During those +10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work as a consultant , service provider, internal corporate tech support and everything in between.
I was to asked to write an article with the title “the best laptop for IT professionals ” or the ” best laptop for Information Technology business “.
Well, first of all….
This question is redundant. The word “perfect” or “best” is misleading. It’s like asking what are the best tools to write good software.
The answer , of course, is: it depends.
Everyone needs to build their programming environment and tools, slowly and over time, with the unique and cuztomized settings, IDEs and programming languages you want and know how to use best.
Laptops and tools for the IT business is kind of the same thing.
There isn’t a best laptop for IT or a best “set up” for IT.
When you enter this field, part of your job is to find, collect, build and combine all the tools you think you’ll need ( cables , dongles, converters, adapters) for the kind of tasks you perform and THEN you pick a laptop base on that.
The bag I carry is evidence of this.
Over the years, it’s gotten heavy as hell as well as OCD compartmentalized with color-coded zip-pouches, pockets, sleeves all filled with the tools I might need in a typical day.
The point is…
There’s no standard definition of what an IT pro is, does and needs.
There are millions of us who do a million of different things.
Recommended Hardware For IT professionals
Of course, if you’re new to the Information Technology field you still need something to get started.
And that’s exactly what you’ll find in this post.
I wouldn’t get started with a swiss army kind of laptop.
That would have been way too much power, too much heat and and too big to easily fit in a bagpack.
Which means more stuff that will break down which I may not need and I cannot easily replace (I’m talking about having too many bell and whistles and too many ports ) .
A good place to start, imo, is to get a…
A nice bonus would be to be able to make sure that laptop is RAM and Storage upgradeable (however save for a few rare cases virtually all modern laptops are upgradeable in both departments though).
If you find yourself needing something like say an extra HDMI port…
Simply add an adapter to your brief case and call it a day.
Adapters don’t really take much space(unless you have hundreds of other tools) plus they’re cheap and VERY easy to replace. Need a DVD Drive? Just get an external DVD drive. The best part of external devices like this is that you can use them on any other computer including the ones you may be trying to fix.
But but but…
“I came here for a laptop that has all the ports I’ll need with a DVD Drive so I don’t have to buy any accesory or any adapter!”
I am well aware that there’s a many of you reading this post in search of the “closest” perfect laptop for an IT Pro which is basically one maximizising #ports thus minimize the use of external devices.
Which to be honest, would be REALLY nice to have, especially if you’re a network admin , system admin or someone who doesn’t do desktop support.
What kind of stuff would the perfect laptop IT business look like ?
A laptop with:
- An Optical Drive
- A serial port (or two)
- At least 4 USB 3 Ports
- a VGA Port
- HDMI Port
- a Fire port
- SD Card Slot
- Ethernet port
- Removable battery
- And any other port an IT Pro might also need.
There are definitely laptops with all these stuff on-board. However, those are VERY VERY rare laptops. Most laptops will only have about 50% of the stuff in the list because the motherboards used on modern laptops can’t support all that stuff.
Thus you will only find all that stuff in one laptop on very very special devices specifically designed for IT professionals (we’ll list a couple).
What about CPU/RAM/Storage…Aren’t those important too?
The truth is they’re important (actually you just need 8GB RAM + modern post 2017 CPU) but not that important.
Now if you are a network engineer you will need to set up your own virtual lab: integrating Cisco Firewalls, routers, switches with ESXi hosts and VMs as well as NetApp Filers for storage so yes CPU power (#cores) and RAM and even storage become important.
How much of those specs are you going to need depends on how big your simulations and labs are (aka the number of VMs you’ll be running). You can check more details about this on the Virtualization post.
Folks working on IT support from home through LabTech, ScreenConnect and VSphere Client can pretty much use anything.
There are some folks who might also be running Linux with minimal fuss and students getting started. Both can pretty much use anything too.
Top 8 best laptops for IT Professionals & Students
There’s no point of going over and explaining what specs mean here because I’m sure most of you know a thing or two about computers so we’ll just jump right ahead into the best laptops for it professionals and students.
Just choose more power (if you want to run virtual labs) or more ports (for on-site IT support).
