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You are only buying two laptops rather than 2,000, so you can probably buy consumer models if you want. Just remember there are differences that are not obvious from the specifications.You don’t mention any specific needs, or a budget. However, a typical business laptop has an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB or preferably 8GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive. You can save money by choosing a Core i3, but it will cost more in lost productivity over three years. You could also spend more on a Core i7, but it’s probably better to spend the extra cash on more memory and/or a solid-state drive. SSDs are much more responsive than traditional hard drives, so they increase productivity in the long run. (All those milliseconds add up.)Picking a typical example, the Dell Latitude E5550 is a basic business laptop with a Core i5-5200U, 4GB of memory, 500GB hard drive and Windows 7 Pro for £670.80, including shipping and VAT. The options include basic and advanced docking stations at £165.49 and £191.59, a choice of 18 external monitors, and spare batteries. You can ignore those, but I strongly recommend adding three or four years of ProSupport or ProSupport Plus with 24/7 telephone support and next-business-day on-site service.With support, you can spend £800 on what looks like the equivalent of a £400 consumer laptop. However, £780 is only £1 per day over three years, assuming a five-day week (and no holidays). It’s the equivalent of six minutes per day for a worker on £10 per hour.Alternatively, you could just buy three £400 laptops instead of two, so you have a spare. That might suit a new business that can’t see three years ahead. However, you must be sure that when a laptop fails, you can swap to the backup machine without losing data or wasting too much time.There’s not a huge amount of difference between basic business laptops, but start by looking at Dell, HP and Lenovo.
These three dominate the business market, ahead of Toshiba, Fujitsu and a few others.If you want something cheap but reasonably effective, a Dell Vostro 3558 would do the job. (Vostro is the Dell brand for home office/small office users, and has only just returned to the UK market.) If you want something stunning but expensive, check out the new XPS 15. The Latitude E5550, mentioned above, is a middle-of-the-road option.Looking at the HP range, the HP ProBook 350 G2 is a decent entry-level laptop, with the new ProBook 450 being a nicer system for a bit more money. Remember to include a Care Pack for HP’s on-site service.If you want to go for consumer laptops, there are too many alternatives to think about. Also, with the market switching from Windows 8 to 10, ranges are in flux and prices are variable. However, if you can visit a few shops, look for the Asus X555LA and its close relatives: Toshiba Satellites and HP Envy laptops. You can compare screen and keyboard quality, and feel whether the case and hinges seem robust enough.The Asus X555LA looks cheap at the moment. You can get one with an Intel Core i3-5005U, 4GB of memory and a terabyte hard drive for £299.99, with a Core i5-5200U and 8GB for £399, or with a Core i7-5500U and 8GB for £499.99. You could also get a Toshiba Satellite Pro R-50 with a Core i5-4210U, 8GB of memory and a terabyte hard drive for only £359.97, or a Satellite L50 with a Core i7-5500U and 8GB for £599.95. Shop around for prices and services. What you won’t get is business-class support.A lot of business laptops have docking stations, and these provide a tidy way of connecting an external screen and keyboard. They are also very easy to use. However, they tend to be expensive, and they aren’t necessarily flexible: docking stations designed for one range of laptops won’t fit dozens of others.Universal docking stations are not as tidy, but more flexible and probably cheaper. Previously, I’ve suggested the Plugable UD-3900 at £99.95. This has both HDMI and DVI/VGA ports, so it can support two screens. It also provides an Ethernet network connection and six USB ports.
Of course, each laptop must have a USB 3.0 port to connect to its own UD-3900.There are alternative USB 3.0 docking stations from Woopower (£82.99) and Kensington, with the Kensington SD3500v (£104.20).You can, of course, connect a monitor to most Windows laptops: they usually have an HDMI port or DisplayPort or even a VGA port. You can also connect a USB or Bluetooth mouse, and a USB keyboard. The disadvantage is that you have to unplug everything when you want to move the laptop. If all the accessories are connected to a docking station, you only have to remove one USB 3.0 plug at most.If you will never move your laptop, it’s worth considering a desktop PC or a big screen all-in-one instead. But that’s another story.I am looking for a portable laptop/tablet hybrid with a screen that is a reasonable size for working from home (larger than 10 inches), and fairly good performance, as my partner wants to edit photos. I know the Surface Pro 3 is probably the safest bet, but I have seen a few far cheaper alternatives.
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They seem to have mixed reviews, though, and every time I look, different models appear. PatrickMicrosoft’s Surface Pro 3 meets your needs, and the 12in screen is excellent for work and for editing and showing photographs. It’s very well made, and it also comes with a stylus/pen/pencil so that you can make handwritten notes in OneNote and annotate documents and webpages. (See my review.)It is relatively expensive by Windows standards. Prices range from £639 (with an Intel Core i3 processor. 4GB of memory, and 64GB of storage) to £1,549 (Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD). It includes a stylus/pen, but the Type Cover keyboard adds another £109.99.However, at this stage it may be better to wait for the rumoured Surface Pro 4 with, perhaps, an Intel Core M or next-generation Skylake processor. If that happens, older models may be sold at a discount.Either way, the Surface Pro 3’s success is enabling Microsoft to expand its distribution. Dell is going to sell Surfaces from its website, while Dell, HP, Accenture and Avanade will be making volume sales to large businesses. We should also see “clones” from other PC suppliers, with Lenovo’s IdeaPad Miix 700 being the first example.Microsoft has also launched a cheaper version: the Surface 3.
