Best laptops for working from home

·13-min read
 (Samsung)
(Samsung)

So, you’re working from home? Well, you’re far from alone on that score.

Since the ongoing pandemic made the idea of commuting on public transport with hundreds of strangers and then hanging around offices with colleague who also just made the journey in via train or bus with an equal number of strangers something of a constant self-isolation risk, the decision to work from home full- or part-time has become increasingly attractive to many.

Of course, there are also terrible skivers who just want to sleep in and enjoy a) the comforts of their own home rather than the discomforts of the office, and b) want to drink as much coffee as they like without it costing a fiver per cup from some overpriced high street bean-dealer, but each to their own.

Personally, as a freelance writer and editor these past 10 years, nothing has changed for me and my daily commute from bed to shower to home office is as varied as it ever was, with the only real change being a measured increase in my waistline, a pile of dead printers and, every so often, a shiny new laptop on which to work my words.

Which brings us to the point. If your company is not providing some sub-standard lappy for you and you get to pick your own, which of the current bevy of beautiful options is worthy of you, your work and, of course, your cash? Well, as luck would have it, I too am in the market for a new home-working workhorse and, as such, I’ve recently been feverishly testing and forming opinions on some of the very latest editions to the laptoposphere (as absolutely nobody calls it) for both myself and, you, the beloved readers of ES Best.

So, taking space availability, budget and pure, roaring processing power into account, what might be right for you? Come on, let’s go to work…

Dell XPS 17

Best for: Going big and going home

Dell’s XPS range of laptops have garnered quite the praise amongst owners and difficult-to-please tech writers alike, so the opportunity to get my eager hands on the new XPS 17 for review was an absolute no-brainer; and – spoiler alert – the hype was more than justified.

Okay, as you may have guessed the ‘17’ here refers to the screen size, being as it is a whopping 17.0-inches on the diagonal and some 9-inches tall. And most of that is all razor-sharp UHD anti-glare touchscreen finery too (non-touch options are available), thanks to Dell’s InfinityEdge display. The keyboard, meanwhile, is uncluttered and the trackpad huge and very responsive, making it very easy to navigate and comfortable to work on even over prolonged periods.

So, all good on the outside, but what’s under the hood? Well, you’ll be pleased to read that Dell hasn’t skipped on the details. Here, in the review model configuration (lower and higher spec options are available), lies an eight-core 11th Generation Intel Core i7 with 24MB Cache, up to 4.60GHz, a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR, 16 Gig of memory, 512GB storage, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, some killer stereo tweeter and woofer array speakers, and for those ever-awaiting video conferences, a 720p camera and digital microphones.

With a starting weight (for the touchscreen review model) of 2.42kg, I admit it’s a bit of a beast and I wouldn’t want to have to lug it around for too long, but for working from home it’s a slice of laptop perfection, powerful in all the right places for the daily grind and more than up for a bit of play afterwards too.

 (Dell XPS)
(Dell XPS)

£2,399 | Dell

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Best for: Portable power around the home

Because not everyone has the luxury of a room set aside for a home office, many will work from kitchen tables, coffee tables (very bad for your posture, by the way) and some will even use their laptop in the most literal of senses, on their lap. If this is you then you need something that’s both small and light and yet utterly capable of doing the business; which is where the diminutively dynamic Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano excels.

Weighing in at just over 900g, this super-slim supermodel of the ultraportable laptop world is small but perfectly formed and specced (from the standard model, customisation is available) to be a performance powerhouse.

Boasting a Dolby Vision 2K display, the base model comes with a furiously fast 11th Gen Intel Core i5 1130G7 processor, clocking 1.8GHz or up to 4.0GHz with Turbo Boost, 16GB memory, 512GB storage, Windows 10 OS and integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, meaning it runs like a freshly greased-up Usain Bolt, no matter how heavy your use is.

Naturally, as this is now very much the age of endless Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc., video conferences, the ThinkPad X1 Nano features a slick IR and 720p HD camera with, again because we’re living in the age of endless Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc., video conferences a handy PrivacyShutter to avoid any accidental on-screen nudity or such. Plus, with no fewer than four 360-degree far-field mics, you’ll never struggle to be heard, so bear that in mind too.

Throw in a Dolby Atmos Speaker System with two upward-firing tweeters and two downward-firing woofers for absolutely audacious audio during your downtime, WiFi 6, optional 4 and 5G, fingerprint access and even Human-presence detection that locks the laptop down when you move away, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is the working from home gift that just keeps giving.

