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14 Business Laptops that Raised the Bar in 2019

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By Jeffrey Schwartz

It’s a good time to be in the market for a new laptop. The systems introduced in 2019 are decidedly thinner, lighter and more secure than the models they replaced. Every model year typically gives OEMs an opportunity to add more battery life and introduce the latest in CPUs and graphics processors, and this year was no exception. But many of the latest premium devices now offer faster wireless LAN capability by supporting the new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard, and other new features designed to improve productivity, content creation and entertainment.

Shipments of PCs in the third quarter grew a modest 1.1%, according to Gartner, though in the U.S. they were effectively flat (actually, a 0.3% decline). PC shipments tend to pick up in the fourth quarter, buoyed by the holiday gift-giving season, with an added boost among companies in the 11th hour of their migrations from Windows 7 to Windows 10 before Jan. 14 when mainstream support for the latter is scheduled to end. Whether you’re in the market for yourself or for a customer looking to refresh their laptops, these 14 are all worthy of consideration.

Scroll through the gallery below for some of the best laptops of 2019.

Datapipe's Robb Allen
Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1

Dell this year completely revamped its Latitude line of laptops starting with the newly engineered 7400 convertible 2-1 PC. First previewed at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Latitude 7400 is one-quarter smaller than its predecessor and now weighs just 3 pounds. Dell officials said they were able to shed some weight and mass from the systems by eliminating the thick bezels, almost rivaling those of the notoriously think XPS 13 panels. The Latitude 7400 is made with a new Titan Gray aluminum, has curved edges and a magnesium alloy undercover. To create the four-sided narrow bezel, the device has a drop hinge and a new thermal design footprint using material called GORE. Dell claims the new Latitude supports more than 26 hours of runtime on a single charge, when using the 78Whr battery and support for Cat 16 gigabit LTE, which will enable 1 Gbps download speeds.
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HP Elite DragonFly

Looking to break the enterprise mobile PC mold, HP this fall started rolling out its new Elite Dragonfly, an ultrathin, premium laptop that weighs 2.2 lbs or 2.5 lbs, depending on configuration. The Elite Dragonfly is a new model in the company’s channel-focused Elite commercial line and it easily stands out with its navy blue (or what HP calls iridescent Dragonfly Blue) finish. Powered with Intel’s 8th Generation Core vPro processor, there are three 13-inch display configurations. The Elite Dragonfly offers Wi-Fi 6 wireless LAN connectivity and it can be configured with a 4G LTE option. It also comes with HP’s Sure Sense14, which uses AI to protect against malware attacks, and the company’s HP Sure Recover with Embedded Reimaging15 tool. HP claims the Elite Dragonfly’s battery can run for 24.5-hours.
Impinj's Sandy Murti
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2, introduced earlier this year at the company’s Accelerate conference in Orlando, has a 15.6-inch display and is targeted at power users who run data-intensive workloads such as CAD, video and photo editing to graphics rendering and AR/VR applications, among others. Powered with Intel’s 9th Gen Core i9 processors and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with Max-Q design, it is available with up to 4TB of storage, double the capacity of its predecessor. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 is relatively thin and light for a 15.6-inch, Windows 10 laptop, weighing 3.76 lbs. It also features a brighter optional 4K OLED touch display, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos speaker system.
Ribbon's Kevin Isacks
HP Spectre x360