Lastly, if are expecting old bricks with every single port on them I’m only going to list one.
It’d be best for you to get a modern laptop instead and buy accesories/adapters later (if you need them).
Best Lenovo Laptop For IT Professionals
32GB RAM DDR4 (Up to 40GB)
AMD RX Vega 8
1TB PCIe NVMe (Up to 8TB)
14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, touchscreen with Privacy Guard, 500 nits
No DVD Drive
2 USB 3.2 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.2 Type-C , Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack + FingerPrint Reader
Back in my days, the ThinkPads were the perfect laptop for the IT field and that’s no exxageration.
Unfortunately, ever since the thinkpads were “lenovo-nized” (they were formerly owned by IBM), their usefulness for the IT business decreased significantly and ironically the price increased too.
That’s because the new trend in the laptop market seems to appeal more and more to the masses who want smaller thinner laptop which by nature decreases the number of ports significantly.
Why Am I listing one then?
Because even the newest “lenovo-nized” models are better than MOST laptops offered by any other brand. They still turn out to be the TOP “consumer” laptop for IT purposes.
Again, the newer models are nothing compared to the older models (higher #ports + a DVD Drive ).
Those models back then were so popular for the IT field two of the companies I worked at deployed around 200 of those puppys (the T430 and T431 ) with only a small percentage (2%) asking for a replacement . That’s how good they were!
Having said that…
You can still buy the older models so you actually have two choices: a) Go for the older models b) go for this model (there several several different updated thinkpads to choose from).
We’ve decided not to feature the older model (w/ more ports +CD Drive) because they simply have old CPUs.
Their processors can be quite slow for the latest updates of Windows 10 and unless you upgrade RAM and Storage to make up for the lack of CPU power you will lag and you will lag BAAAD.
If you are interested in the older Lenovo Thinkpads. Yes you can go buy them, you can chech them out on this link:
But be sure to upgrade both RAM and the storage (HDD–>SSD). You can check out the tutorials on these links: “How To Upgrade RAM” & “How to Upgrade Storage” to get a sense of what that’s going to be like.
If you’re an IT guy come on this should a piece of cake and it is actually for just about anybody.
With that in mind, I would ONLY consider ThinkPads from the 4th generation onwards (including Lenovo X1 Carbons which are a bit more portable since they discard the optical drive ). Otherwise, they might not even be upgradeable or the upgrades just won’t make them any faster (thinkpads with the 2th gen and 3rd gen Intel Core X are way way too slow).
Price: New ThinkPad
The New ThinkPad featured here can be very expensive.
But remember it’s also pretty reliable too.
I mean if you are the only IT guy supporting 80 people, why mess around?
If you’re on a budget and you also want somethiing brand new….
Check out this ThinkPad that sells for about 700$:
Best Laptop For IT administrators and Students
Intel Quad-Core i5-1135G7
8GB RAM DDR4
Intel Xe Graphics
256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
14″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS anti-glare Display (400 nits)
2 x Thunderbolt 4 (DisplayPort / Data Transfer / Power Delivery), 2 x USB-A 3.2, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x Headphone / Mic combo
The X-Carbon are a good ThinkPad replacement if you’re looking for something ultra thin and portable.
They also come in different flavors, sizes and generations.
The one feature here is the latest X-Carbon released as of 2022.
Yes, the older models will have a few extra ports (an extra USB port or Two) but none of them will have an optical drive.
Regardless all Lenovo X-Carbons have less ports than the thinkpads but they’re still special in a way because they’re extremely thin, portable, have amazing displays and of course they still pack a LOT of ports.
It’s more of a good choice if you are IT administrator or an admin that needs to be constantly on the move. If you start working on site desktop support, then you’ll just need to buy a few more accessories and adapters.
3. Dell XPS 13
Best Laptop For IT Consultant & Support
11th Gen – i7-1165G7
16GB RAM DDR3
Intel Xe Graphics
1TB SSD PCIe NVMe
13” full HD 1080p IPS TouchScreen
2x Thunderbolt 3 with PowerDelivery & Display Port, 1x USB-C 3.1, 1x MicroSD Card Reader
Another portable and realiable model is the Dell XPS.
