Notebookcheck's Top 10 Budget Office/Business Notebooks

Redaktion (translated by Martina Osztovits), 03/11/2014

March 2014 update. Here you will find the current best office/business notebooks for below 800 Euros (~$1093) reviewed by Notebookcheck in the last few months. Our list of top models is regularly updated, maintained and commented on and should assist in purchase decisions.

For the original German article, see here.

Office notebooks, cheap bargains and computers for everyday tasks: this category includes many different notebooks in various sizes. They all have a simple graphics chip, which is sufficient for everyday office tasks. But, they require decent input devices and an ergonomic display and the connectivity should allow the user to easily connect to the home or professional environment.

Every month we evaluate newcomers of the office category and update our Top-10 considering notebooks reviewed in the previous eight months. Several devices jumped into our Top 10 at once, but some did not make it into our list. Sometimes older notebooks slide into our Top-10 when notebooks are removed from our Top-10 list after eight months.

Top 10 of the previous 8 months at the time of writing - current articles are listed first

Further tests of each month - current tests are listed first

Editors' Comments

1st: Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041
1st: Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041
1st: Lenovo Thinkpad L440
1st: Lenovo Thinkpad L440
3rd: Dell Latitude 3440
3rd: Dell Latitude 3440
3rd: HP ProBook 650 G1 H5G74E
3rd: HP ProBook 650 G1 H5G74E
3rd: HP ProBook 455 G1 H6P57EA
3rd: HP ProBook 455 G1 H6P57EA

The Lenovo ThinkPad L440 focuses on the same customers as HP with its ProBooks: demanding business customers who do not want to do without interfaces like docking station and external TFT (DisplayPort). It comes with an excellent keyboard, but the touchpad cannot keep up with it. The display has a an acceptable contrast, but the viewing angles are narrow, which is typical for TN panels. The battery life is very long (just under 8 hours) with 100 Wh battery.

The three devices from Lenovo and HP are 15-incher with matte TN display and simple HD resolution. But, their prices are significantly different, the HP ProBook 650 G1 H5G74E is the most expensive of them with above 750 Euro. It has a docking port on the underside, a DisplayPort, and even a serial port on the rear side. Inside, there would be space left for a 3G/LTE module as there are an mSATA slot and antennas. The 15-inch HP ProBook 455 G1 brother does not have these features. It is a cheap entry into the ProBook world. The ThinkPad Edge E540 also comes with a docking port, but Lenovo's OneLink station only offers interfaces, which can also be found on the laptop. However, the docking port clears the desk (only one cable for power and dock) and you need not connect and disconnect that many cables.

The three office competitors have good, yet not perfect input devices. The Edge E540 has the best writing feedback. The build quality of all three of them is on a good level. In terms of performance, the AMD A4-4300M with Trinity architecture performs worse than the other two, but it is the reason for the cheap price, for which you will also get Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit. Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge E540 wins the Best Value Award in February 2014 because of its balanced office qualities, its expandability and its very good input devices.

The 14-inch Dell Latitude 3440 made it among the top places. It replaced the discontinued Vostro series and is an attractive bundle for office workers and consumers. Office fans will like the matte display with 1600x900 pixel resolution and the low emissions. Casual gamers will appreciate the GeForce GT 740M and the long battery life. Both types of users will benefit from the attractive price of 670 Euros (~$916). Considering the price, there are only a few flaws (no HDMI). Even the TN display is better than many competitors'. It won the Best Value Award in December 2013, because of its attractive price-performance ratio.

The ProBook 450-H0V92EA is an entry-level office device for higher demands. HP sticks to its tradition and combines reasonable equipment with good battery life and a robust, high-end build quality. It is not technically extravagant, but it is a robust workhorse, which is easy to maintain. It even has a free mSATA slot, which allows easily enhancing the computer with an SSD. The not especially bright HD display with low contrast is a disadvantage. However, considering the reasonable price of currently 550 Euros (~$752), it is not a serious one. Unlike before, HP no longer offers ProBook 450 models with an HD+ display (e. g. 6450b). This might be the reason why the former Top-10 companion, the ProBook 6475b (HD+), is still attractive. The ProBook 450 G1 sister based on Haswell failed to enter our Top-10 in February because of higher emissions (quad core CPU).

The Samsung ATIV Book 2 is also second. With a weight of only 2.1 kg, it focuses on mobile users despite featuring a rather big display (battery life: 4-5 hours). Samsung used an Intel Pentium CPU and a conventional hard drive in the reviewed model. This does not only result in a slightly lower performance for the user. Meanwhile the price increased from 400 Euros (~$532) to 549 Euro.