 (Lenovo)
(Lenovo)

£2,319.99 | Lenovo

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel

Best for: The home-working creative

There is something inherently graceful about the Acer ConceptD Ezel. Perhaps it’s the crisp, almost tranquil all-white finish. Maybe it is the way the equally crisp Ultra HD touchscreen tilts forwards to pivot on its slender neck. Or possibly it’s the beautifully uncluttered, minimalist design. Whatever it is, it’s swan-like. And just like those famous arm-breakers of the avian world, while all effortlessly idyllic on the surface, beneath is a furiously kicking engine-house of raw power.

Well, maybe not ‘raw power’, but rather a Windows 10-runner with a mighty eight-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor (up to 5.1GHz in the top model), 16GB of RAM, from 512GB up to 1TB SSD storage, and a potent NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU to keep the gamers happy. But what make the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel the tool for home workers within the creative field is that the combination of the included Wacom EMR pen and the striking 4K UHD PANTONE Validated display (14- or 15.6-inches) that covers 100 per cent of the Adobe colour gamut, allowing graphic designers to draw directly on the anti-glare Corning Gorilla Glass 6 display with pinpoint colour accuracy.

Of course, there is still the team or client side of business to take into account, for which the Acer offers up an integrated HD (720p) webcam with microphone and stereo speakers, so there’s no dodging those Zoom meets.

A bit of a chunk at nearly 2.5kg, this is definitely a machine best used on a desk, but then, as it performs with all the power and precision of a desktop computer, it’ll be right at home.

With WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, a plethora of ports, a backlit keyboard and a surprisingly decent battery life of 12-13 hours, the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel, the terrible mangling of the word ‘easel’ aside, is an all-rounder home-working wonder in white.

 (Acer)
(Acer)

£2,799.99 | Box

Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360

Best for: Heavyweight work in a lightweight form

Slick, slimline and a little bit sexy are not only all words that begin with ‘s’, but also all words that work exceptionally well when it come to describing the stunningly lightweight (1.39kg) Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 that I currently have sat before me, quickly convincing me to part with my money.

Finished in a colour Sammy enticingly describes as ‘Mystic Navy’ and bundled with the firm’s latest ‘S’ Pen stylus, the 15.6-inch Full HD Super AMOLED touchscreen is a highly responsive joy to scrawl on, and this 360° backward folding (tablet convertible) version of the Galaxy Book Pro comes with Intel’s hot 11th Gen Core i7 chip at its heart, clocking in at 2.8GHz and featuring integrated Intel Xe graphics for smooth, speedy performance.

In other specs, there is some 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage. The Samsung also comes with Windows 10 Home as its OS, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 2x USB Type-C ports, Dolby Atmos audio dealt out through dual speakers, a 720p webcam for video calls and cheeky selfies, a backlit keyboard and fingerprint scanner security, and up to 20-hours of battery life.

When you’re spending all day every day working with a laptop (as with any constant colleague), it’s all about the user-experience, and – speaking if only for myself – if you’re going to be stuck in a small room writing a review of the well-specced, super-fast, little bit sexy Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 is absolutely the laptop to do it on.

 (Samsung)
(Samsung)

£1,399 | Samsung

Dynabook Portégé X30W-J

Best for: Keeping productivity light and tight

Having recently looked at a handful of the very latest 360° convertible touchscreen laptops for ES Best, I foolishly missed out on manhandling (reviewing) the brand new Portégé X30W-J from Dynabook; but I’m pleased to announce that no such error in judgement has been made this time!

The world’s lightest 13.3-inch convertible weighs in at just 989g. Despite this feeble mass, the Portégé X30W-J (we’ll ignore the unattractive designation) offers 11th Gen Intel Core processors in either i5 or i7 iteration, a choice of 8-, 16- or 32GB RAM, another option of 256GB, 512GB pr 1TB of storage, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, Harman Kardon stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos, a frameless full-size backlit keyboard, ports aplenty, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 and a Full HD Camera with Touch Auto Focus and noise-cancelling dual mics. All at the weight of less than a bag of sugar!

Then there’s the 2-in-1 aspect that allows the non-reflective Full HD Touch display to bend back like some lithe laptop contortionist, letting you switch from laptop to tablet format in the blink of an eye. And whilst the heft of other such 2-in-1 options can make them a little unwieldy in the hand, not so with the Portégé X30W-J, which, as I may have already mentioned in passing, weighs less than a bag of sugar.

