Bootstrappers: 6 Cheap, Reliable Laptops for Your Team

    By John Brandon | Small Business

    These aren't the fastest or flashiest machines, but they get the job done--and that's all that matters when you're just starting up.

    These aren't the fastest or flashiest machines, but they get the job done--and that's all that matters when you're just starting up.--John Brandon

    Apple has seen the light... and lowered the price of this super-thin notebook. The 11-inch model now costs $899 ($100 less than the debut price). It's the priciest option among the bunch, but deploying Macs means you won't have to worry about as many virus attacks, can sync easily with an iPhone, and you benefit from the new Mac OS X Yosemite (available this fall) with its ability to answer calls sent to your smartphone. The MacBook Air weighs just 2.38 pounds, lasts nine hours on a charge, and uses an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM.

    Released last fall, this basic business notebook is priced a bit higher than the similarly equipped Lenovo ThinkPad L440 but also packs a few extra features. Like the L440, the Elitebook runs on the Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM. The entire notebook case lifts open so you can swap out components, and the Ethernet port pops open to keep the notebook thin and sleek. The best feature has to do with battery life. You can expect the typical six to eight hours on a charge with the base model, but if you add an extra battery tray for $219, it bumps up to a whopping 33 hours.

    Priced a few hundred less than the more "enterprise"-grade T440 from Lenovo, the L440 is a bit older (it came out last summer) but still holds its own with an Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM. The basic black design screams "don't steal me at an airport terminal" but still offers some handy perks like Bluetooth 4.0 (for syncing your smartphone). The most impressive spec: The L440 lasts about up to 12 hours on a charge with the standard 6-cell battery. (The 12-hour figure is if you stretch the battery as far as it will go with the screen dimmed.)

    For an extremely low price, with the Asus Ultrabook you're still benefitting from modern tech like Windows 8.1 with touch screen control of apps like Skype and Evernote. Consider handing these out in one of four colors, such as bright blue to add some distinction, yet your IT group has to support the same exact model for everyone in the office. Runs on 4GB of RAM with a 500GB drive and a dual-core Intel Celeron processor that's not as speedy as the Intel Core i3 or i5.

    The only Chrome OS model in this round-up, but the latest notebook from Samsung, the Chromebook 2 runs Web apps -- so no local installs of Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word. That's okay for many start-ups who only need access to your online accounting tool, e-mail, and a few other Web services. The new Samsung processor starts up the notebook in 10 seconds and runs on 4GB of RAM with a 16GB solid state drive. battery life runs about eight hours.

    Another bread-and-butter machine from Dell, the Latitude 14 3000 has the same no-frills look of an HP EliteBook or a Lenovo ThinkPad. But think seriously about the price difference. The Latitude 14 still runs on a fast Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM and has a 500GB drive but costs a bit less than the Lenovo and quite a bit less than the HP. while it might seem quant in the age of Web apps and cloud storage, there's even a built-in DVD drive.

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