Laptops That Last

A guide to the best rugged portables for the price
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the June 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

You drag your laptop with you everywhere you go, because you rely on it to run your business. You need something that can hold up to all that wear and tear--but you don't want to break the bank. Thankfully, major laptop makers are finally taking durability seriously when it comes to designing their notebook computers. Features that were once considered high-end, like all-metal casings, state-of-the-art processors and instant web access, have become commonplace. With so many options available, picking the right portable computer for your business isn't easy. For laptops that are built to last, here's our guide to four of the best.

 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro

1. 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro
Starting Price: $1,800
The construction standards pioneered by the Apple MacBook Pro line of notebooks are superior to anything else on the market today. Single-unit, molded aluminum cases and keyboards (which are just now coming to other brands) have been standard in MacBook Pros for years. The trick with Apple is picking which über-box is best for your small business. For now, your best bet may be the recently updated 15-inch, 2 Ghz, 4 GB, 500 GB spinning-hard-drive model.

Sure, the 13-incher is attractively priced at $1,200, and the 17-inch model is a dazzling performer, but the smaller unit is just that--small. The 15-incher has all the features you need: a ridiculously fast quad i7 processor, seven hours of battery life, a slick backlit keyboard and trackpad and a handy MagSafe power adapter that simply disconnects if you (or the dog) trip over the power cord.

Toshiba Portege R830

2.Toshiba Portégé R830
Starting Price: $889
Toshiba gets credit in the larger PC market for being an early mover into rugged notebook computers. Its latest effort, the Portégé R830, is jammed with features like a 13.3-inch backlit LED display, a built-in DVD drive, 4 GB RAM and support for everything from an entry-level Intel Core i3 processor to a super-fast i7 chip.

But for the money, the i5 model, starting at $1,350, is probably the sweet spot for most small firms. The entire unit is wrapped in a single-piece magnesium alloy case, supported with the latest riff of USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Entrepreneurs can expect most every small-business task--from word processing to advanced business graphics to spreadsheets--to run very well on the R830. The kicker: This bad boy is a feather-light 3.2 pounds. At about an inch thick, that makes the R830 a legitimate ultraportable laptop that can double as a desktop replacement. On bulk-to-performance ratio, it's tough to beat this box.

Dell Latitude E5420

3. Dell Latitude E5420
Starting Price: $889
Looking for a highly durable, long lasting, metal-enclosed PC on the cheap? The newly redesigned Latitude E5420, a well-provisioned midline unit with an i3 Dual Core Processor, 2 GB RAM, 250 GB of storage, six-cell battery and a backlit keyboard is a heck of a buy. It's wrapped in a sleek anodized brushed aluminum display back, has reinforced steel hinges, a magnesium internal frame and zinc alloy latches. It's also sealed in a bumper casing and has a spill-resistant keyboard.

It should be noted that the E5420 isn't up to über-computing, design work or heavy calcs, but for basic business computing, it's a box worth considering.

HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition

4. HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition
Starting Price: $1,000
Though not nearly as tough as others on our list, the HP Pavilion dv6t makes the cut based on its raw computational power, for a price even a cheapskate will love. Its "metal" enclosure is merely a finish treatment, but this $1,000 box offers a legit second-generation Intel Core i7, 6 GB RAM, 750 GB of storage, a good-looking 15.6-inch diagonal high-def LED display and one of our favorite keyboards in the mobile market. The fingerprint reader and USB 3.0 support are also appealing.

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