It’s more of a premium laptop though so it’s definitely going to be expensive no matter which of its variants you choose.
They’re all thin, lightweight, have crispy high qualuty displays and are all made of full aluminum.
Performance vs Ports
These kind of laptops don’t have an insane amount of ports but they do have crazy fast performance so you are less likely to go through any kind of lag even if you set up a lab with several VMs running.
They’re also more useful for IT folks working at the office, managing servers remotely and/or providing IT support from home through LabTech , ScreenConnect or Vsphere client. This works even better if you get any of the XPS models with the 4k resolution displays because it’ll open up an insane amount of extra space to multitask with.
All Dell XPS models will let you attach external monitors (2) through the thunderbolt 3 and HDMI port so you can turn it into the ultimate desktop environment if you need to for those times when, let’s say, you need to look up documentation while providing tech support or managing servers at the same time.
Again this model does not have a DVD just like the past two models we went over. You’ll also have to use an external optical drive through one of the USB ports.
11th gen Core i5, Core i7
Intel Xe Graphics
256GB-2TB PCIe NVMe SSD
13.3” IPS 2736×1824 TouchScreen
1.7lb and above
1 x USB-C®, 1 x USB-A, 1 x Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover port⁴, MicroSDXC card reader (the latter 3 are for the docking station/surface Pro accessories).
UltraBooks for Students
UltraBooks are useful if you are student who has to take exanimations for certifications while at the same time getting ready to begin your first entry level IT job (networking & server maintance most likely).
You don’t really need to get started with a heavy brick like the ones you’ve seen on other sites.
Networking & server maintenace do require tons of storage, RAM or even a super fast CPU.
Also considering the fact that you’ll also be studying (thus on the move), you’re definitely be better off with an ultra book or any ultra portable machine like the Surface Pro, ASUS ZenBook, Dell XPS, etc.
The Surface Pro
I’m featuring the Surface Pro over all the other Ultrabooks simply because it’s the most versatile software out of all these.
Despite being the thinnest and lightest device on this list, it can hold just as much horse power as any of the high end machines on this list.
Just like every other machine on this list, you can install and run Linux environments on it. It’s not a tablet but more of a laptop that can turn into a tablet.
Likewise if you use a VESA-mount and attach an external monitor to it you can turn it into a full desktop environment so you can use HP BTO, Cisco tools, the AWS console,etc.
The Surface Pro doesn’t have really have any ports. But once you connect a docking station. You can attach an external monitor, sound speaker, another monitor, a keyboard , etc, basically any you need to turn into two a 3 monitor desktop.
What about IT ports?
Like I said, adapters are the trend now.
Serial port? Small USB-to-serial adapter, job done.
Optical drive? Very unlikely you’ll need if you do you could always buy an external CD/DVD Drive(check the last section to see my fav brand) or combine stuff like server iDRAC and IPMI with remote management.
Don’t forget that OS installs can be done off USB sticks too.
The one thing I wish the Surface Pro would have is an Ethernet port (it only has ONE just one USB port) but you can work around that though (usb3 to gigabit adapter).
Best Laptop for IT work
AMD Ryzen 7 5700U 8 Cores / 16 Threads
AMD RX Vega 8
256GB-2TB PCIe NVMe SSD
15.6″ Full HD IPS Anti-glare TouchScreen
The HP Spectre series is another good choice if you’re going to practice onsite support. They all have a hefty amount of extra ports so it’ll definitely reduce the number of dongles and adapters you’ll have to carry.
HP Spectre: X360
The HP Spectre X360 is a heavier-thicker copy of the Surface Pro thus it can support up to x4 (1 USB Type C port). .
The model featured here has the following ports:
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 xDisplayPort 1.4
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
Other I/O features include a nice MS Card Reader.
Go for the recent version featued here.
Any of the past 15 inch ultrabooks w/ serial port adapters + USB3 blueray devices will still be a lot less to haul. It’s also not going to embarassing to take out of your bag.