Fast in action, undeniably flexible and, of course, ultraportable, the Dynabook Portégé X30W-J delivers a lot of home working oomph for a reasonable entry price, and it weighs less than… wait, no, I’ve said that.

 (Dynabook)
(Dynabook)

£1,190 | Box

Dell Latitude 9420

Best for: Those always on the job

Designed from the base up by the Productivity Department elves at Dell purely for business-loving workaholics who just can’t keep away from work, the new Latitude 9420 is nothing if not an absolute hardcore workhorse of a machine.

Open it up and there’s everything you need: a 14-inch QHD touchscreen display, keyboard, palm rest, fingerprint scanner, camera, two top firing speakers and two bottom firing speakers, and four noise-cancelling microphones. Get to work.

Spec-wise there are, naturally, options. The model before me features an 11th Gen Intel i7 processor and comes with 16GB RAM, 512GB of storage and Intel Iris Xe Graphics… but there’s much more to it than that when it comes to getting the job done.

Intel Visual Sensing Technology knows to open up when it ‘sees’ you and lock down when it doesn’t, the camera comes with Temporal Noise Reduction so that you always look your brightest/sharpest on video calls, while Intel Image Signal Processor works away enhancing colours and contrast. Add to this Intelligent Audio, which improves audio quality and reduces background noises so you can hear and be heard in conferences regardless of what merry hell the kids/pets are creating in the background.

This heavy conferencing bent is also protected by SafeShutter, laptop-land’s first automatic shutter which knows when to open and close for added privacy. You can even take of it with keyboard mute keys, cutting off sound and vision for everyone else in the call instantly. You DO have authority here, Jackie Weaver!

Then there’s Intel Adapti Technology, which prioritises your most important apps, so they open faster and perform better, and ExpressConnect which always seeks out the strongest Wi-Fi signal and then goes on to slate bandwidth availability in favour of conferencing applications.

So, as you can see from this exhaustive list of specs and features (not even mentioning WiFi 6, ample ports for all, and backlit keyboard for late night labour) when it comes to doing the business, the Dell Latitude has all the attitude.

 (Dell)
(Dell)

£ 1,736.80 | Dell

HP ZBook Firefly G8

Best for: Laptop slave-drivers

Setting out its no-nonsense approach to work procrastination right from the word go, the ZBook Firefly G8 from HP has been conceived and created for people who push the typical business PC past its breaking point. Which almost tells you all you need to know, but as I get paid to say more than that, you’re going to have to sit tight.

Available with a 14- or 15.6-inch FHD, touch or non-touch screen and weighing just 1.34kg (the 14-inch review model, that is, the 15.6-incher takes that up to 1.7kg) and packing a choice of 11th Gen quad-core Intel i processor with speed up to 4.7GHz, graphics options up to NVIDIA T500 with 4GB of video memory, from 512GB up to a whopping 2TB of storage, and 16GB of RAM, with creatives, architects and designers in mind, akin to the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel, the Firefly G8 features a PANTONE Validated display for true colour fidelity, while the clever ZCentral Remote Boost takes business collaboration to the next level by allowing remote access of desktop workstations at the office in real-time.

When it comes to protecting your business secrets, this HP is more secure than British Intelligence, with a physical webcam shutter, a fingerprint scanner, and if you opt for the IR webcam config, Windows Hello facial recognition. All that sits alongside HP Sure Start self-healing BIOS which protects your system from malware.

With WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Bang & Olufsen-tuned stereo speakers, webcam and mic, and more ports than you could shake a USB Type-C at all present and correct too, plus a build quality that feels like it could survive an atomic blast, and the HP ZBook Firefly G8 – with its wonderfully comfortable, redesigned, backlit keyboard making even massively over-word count review writing easy on the fingertips – a real boon to business in any home office.

 (HP)
(HP)

£1666.80 | HP

Verdict

Picking one predominant option out of this little lot is no easy task – almost akin to picking a favourite child. However, based on my own heavy usage of laptops – and in an ideal world where I could afford it – I would have to plump for the Dell XPS 17 as my ideal digital work-buddy. Substantial screen size and processing power make for comfortable working and, as I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated home office complete with over-sized desk, the risk of severe back trauma caused by the sheer heft can be mercifully avoided.

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