The Acer Aspire E1-532 is an office device with matte display for a competitive price. Currently the model with Celeron 2955U and 500 GB hard drive only costs 259 Euro. Acer installed Linpus Linux Lite instead of an Windows OS. Why is the Aspire E1-532 that cheap and can still keep up with its more expensive competitors? The 15-incher always remains quiet and cool and its build quality and input devices are alright. Even the battery life of 4:30 hours and the accordingly low power consumption do not need to hide. Windows fans simply install their OS and insert the included driver DVD and everything gets installed on a click. Together with the manufacturer's warranty of two years, the device cannot be criticized in any way at this price. Thanks to its attractive price, the Acer Aspire E1-532 won the Best Value Award in January 2014.

These did not make it into our Top-10

Missed our Top-10: HP ProBook 450 G1 (Haswell)
Missed our Top-10: HP ProBook 450 G1 (Haswell)
Missed our Top-10: HP Compaq 15-h024sg
Missed our Top-10: HP Compaq 15-h024sg
Missed our Top-10: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 15D 59405766
Missed our Top-10: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 15D 59405766
Missed our Top-10: HP 250 G2 (F0Z00EA)
Missed our Top-10t: HP 250 G2 (F0Z00EA)

Our Top-10 does not list any newcomers from February reviews. Were the notebooks simply too bad? According to the ratings, this is true. But, you should also consider the price range. For example, the HP Compaq 15-h024sg is currently available from 240 Euro. So, certain disadvantages have to be accepted.

HP's ProBook 450 G1 E9Y58EA (80 %) got the best rating. While the 15-incher costs just under 800 Euro, it features a powerful Core i7 4702MQ (Haswell). Despite quad core processor, the ProBook delivers good battery runtimes. Its input devices are great and two Windows operating systems are in the box. Those looking for a workhorse with good build quality, should consider one of many cheaper ProBook 450 models. An Ivy Bridge model of the ProBook 450 is even listed in our Top-10. Its Core i3 provides significantly lower emissions, which results in a higher rating (high weight in the office range).

HP's Compaq 15-h024sg (79 %) follows immediately below. The cheap 15 incher with AMD E-Series E1-2100 (currently for 240 Euro without OS) is quiet, frugal (energy) and appropriately solid for this price range. However, the performance is very low compared to Intel systems including those of the 400 Euro price class.

Lenovo's IdeaPad Flex 15D is available with Intel and AMD hardware. We reviewed the cheaper model (479 Euro) with AMD's A-Series A6-5200. In general, the system performance can keep up with devices with low voltage i3 (4010U) or Pentium (3556U) thanks to a relatively fast Solid State Hybride drive (500 GB). Disadvantages are few interfaces. Lenovo did not include VGA and only Fast-Ethernet is available.

HP's 250 G2 (78 %) also is a cheap notebook and ranks directly below the Compaq 15-h024sg. It has a different case and less high-gloss and is made from plain, matte plastics. However, the input devices are not better than the Compaq's. A special feature of the 15-incher: Passive cooling is sufficient for the Intel Pentium N3510. So, there are no fans!

The Toshiba Satellite C50-A-1JU also has a design without fans (Pentium N3520). The 15-incher even requires less energy than normal low voltage notebooks and delivers an excellent battery life of just under six hours. However, the Satellite lost valuable points because of its poor mouse replacement and the wobbly, cheap build quality.

Medion's Akoya E6239T (76 %) is also equipped with a Pentium N3510, but it has a fan. The input devices are hardly suitable for prolific writers, the dark and glossy display is not much fun and there are only few interfaces (no VGA, only Fast Ethernet). On the other hand, it features a precise touchscreen, which can seldom be found for below 400 Euro.

Awards of the previous months in this category

Best Value Award in December 2013: Wortmann Terra Mobile 1512
Best Value Award in December 2013: Wortmann Terra Mobile 1512
Editors Choice in December 2013: Dell Latitude 3440
Editors Choice in December 2013: Dell Latitude 3440
Best Value Award in January 2014: Acer Aspire E1-532
Best Value Award in January 2014: Acer Aspire E1-532
Best Value Award in February 2014: ThinkPad Edge E540
Best Value Award in February 2014:  ThinkPad Edge E540

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Author: Redaktion, 2014-03-11 (Update: 2014-04- 1)