote work is the available memory. A computer’s memory determines how fast it can execute commands and boot up the machine.
Essentially, it’s one of your most important numbers, especially if your job is technology-intensive. So, how is memory measured, and how can you tell the good from the bad?
Memory is measured in gigabytes, and many of the computers on the market run at anywhere from 4GB to 128GB. At 128GB, you’re dealing with serious horsepower. Great for operations, but you’ll pay for it, too!
The key is to find the most efficient memory necessary for the operations that you will need to perform. If you just do a lot of typing and basic internetwork, 4GB could serve you just fine and at a fraction of the cost.
Know what your work requires. Then, adjust the build or purchase of your computer accordingly.
Operating systems are always in flux. There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is security.
The OS of a computer is how it works to accomplish the tasks you command, and how it then assists in keeping that data stable and secure. To keep a machine secure, it should always be running the latest available software.
That said, we can point out some great operating systems right now. Linux is an open-source OS that has been around for decades. It’s customizable, secure, and free, though you might need a little more tech know-how to get the most out of it.
Windows 10 and 11 are also up-to-date operating systems from Windows that still receive a lot of good developer attention. Google’s ChromeOS is another.
We won’t endorse one over the other. We only mention them to say that each can work great for your specific purposes. If you’re secure in your DIY-ness, try Linux; otherwise, stick with the latest proprietary labels.
One factor that can affect the pricing of a laptop is hard drive storage. This too is measured in gigabytes, or even terabytes (TB, equal to 1,000GB).
It’s the part of the machine that keeps all of your files secure and queues them up whenever you need access. The higher the number, the more it will cost you.
You might want a machine with smaller storage for cost purposes. This becomes an even more viable option when you consider the use of services like Dropbox, OneDrive, or iCloud.
However, machines with lots of storage space are beneficial because they provide less lag time in producing documents once you click on them. Furthermore, your data stays with you instead of being in the hands of a third-party provider.
The graphics card is an important component of any computer. It determines what type of framerate your computer can produce. That becomes a pretty big deal if your remote work requires the use of video calls or software animation.
As graphics cards go, the biggest player in town (and they have been for a number of years) is NVIDIA. They’re preferred among gamers, which may or may not be a big deal to someone doing remote work.
Other viable alternatives include the Intel Iris Xe and the ARM and AMD Radeon cards. The higher the framerate, the better the overall performance.
Ergonomic and Productivity Features
There are other features that can add to the convenience and productivity of a remote employee. These can include any of the following:
- Numeric keypad
- Convertibility from touch to keyboard
You can make your choice from hundreds of laptops that have one or more of these options. The main question to answer is this. Which ones make you a better worker?
As you get ready to work from home, you’ll want to explore each of the options above, but don’t stop there. See if the promise of your final selections equates to performance.
How do you do that? Look to five key areas.
There are two ways of looking at reviews. Give each one a shot. First, see what the consensus is.
Are the laptops consistently ranking between four and five stars on a scale of five? If so, how many reviewers have weighed in?
Once you’ve done that math, start reading some of the reviews themselves, particularly the three-star reviews. As Libby Kane notes, these tend to be the most insightful and honest.
- Friends and Family Members
Friends and family members are some of the best people to listen to regarding the reliability of a product. That’s because they tend to have the same sensibilities as you.
After all, one shares your genetics. The other, you chose for your life. You all tend to see things the same way.
A glowing review from one of them on a specific brand (or a bad one) will likely ring true in your own personal experience. Not always true, but it’s at least true enough to where their opinions are worth listening to.
- Brand Reputation
A work laptop will get a lot of heavy use. You’re going to be on it a minimum of eight hours per day. It’s not unusual that it might have a shorter lifespan than a personal computer.
That said, there are certain brands that companies swear by for their performance, efficiency, and longevity. Don’t take too many chances with your work. Trust in names like Lenovo, Google, Windows, and Apple.
