The world of corporate computers is very different from what is sold to consumers. This is due to the fact that businesses tend to have a different set of needs for their computers than consumers do. The fact of the matter is though that consumers can often benefit from looking at and purchasing a corporate class computer over one for consumers. In this article, I examine the differences between the two and how a corporate class system might be beneficial even though they tend to cost a bit more.
When comparing a consumer system against a corporate system, the two are going to look very different. Frankly, businesses don't really care as much about how their systems look but more about how they function. The results is what most people would call industrial design. Desktop computers tend to come either in a beige or black color with little to no decoration on the casing. Laptops tend to be very basic with more boxy appearances and in silver or black colors. Consumer systems on the other hand can feature flashy manufacturer logos, colored lighting, colors beyond black, white and silver and more rounded corners and edges.
This doesn't impact the actual computing experience much between the two but appearances can be somewhat important when you are traveling with a portable computer. After all, thieves are more likely to be drawn to high end consumer laptops like Apple than a black basic ThinkPad from Lenovo. Still, when traveling with either type of laptop, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your computer.
Due to various tax laws and the ability to write off computer purchases, the average company wants to ensure that any computers they purchase will be functional for typically three years. Add with this the need to transport a computer between offices and the corporate class of computers needs to be very durable. Most corporate laptops tend to have more rigid design standards that can stand up to being dropped, bumped frankly used every day for hours and hours while also being moved about. In fact, many advancements in terms of materials and techniques were introduced in corporate laptops and then eventually trickle down to some consumer models. Corporate offerings include rugged PCs that are able to handle even more extreme situations.
This is not to say that there are consumer laptops with the same level of durability. Many systems can and do last three years. The difference really comes down to how much attention the manufacturers put into the parts and build of the systems. After all, most consumer computers offer one year warranties and sometimes even as little as ninety days. On the other hand, most corporate laptops tend to feature warranties in the range of two to three years with one year being the lowest they will go. This does add a bit to the price but there is a bit more piece of mind with a corporate system.
Laptop Upgrade Potential
In relation to the durability factors for laptops in particular, corporate systems also need to be easy to repair by IT departments in the event of failures. Because of this, business class laptops tend to offer more access to components such as the hard drives and memory than most new consumer laptops do. Consumer laptops are more often being completely sealed up such that there is no way to easily or even access the various components for replacement or upgrading. This is changing as more and more systems migrate to the ultrathin profiles of the ultrabooks but in general more corporate systems offer access panels than consumer grade models.
If there is one area where corporate computers tend to fail compared to consumer laptops it is in the storage features. Most businesses don't have a need for their employees to use more than a few standardized programs. In addition, they are not transporting huge amounts of data. The result is that most corporate laptops tend to have very small hard drives installed in them. In general, hard drive sizes will be anywhere from one half to one third of the size of a consumer system. Optical drives are often not installed in business computers because there isn't a need to listen to or watch the media formats and software installations are generally done by the IT department when the machines are issued. This is a trend that is also starting to show up in consumer systems as more and more media is moving to digital download formats thus limiting the need for the drives which can reduce costs.
Now the previously mentioned upgrade potential of corporate laptops somewhat mitigates this problem. Buyers of systems with easy access panels can often purchase aftermarket drives that offer larger storage or better performance and then install them in place of the smaller drives. The only problem with this is that you have to make sure you have a backup of the installer files or an image so that you can reinstall your operating system onto a new drive that is going to be blank.
Another big difference between corporate laptops and consumer laptops is the display screens that are used. Most consumer systems offer glossy coated displays that are design to showcase video. The glossy coatings tend to offer a bit better contrast and highlight color and brightness in low light conditions. In contrast, corporate laptops are designed to be used in offices with lots of overhead florescent lighting. Because of these conditions, glare is a major issue. Anti-glare coatings found on business systems tend to work much better in such situations. In addition, they are much more functional at reducing reflections and glare when used in bright outdoor situations. Sure, consumer laptops can be designed to work outdoors with glossy coatings but this is typically handled by introducing extremely bright backlights that can wash out color and will be an extra drain on the battery. As a result, those looking to use a laptop outdoors or where glare is a problem might want to seriously look at corporate laptops with their anti-glare coatings.
Many consumers didn't want to adopt Windows Vista when it came out and waited for Windows 7 instead. The same appears to be the case for Windows 8 with its radical redesign of the user interface. The problem is that most consumer systems are immediately switched over to the latest and greatest operating system with no option to get it with the past one. On the other hand, corporate IT departments tend to standardize their software on a single platform to make it easy to support their employees and systems. They tend to wait when adopting new operating systems to let the software support catch up as well as getting everyone trained on it. This is one of the prime reasons why Windows XP remained popular for so long.
So, if you are a consumer and don't really want to get Windows 8, corporate computers will often be sold with Windows 7. Sure, it is still possible to buy a consumer system that has Windows 8 installed on it and purchase an OEM version of Windows 7 to install on it but it does add significant cost such that a corporate system might actually end up being less expensive. The only downside is that most corporate class system use the Professional versions of the software which lack some media functions from in the home versions.
Bring Your Own
Finally, there is the new trend in business and IT departments called bring your own. This refers to the IT departments letting employees select and use their own laptops and phones for business purposes. The reasoning is that it allows employees to be happier with their devices and reduces the costs since they don't have to spend the money to provide those devices. This sounds pretty good on both ends but it can quickly become a nightmare as employees might want to spend as little as possible on their computers and opt for less durable consumer grade systems. Downtime ends up being more costly and complex when compared to a standardized environment. People is such a situation should be advised to look at corporate class systems for their added durability and their ability to be repaired quickly.