Laptops used to be expensive and cumbersome machines but no more, as they have become the staple of many a business environment, and can often be seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their desktop counterparts in many offices. After all, the current crop of laptops offer comparable processing power and storage benefits to that of a desktop PC but with the added benefit of taking up less space, being portable enough to carry around to meetings and, should you need it, they can even be locked away at night.  

This popularity can be seen in the wide array of options now on offer in the laptop segment. You'll find everything from colourful consumer machines aimed at the home user, to slim laptops with Mobile Broadband built-in, ideal for the busy mobile traveller.

It's worth bearing in mind that laptops are often chosen by the size of their screen, as the larger the machine the heavier but more fully-featured it will tend to be. For those looking to replace a desktop PC there are fully-connected machines with 18.4-inch screen size, while at the other end of the extreme, the latest ultra-portable machines come with screen sizes as small as 11- and even 10.1-inch in size.

No matter what size or shape of laptop you opt for you'll find they all come with the same array of basic features. If you're not too sure what your laptop needs, we've put together this handy guide. 

Key features of every laptop

Processor: The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is often thought of as the brain of the computer. The rule of thumb when choosing any computer used to be always to choose the one with the fastest processor. However, when it comes to mobility, it also pays to look for the most power efficient.

The latest crop of mobile processors from both Intel and AMD, the two largest suppliers, are referred to as dual-core processors, as they come with two processing cores on the same piece of silicon. This means your laptop can process twice as much information at the same time, saving you time and battery life.

RAM: This acronym stands for Random Access Memory but more commonly referred to simply as Memory. It acts as a quick link between the processor and the hard drive, storing information you're currently using, as well as fetching those files it thinks you'll use next.

Typically, the more memory you have in your laptop the quicker the system will respond, allowing you to load multiple applications with no system slow down. The minimum amount of RAM you should be looking at is 2GB but modern laptops can easily handle up to 8GB. 

Hard drive: This is the heart of any laptop; it stores everything from the operating system to your installed programs, as well as all the important files and folders you carry around. The hard drive capacity defines how much stuff you can store on it and we'd recommend opting for at least 500GB of storage space.

Screen Size: The size of your laptop will often be determined by the size of its screen. These can range from 10.1 inches for the most portable and ultra-slim of laptops, up to full desktop replacement models with screens larger than 20 inches. It pays to consider where and how you'll use your laptop, so that you buy a machine best suited to you and your business needs.

Connectivity: No matter how much, or little, you spend on your business laptop you'll find that Wi-Fi will be integrated, so can be used with the office wireless LAN or with hotspots in cafes and other offices. However, integrated 3G is still something of a luxury but worth considering if you want you check email on the go.

Warranties: This is a guarantee that it will work for a defined period of time. All laptops are covered by a 12-month guarantee but you can always pay for an extension, typically to three years. Prices vary depending on the level of service you require, with RTB (Return To Base) being the cheapest, while Next Day on Site the most expensive, and personal, of services. 

Top Five Business Laptops

Asus U31JG
This stylish ultra-portable comes with a brushed aluminium finish and a specification that is ideal for use on the move, or in the office. 
Price: £699
Processor: Intel Core i5 460M
Hard drive: 500GB
Memory: 4GB 
Screen Size: 13.3-inch
Weight: 1.9kg
Contact: Asus UK
http://uk.asus.com/

Dell Vostro 3550
This latest model from the business range comes with a 15.6-inch screen, making it ideal as a desktop replacement, while the high-end processor makes it particularly future-proof.
Price: £1175 
Processor: Intel Core i7 2620M
Hard drive: 500GB
Memory: 4GB
Screen Size: 15.6-inch
Weight: 2.7kg
Contact: Dell UK
www.dell.co.uk

HP TouchSmart TM2
Combining the touchscreen display of a laptop but the full-sized keyboard of a laptop, the TouchSmart offers you the best of both modern worlds.
Price: £699
Processor: Intel Pentium U5400
Hard drive: 320GB
Memory: 3GB 
Screen Size: 12.1-inch 
Weight: 2kg 
Contact: HP
www.hp.com/uk

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 
Small but incredibly well built, you'll find this super-lightweight laptop comes with a great battery life and all the features you'd expect from a modern machine.
Price: £599
Processor: Intel Core i3 380UM
Hard drive: 320GB
Memory: 4GB 
Screen Size: 11.6-inch 
Weight: 1.5kg
Contact: Lenovo UK 
www.lenovo.com/uk/en/

Toshiba Tecra M11–17W 
Currently the best business machine from Toshiba, you'll find everything from integrated 3G to a fingerprint scanner for enhanced security.
Price: £999
Processor: Intel Core i5 560M 
Hard drive: 320GB 
Memory: 4GB 
Screen Size: 14-inch 
Weight: 2.5kg
Contact: Toshiba UK 
www.toshiba.co.uk/

*All prices are approximate and will vary – they were correct at time of writing and include VAT.