- What You Are Comfortable Using
Most personal computers follow a specific set of gestures, keyboard commands, and other controls. Apple, on the other hand, has a significant barrier to entry if one is crossing over from the Windows world.
Since many offices rely on personal computers for creating and transmitting data, you may wish to choose a machine that “plays nice” with other work computers. But ultimately, it’s about what your company allows and what you prefer.
- Your Budget
Finally, cost is always a factor. You can get a laptop for thousands of dollars, or for $200 or $300. Each can be perfect for your work situation depending on what you need it for.
Determine the features and speed that you’ll need. Then, try to align the best of those features with the budget you have and use a site like LaptopBlogger to find the perfect laptop.
Best Laptop for Remote Work
We’ve covered the types of features that will matter to you the most as a remote employee. We’ve also given you a framework for how you can narrow down your list. It’s time to look at our picks for the best laptop for remote work:
1. ThinkPad X1
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon makes our best laptop list for a few reasons. One, it transforms to anticipate every need that you might have.
It’s a touchscreen, a laptop, and a machine that anticipates cyberthreats with a fingerprint reader and far-field voice responsiveness. Plus, it’s got the horsepower businesses need for less than $1,000.
2. ThinkPad E15 Gen 2
The E15 series delivers the goods when it comes to business performance. Its 15-inch screen makes for a clearer and more colorful display with a high-functioning graphics card.
With 16GB of memory, boot-up is quick, so you can get busy as soon as possible. Battery life goes for more than 12 hours, and pricing stays well south of $1,000.
3. IdeaPad 3i Intel
Gaming laptop makes great use of its NVIDIA card. That might not matter to the remote worker on the surface, but it should.
Let’s say you work in an industry that requires a lot of video conferencing or proprietary software use. Animations, images, and graphics are important to the work that you do, in other words.
A gaming quality laptop has the power to deliver when and where you need it. The IdeaPad 3i series is that laptop.
4. Yoga Gen 6
Aptly named, the Yoga Gen 6 is another 2-in-1 transformer laptop with a colorful 13-inch screen and lots of versatility. You can switch back and forth with no lag time thanks to the powerful AMD chip.
It travels easy, is lightweight, and aesthetically pleasing in a way that makes working on it a joy. If you’ve got to be working anyway, you might as well enjoy the device you’re using for it!
5. Legion 5i Pro
The Legion 5i Pro is a high-end laptop appropriate for the remote worker who does graphic design, video editing, and video or audio conferencing. It features large memory and storage limits, so program functionality and data security are never problems.
Some models come with as much as 2TB of storage and feature NVIDIA graphics cards with 16GB of memory. Last but not least, it’s a lightweight machine, making portability easier for the larger screen size of 16 inches.
6. ThinkBook 15 Gen 3
The ThinkBook 15 series is specially designed for business professionals. It’s strong on graphics and memory, which means fast wake times and even faster functionality.
The 15-inch screen is a joy to use. That’s true whether you’re in the traditional laptop setting or you decide to go touchscreen. It’s also one of the better-priced performance models in the Lenovo arsenal.
7. Chromebook Duet
The Chromebook Duet is a joy to use at just 10.1 inches of diagonal screen, and a unique design that makes switching from touch to keyboard seamless. Versions with the pen included can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.
Memory is at 4GB, which makes for a boot-up time of less than 10 seconds. From there, it’s off to the races.
The ChromebookOS operating system ensures that updates are made routinely in the background, so it doesn’t affect performance. Simultaneously, it gives the Duet an Apple-level reputation against viruses, so you don’t have to worry about losing work.
Finding the Best Laptop for Remote Work Depends On You
What constitutes the best laptop for remote work in your eyes? Is it cost, adaptability, technical features, or just something that can meet the base needs of what your current position is?
Once you’ve determined the motivating factors, you’ll have plenty to choose from. For more technology articles and tips, check out some of our additional posts!