For entrepreneurs who don't want to live tethered to a desk but need more than a smartphone, laptops are still the way to go. Features you can expect to find in all business laptops are built-in Wi-Fi, a one-year warranty and a touch pad or touch pad/point stick combination for navigation. With so many models to choose from, we picked just a few from each category for a closer look, so check the chart below for more.
For starters, tablet PCs are having a bit of a resurgence, with established brands like Toshiba's PortÃ©gÃ© getting freshened up. Its R400, which recently hit the market, is a bit pricier than new entries like Lenovo's ThinkPad X60 Tablet. A balance of power and portability, our Lenovo test model came fully stocked with a 1.83GHz Core Duo processor, 2GB RAM and a 120GB hard drive, enabling the X60 to handle the more demanding versions of Vista without feeling pokey. And it all fits in a smartly designed package that can slim down to as little as 3.76 pounds with a 12.1-inch display. Despite its compact size, the keyboard is comfortable enough for any touch-typer, and the minijoystick near your index finger provides a convenient mouse alternative. The X60 lacks a built-in optical drive--a problem solved by pairing it with Lenovo's $180 Ultrabase for desktop use when you install software. Also look into the new Gateway C200 Ultraportable Convertible, a 4.5-pound alternative that has an integrated optical drive.
For those needing more visibility, the 14.1-inch widescreen display of the Hewlett-Packard Compaq nc6400 laptop makes for comfortable viewing--and it still weighs just 4.4 pounds (with the weight-saver battery). The built-in speakers are surprisingly decent, and the fingerprint reader gives extra security. At $1,649, the nc6400 is not only affordable--it also includes a three-year warranty.
If your trips take you to any rugged environs, Twinhead's Durabook S14Y offers the durability of a magnesium alloy case, bumpered corners, DVD burner disc tray lock and an uncluttered keyboard area. The Core 2 Duo 2GHz processor and 1GB RAM handle the power-hungry Vista just fine. And it weighs in at a reasonable 5.73 pounds.
Not in the chart but worth checking into are the Sony VAIO line of extremely portable machines with strong multimedia capabilities and the Fujitsu LifeBook models ranging from tablets to desktop replacements with 15-inch displays. Apple's MacBook Pro line is also making a strong business case these days. The addition of Intel processors has made it possible to run both Mac and Windows OSes on the same laptop.
You can either purchase a prefab portable or customize to your heart's content. A few suggested features to spring for include at least 1GB RAM (a must if you're running Vista) and a three-year warranty. Accidental damage warranties can be pricey, but they'll cover you if you spill your coffee or drop your laptop. Consider one if you're investing in a high-end machine. Otherwise, accessorize with a padded laptop case, and hit the road.