Business computers usually cost more than consumer machines. But if you're a small-business owner, you need to determine if the features in a laptop designed for the enterprise are worth the added cost. That question is particularly pertinent when comparing Toshiba's Tecra Z40 to considerably cheaper consumer-oriented laptops from the likes of Dell and Lenovo.
What features might you see in a business laptop that you won't find in a consumer machine? You first need to look at the processor. The Tecra Z40, the Dell Inspiron 14, and the Lenovo Flex 14 are all powered by Intel Core i5 processors, but the CPU in the Toshiba is a Core i5-4300U while the Dell and the Lenovo pack the Core i5-4200U. What's the big diff?
Toshiba's pick delivers Intel's vPro technology. A CPU with vPro includes a set of security and manageability features that make the computer easier for an IT department to manage. It also includes capabilities designed to protect the computer from rootkits, viruses, and malware, as well as remote and local monitoring and repair of the PC.
The Core i5-4300U is also outfitted with Intel's Small Business Advantage (software monitoring, backup and restore, USB port blocker, and a few other features), Intel Smart Response Technology (a feature that leverages the use of a small SSD with a higher-capacity mechanical hard drive), and Intel Stable Image Platform (a program that ensures that the PC platform you deploy will remain standardized for at least 15 months).
Business-oriented laptops also tend to be lighter in weight. At 3.24 pounds, the Tecra Z40 is more than a full pound lighter than either the Dell Inspiron 14 or the Lenovo Flex 14 (both of which tip the scales at 4.4 pounds). If you're on the road a lot, you'll feel that extra pound on the Dell or the Lenovo every step of the way.
Finally, business laptops typically have an optional docking station or port replicator that enables rapid switching between desktop and mobile modes. Toshiba offers a $200 port replicator for the Tecra Z40 that adds four USB 3.0 ports, as well as HDMI, DVI-D (or VGA, with an adapter), and DisplayPort 1.2 with multistreaming (a particularly valuable addition, since, unlike most business laptops, the Tecra Z40 doesn't support DisplayPort on its own). You can buy third-party docking stations for almost any laptop that uses technology such as USB and DisplayLink, but they're not always as elegant.
The eval unit Toshiba sent came with Windows 7 Professional, but a Windows 8 Pro license is also included, in case you'd like to switch. I'm actually a fan of Windows 8, but the Z40 lacks the touchscreen needed to take full advantage of that newer OS.
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