The Surface Pro & HP spectre x360 ALSO become more useful if you find yourself standing at a data center for which you might need to use with just one hand (you can do so once you turn them into a tablet).
Best Laptop For IT “Pros”
Intel i5-2520M 2.5GHz
16GB RAM DDR3
14” HD TN Display
All ports you can think of with a CD/DVD Drive
This is probably the machine most people in the IT field would call the best laptop for IT . In fact, it would be the perfect best laptop fot IT if it wasn’t such a hassle to carry around.
Rugged + Insane amount of ports
They’re slightly more resistant (thus heavier) than they’re supposed to be because these things are usually ruggerized all over (or at least semi-ruggerized). All of them have the thickness of 3 modern laptops stacked against each other.
Where to find them?
You can find from three or four brands: Getac, Dell and Panasonic.
I’ve only managed to find it from panasonic as of 2022.
However, if you find it out of stock, you can just type “getac” and you will get similar models not only from getac but also from dell and panasonic. The keyword getac is associated with these kind of laptops.
Are they worth it?
Yup, definitely, they’re a hassle to lug around but they have pretty much every accessory you’ll need built-in.
However, I highly recommend you upgrade both RAM and Storage to make up for the lack of CPU power (I dont think you’ll find models with recent CPUs unless you pay more than a thousand bucks).
Once the RAM and Storage are updated, Windows 10 should run just fine.
Is that if you get stuck in a snowdrift on your way to work , you can use these laptops as shovels and get there right one time!
They’re super useful but they’re VERY difficult to find on stock.
7. MacBook Pro
Best MacBook For IT Professionals
Intel Core i7 Core i5
8GB-16GB RAM DDR4
256GB-1TB Flash SSD
13” Retina IPS
x2 USB 3.0 Port + HDMI Port + Ethernet Port, x2 Thunderbolt Ports
Wait what’s a MacBook Pro doing here?
In my current job, everyone in Ops always picks the machine they want to use.
Most people will go for standard company models (Lenovo T400, Lenovo ThinkPads,etc) but a few number will choose a MacBook (MBA 13, MBP 15 Retina). Companies will usually give you the choice because you’re the only one who knows what you need.
Upgrades are always available to us with good reason: $2000 laptops is trivial compared to what they spend on servers.
Right now, none of us dares to order a windows machine with a 4th generation Intel CPU.
Almost everyone goes for the latest of the laetst models (the remaining few may go for as low as 7th gen Intel CPUs to get that extra # of ports).
MacBook Pros: Newer Models
That’s speaking about windows machines. As for Macs, none of us order ever order the recent models.
Sure, the latest MacBooks have way more power than previous versions (the M1 Chip vastly outperforms most Core i7 & Ryzen 7 CPUs on ultrabooks) especially those with the TouchBar and retina display. However, they lack ANY useful ports.
The lack of an ethernet port and optical drive is understandable as most windows laptops don’t even have that anymore but the latest models don’t even have a USB port, they’re full of thunderbolt 3 port which just means you will need even more dongles. If you do on-site support, you’ll start to look like Neo when he was plugged into the Matrix.
Regardless of what you do in the IT field, you will at least need one USB port at some point because chances are your USB-thunderbolt C adapter will fail at some point.
Only the older models are good!
If want to go Mac (maybe you are a student or maybe you think you’ll mostly rely on a Unix-Like programming environment), get the older versions like this one or the one featured in the picture.
Of course, don’t get something that’s too old !
Grab a model that has the old fashioned USB Ports. The one featured here has a decent amount of ports more than your average 2022 Windows laptop!
8. Dell M6500
Old Laptop For IT
Core i5 2.3GHz
4GB RAM DDR3
NIVidia FX2800 1GB vRAM
2x 320GB HDD
Now I don’t recommend anyone to get this laptop.
I’m just listing it for information purposes only.
This is the oldest laptop for IT I’ve found. I remember seeing it back in the late 90s. It has a full-sized key board (with a num pad), 17″ screen, 2 USB 3.0/2 USB 3.0 ports + LAN port + wireless + optical drive and it’s not as thick as those getac laptops we went over.