HP overhauled its Spectre x360 13 2-in1 convertible with a design and performance boost that can finally take system design out of the equation when considering this system. HP finally eliminated the thick bezels that gave an otherwise standout system a dated look. The Spectre x360, which shed 13% of its size over last year’s model, has a slim form factor and weighs 2.8 lbs. Powered by Intel’s 10th Generation “Ice Lake” processor with Iris Plus Graphics, it supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) wireless LAN connectivity and optional 4x4 Gigabit LTE access. HP said it can run on battery power for 22 hours. The HP Spectre is available with an optional 4K OLED 400-nit display with True Black HDR that provides a 100,000:1 contrast ratio. Security and privacy features include the HP Webcam Kill Switch, authentication with a 2.2 mm Windows Hello IR camera and a fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck.
Telarus' Andrew Griffiths
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Dell this year redesigned its popular XPS 13 ultra-portable, 2-in-1 laptop, giving the latest model a  7% increase in screen display size, larger keys and a new camera with the same dimensions. The Dell XPS 7390 is 8% thinner and, powered with Intel’s 10th Generation “Ice Lake” core processor, delivers up a 2.5x boost in CPU performance. To accomplish the improved keyboard layout, an improved form factor, Dell changed the display aspect ratio from 16×9 to the 16×10. The new 13.4-inch display is available with either a 4K or 1920x1200 resolution panel. Dell officials said the new display provides better color accuracy and resolution and is available with FHD+ and UHD+ options. The latter panel has a HDE400 panel to support HDR content and Dolby Vision. The company said it has re-engineered the thermal design with separated dual fans to provide better coverage, and to reduce heat dissipation in order to avoid performance hits. Dell also added a thicker bezel on top of the display, allowing Dell to finally move the camera, from the bottom to the top. Reviewers have historically panned the fact that Dell had placed the camera at the bottom to accommodate ultra-thin bezels, but it created subpar videoconferencing experiences. A new camera that’s just 2.25 mm is now able to fit on top. The latest XPS 13 was also the first Dell business class system to offer new technology licensed with Eyesafe, color correction software designed to reduce harmful blue light emissions. Eyesafe’s technology filters these emissions without impacting color gamut performance. It also is the first XPS 13 with Dell’s MagLev keyboard, which offers a larger touchpad, introduced last year with the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1. Dell also added a new hinge design that aims to makes it easier to open and close. The XPS 13 also comes with Intel’s Killer Wi-Fi 6 chipset.
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Samsung Galaxy Book S

Samsung’s new Galaxy Book S was a surprise addition at the company’s fall “Unpacked” event focused on the launch of the new Galaxy Note10 smartphone line. At the event, Samsung announced an extended partnership with Microsoft, where CEO Satya Nadella made a cameo appearance with Samsung CEO DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung’s IT & mobile communications division. The new clamshell mobile PC puts a new spin on Samsung’s Galaxy line of notebooks, which are best known as 2-in-1 tablet PCs. Powered with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx compute platform, it offers gigabit LTE connectivity. Samsung claims the low-power ARM processor is gives the Galaxy Book S deliver 23 hours of continuous video playback, though offers comparable performance to an Intel Core i5 processor. It is available with up to TB of expandable storage. It features the Link to Windows capability and integrates Microsoft’s Your Phone app with the Note10. The new Galaxy Book S also works with the Note 10’s S Pen. It comes with a 13-inch 1920x1080 touch display and is available with 256GB/512GB SSDs and offers 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) wireless LAN connectivity.
Forcepoint's Lisa Schreiber
Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft’s new Surface Pro X is a more expensive but also more powerful alternative to the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Book S, though the Surface Pro X lacks the same battery life rated at only 13 hours, compared to the 23 hours Samsung has rated its new device. The performance advantage of the Surface Pro X comes from the fact that it’s the mobile Windows PC powered by Microsoft’s new SQ1 processor, which the company co-developed with Qualcomm. According to Microsoft, the LTE-based Surface Pro X is the fastest processor created to date by Qualcomm for a PC. The new tablet-PC is also considerably thinner than its predecessors, measuring just 5.33mm, and lighter, weighing 1.68 lbs. and sporting thinner bezels. It’s important to note that because the new SQ1 processor runs the Surface Pro X, it’s not designed to run 64-bit applications. It runs a version of Windows 10 optimized for ARM processors, it’s designed to run 32-bit applications, such as Office.

“It’s designed for modern workers who want to be productive and always connected,” said Robin Seiler, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for devices.

For those who use the system for more than basic word processing, email and web browsing, the new Surface Pro 7 is similar to previous models, though it is powered by the latest Intel 10th Generation Core processor and is the first with a USB-C input. If neither of those are critical, there are much better deals on the otherwise similar Surface Pro 6.
Forcepoint's Lisa Schreiber
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft’s first two Surface Laptops were rather mundane with the exception of their exceptionally crisp displays, but the company refreshed the line with the recent release of the Surface Laptop 3, are a welcome improvement. While the first two Surface Laptops were only available with the Alcantara fabric skin, which didn’t hold up well well, the new model has an aluminum option. It too has a generous 13.5 bright display and is better equipped than its predecessors with Intel 10th Generation Core processors, a USB-C input and support for the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. Perhaps most important to partners is the fact that the new Microsoft Surface Laptops can now be serviced, rather than discarded when a system needs repair. Microsoft is also offering a Surface Laptop with a 15-inch display that’s powered by AMD processors.
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Dell Latitude Chromebook