This has a 10.8in touch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1280 pixels. A Surface 3 with quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage costs £419, while one with 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage costs £499. Those prices do not include a pen or a Type Cover keyboard, so they’re still quite high by Windows standards. Another two models with 4G LTE mobile connections are on the way.The 1.6GHz Atom x7-Z8700 is a good processor, though perhaps not quite as snappy as my favourite cheap chip, the 2.16GHz dual-core Pentium N3540. Both are some way behind the 1.5GHz Intel Core i3-4020Y used in the cheapest Surface Pro 3.Dozens of companies now offer 2-in-1 Windows machines that are basically tablets with detachable keyboard docks. As with other tablets, all the electronics are behind the screen, which means some have a tendency to tip over. (Hence kickstands.)These 2-in-1s are generally cheap, but they have limited specifications. Usually they have Atom based (but Celeron- or Pentium-branded) processors, 2GB of memory and only 32GB of storage in the form of an eMMC (Flash memory) chip. They are great for tablet-style uses such as browsing the web, YouTube, email and social networking.
They can also run Microsoft Office, so they can do real work, and they can edit photos. However, I’d hesitate to choose one as a main PC.The alternative approach is to stick to a traditional clamshell design, with the electronics under the keyboard, but fit a screen that can swivel 180 degrees or rotate through 360 degrees. The disadvantage is that you can’t remove the keyboard, so you have to bear the full weight of the laptop even in tablet mode.Asus pioneered 2-in-1s in 2011 with the Transformer T101 running Android, and in 2013, made a big impact with the Transformer Book T100 running Windows 8. The latest 10.1in T100TAF is still a good buy at £199.95, which is well below the original price. There are also two new, better-constructed models: the T100 Chi and T300 Chi.The Transformer T300 Chi has a 12.5in screen, an Intel Core M processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB SSD (solid state disk), so it is a reasonable alternative to the Surface Pro 3. On the downside, you lose the pen, it has worse battery life, and it’s not that much cheaper at £599.95. (Shop around for prices, which change often.)There are lots of similar 11.6in 2-in-1s from other companies including Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba, but this year’s HP Pavilion x2 is worth a look.
The Pavilion x2 10-n055na has a decent keyboard and 1280 x 800 pixel screen for £249 (with 32GB of storage) or £279.99 (with 64GB). There’s also the HP Pavilion 11-K000na or 11-K007na for £329.95. This wins by having 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, but loses by having a Celeron N3050 processor, which is a little slower than the Atom Z3736F in the cheaper model.Lenovo pioneered the 360-degree rotating screen approach with its Yoga range of laptops, but now HP and many others make similar machines. Lenovo’s latest entry-level model is the Yoga 300 with an 11.6in screen for £249, but it would be better to go for the £329.95 version with a quad-core Intel Pentium N3540, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. This may be your best economically priced option, but a bit more money would get you into Surface Pro 3 country. For example, you could get a Yoga 3 with a Core M processor, 8GB, and a 128GB SSD for £499.95.The rotating equivalent of the HP x2 2-in-1 is the HP Pavilion x360 11-k063na at £329.99 (Celeron N3050, 4GB, 500GB HD) but there’s a faster 11-k057na version with a terabyte drive for £379.99. However, HP’s current “hero product” is the Core i5-based 13.3in Spectre x360 at around £799.95 (128GB SSD) to £899.95 (256GB SSD), which is very competitive with the Surface Pro 3.As mentioned, these machines convert into rather large tablets, and I’ve never owned one, so I don’t know how the hinges survive five years of use. The best you can do is visit a PC Warehouse, John Lewis or good computer store, wiggle a few, and see what you think.
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All of these machines should get an immediate free upgrade to Windows 10, if it’s not pre-installed. However, models with only 32GB of storage can run out of space. The solution is to plug in an SD card, USB thumb drive or external hard drive for Windows Update to use as temporary storage, so have one ready. You will need to plug in same temporary storage if you want to revert to Windows 8.1.The FBI has obtained a warrant to investigate emails found on a laptop used by Clinton aide Huma Abedin, as part of its investigation into the Democratic presidential candidate’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. The move came as the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, said the FBI director, James Comey, may have broken the Hatch Act, which bars federal officials from using their official authority to influence an election, by his decision to send a letter to Republican congressional committee chairs on Friday announcing the new development. That showed “clear intent to aid one political party over another”, Reid said, adding a claim that Comey was not releasing information linking the Trump campaign to Russia. Reports said FBI investigators had known for weeks they might find pertinent emails on Abedin’s device, which was shared with her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, who is under investigation over alleged illicit texts to a minor. Clinton called on Comey to “put it all out on the table”; Donald Trump said the email scandal was “worse than Watergate”.
The Democrat is losing support just as the Republican is experiencing a resurgence. While Clinton still stands to win, a shift in sentiment appears to have begun with the WikiLeaks release of emails that showed how much even Clinton aides worried about blurred boundaries between business, charitable and political interests. In an election that many describe as an unpopularity contest, it may not take much more to swing the mood of independents. A Monday morning Consult/Politico poll, though, still had Clinton in the lead, eight days out from the vote.Will Hillary Clinton lose the US election because of the FBI email investigation?Many countries have shown a preference for Clinton but Trump has pockets of support, as Guardian journalists around the world explain. In Russia, warm words about Putin from Trump and a slightly more positive tone of television coverage relating to the real estate tycoon have both left their mark. A Russian poll found that 22% of Russians had a positive opinion of Trump, compared with just 8% for Clinton. In Mexico, Trump’s rise has stirred unease and indignation. Iranians have been amused by the bitter rivalry been Clinton and Trump. In an unprecedented move, state TV broadcast the last presidential debate.