The only reason why you should not buy one of these is that they’re slow as hell. You can find these laptops on amazon or ebay or maybe the museum. Even an SSD+RAM upgrade might not make them any faster.
I think in general IT people have come to the realization that they have to live in dongle-land for the moment.
Once you step into the field for a few months, you’ll realize that having the old serial port+ optical drive is just not worth it. It’s just better to have a really sleek and easy to carry ultrabook and carry several dongles with you.
The need for dongles and ports and such is starting to fade in this business as the general masses (and therefore the laptops) no longer have needs for these tools either. Over time , we will only find very few ocassions where we’ll see the need to use a serial port and that will be mostlyt when a switch stops working.
Laptop Recoommended Specs For IT (continued)
We’ll continue where we left off in the introduction.
IT folks come different backgrounds which include those we discussed before and :
Trust me when I say this. Unless your IT program clearly demands you buy a laptop, you won’t need one WHEN you’re at school. Whenever there’s a need to use one you’ll just end up using the desktops available in the lab.
The IDEs and languages you’ll probably have to learn are:
Intro to Linux
Programming with C
Programming with HTML, DHTML, and CSS
Programming with XML
None of these really require any computer power though.
If there’s any software that requires quite a punch of computing power (probably running several VMs) you will still have access to your school’s computer services.
If you’re learning IT on your own to take certifications then the story completely changes though.
If not and you’re going to school, I suggest you buy something you don’t mind lugging around everywhere perhaps a ChromeBook (for which you can throw in a full Linux Install) or a cheap ultrabook with a decent battery life. Then get a desktop or another more “beefy” laptop with Windows on it (by beefy I mean 8GB RAM +SSD).
It’ll be very rare for your school to specifically require you bring a beefy windows laptops with lots of space and storage. If that’s the case, you only need something like the thinkpad we went over.
There’s a chance your school requires you to use a Mac since programming is easier in a Unix systemm (gcc, which is a bunch of compilers, doesn’t work natively on Windows’ command prompt). But you’ll definitely need the Windows operating system over the course of your stay in school, a Mac however allows you to install Windows too (only the older pre-2020 models allow you to do so).
Virtual Machines IT guys
If you’re going to manage servers then you will need to play around virtual machines to simulate labs and networoks. Something like the ThinkPad shown before should be fine as long as you upgrade that RAM to 32GB.
If you want to pick a different laptop, take a good look at the virtualization post to get all the details you need to know.
IT Folks providing desktop support are going to move all over the place in a building or from building to building. I can’t blame you for trying to maximize the number of ports on your laptop. But like I said, adapters are easy to carry too. If you don’t want adapters, get those old models but you must update both RAM & SSD to make up for the lack of CPU power.
You can do this remotely too so you can in theory buy anything you’d like. Just be sure to get a modern CPU and upgrade both RAM and Storage too (if it doesn’t have 8GB + SSD). Also super important to make sure that WiFi card supports the latest protocol (WiFi 5 or WiFi 6).
IT support from home
Labtech/Screenconnect/Vsphere client only require a fast internet connection (actually just a decent). Thus a desktop with multiple screens
should be ethernet port is not available an ethernort port might come in handy that’s about it.
Ports & Optical Drives
Finding a laptop with network port and DVD on modern laptops is now almost impossible.
It doesn’t make any sense for manufacturers to dismiss IT folks by further reducing USB ports either.
There should be at least one model designed for IT people on the HP/Dell/Lenovo’s website right?
Well there isn’t as far I am aware. Only the older models are available which are not even listed on their site.
Thus if you buy a modern laptop, you will have to live in dongle land as only the oldest bricks support x4 USB ports an Optical Drive + a network card.
This is only an issue for IT folks doing on site support who would rather not have clients looking over their shoulders as they wait for accessories to be recognized and work.
Here are my go-to brands when it comes to accesories:
- Optical Drive: If this model is not available, pick any VicTsing brand.
- TRENDnet: serial converts installations are quickly done and they’re recognized in every device I’ve tried.
- Ethernet Adapter: Very cheap, very compact, very reliable. A must have for anyone in IT.
- Extra USB ports: No need to download drivers, works seamlessly across everything.