Dell this year was the first PC vendor to deliver an enterprise grade Chromebook. The new Chromebook Enterprise systems started shipping in late August in the form of two, bundled with Google Cloud’s commercial grade version of Chrome OS. The pair of Chromebooks consist of one clamshell and the other a 2-in-1 were built in partnership with Google. The Dell Latitude 5300 2-in-1 Chromebook Enterprise and the Latitude 5400 Chromebook Enterprise start at base prices of $819 and $699, respectively. Both are available with Intel 8th Generation Core i5 and i7 processors with a choice of dual or quad core CPUs and up to 16 GB or RAM and a one-year free subscription of Google Drive Enterprise storage.
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Asus Zenbook Pro Duo

In the coming year, expect to see the debut of dual-screen laptops such as the Microsoft Duo, previewed in October. Asus decided to give a preview of what’s to come with the new Asus Zenbook Pro Duo. The company first demonstrated it at the annual Computex trade show in Taipei in late May and started shipping it in September. The Zenbook Duo has a traditional display and uses about one-third of the keyboard space with a secondary display, which it calls the ScreenPad Plus, a 14-inch 4K (3840 x 1100) screen above where the keyboard sits. The main 15.6-inch screen comes with a 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED touch screen display. Powered with Intel 9th Generation Core processors, it supports up to 32GB RAM and is available with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and up to 1TB of high-speed PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD storage capacity. It’s not cheap or light, with a starting price of $2,999 and weighing in at 6.4 lbs.
Broadvoice's Kathleen Annitto
Panasonic Toughbook 55

Panasonic this fall began shipping an upgraded version of its flagship Toughbook Windows laptop, making the industrial-grade, ruggedized system much more modular. The company’s new Toughbook 55 is the first major update of Panasonic’s semi-rugged laptop in more than four years. While it maintains its overall 14-inch display form factor and support for the same mounting peripherals as its predecessor, the Toughbook 54, the new modular design of the Toughbook 55 will provide partners with more configuration options and provide easier upgrades of everything from drives, storage, memory — and even the keyboard. Panasonic, whose Toughbook line is only offered to customers through channel partners and solution providers with vertical industry expertise, said it has added 50 new features to the Toughbook. Notably, the design includes a second drive bay that now allows users to remove and insert the drive. Rather than two different batteries, the new Toughbook offers a unified, hot-swappable battery that Panasonic claims runs twice as long.
Impinj's Sandy Murti
Dell Latitude Rugged Extreme

Dell has gone deeper into the ruggedized computer market with its first Windows tablet PC designed for use in harsh environments that supports emerging Wi-Fi 6 wireless networks and Gigabit 4G LTE services. The Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme has a 12-inch display and is similar to Dell’s 7212 Rugged Extreme that the company rolled out in 2017. Dell’s 7000 series of ruggedized Latitudes are IP65-rated, meaning that they can withstand any amount of dust ingress and are protected against high-pressure water jets coming from any direction. The tablets are designed for use in the field by first responders, utility and construction workers, and others where users may frequently drop the devices and expose them to extreme temperatures and outside elements. Dell said the new 7220s received hazardous location Class 1 Div 2 certifications, which means the systems can tolerate four-foot drops and operate in -20 to 145-degree Fahrenheit temperatures. The new 7220 has passed STD-810G/H testing, according to Dell, which means military agencies can use them in the field. It fills out the portfolio of ruggedized Windows laptops and tablets that are FirstNet-ready, allowing first responders to use them on the nationwide Band 14 spectrum designed to give priority for public safety-related communications.
Apple MacBook Pro 16

Apple has added some heft to its MacBook Pro with the November release of what the company described as the most powerful notebook it has ever offered. The company has apparently determined that for those who render 3-D models, compile code, record and mix music and other pro-type activities, bigger is better, hence the introduction of the 16-inch display with P3 wide color gamut, 500 nits of brightness and a narrow-band LED-powered backlight. The new MacBook Pro can be configured with an Intel Core i9 processor with up to 8 cores and 16 threads of CPU performance and AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series graphics. Users requiring the ultimate performance can add 8 GB of GDDR6 VRAM, which Apple says will deliver up to 80% faster performance when running color grading tasks in DaVinci Resolve, compared with the Radeon Pro Vega 20. The new MacBook Pro, which not surprisingly starts at a pricey $2,399, replaces the butterfly keyboard with its popular Magic Keyboard.

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