My laptop shortlist for the Salesman…


Often I am asked “Joe – what’s the best laptop for a sales guy?”.  For me, it currently falls into 2 camps – those with some cash to spend, and those with out.

Let me start by explaining – I think that sub-$1,000 laptops are ridiculous.  There is no way for a company to make money at the <$1k price point unless something suffers – most namely, you!    I think a good laptop, for use at least 20 hours a week, should last between 2.5 and 3 years of common wear and tear, and should not cause me to wait.  To that, I can only say that in my experience, any laptop under $1k ends up costing me money (in loss time, loss productivity, loss of self-esteem).  So, with that, I currently narrow my recommendations down to 2 laptops for salesmen:

  1. Apple MacBook AirI currently use the 11“, with the 128gig drive.  I loaded Windows 8 on it – I am not a MacOS fan, especially for business.  Also, if you use a lot of Microsoft software, you will want to make sure you load Windows – although there are some options for MacOS, it really isn’t the same.  On my laptop, I kept about 90gigs of the hard drive for Windows, and left the rest for the original MacOS (I am using Bootcamp).  For me, the 11″ form factor is killer.  I can take this thing anywhere, and feel like I am carrying nothing.  It’s almost like my iPad with a keyboard, except it runs Windows.
    For some other salesmen, I have recommended the 13″ Air, since its screen resolution is slightly larger (they are salesmen who often review CAD type drawings).  But for me, I just submit proposals all day in Word.  The 11″ form factor, the power/quickness to boot up, the brightness of the screen, the backlight on the keyboard – its everything I need.  I paid about $1,250 including tax direct from the Apple store in the mall.
    Pros:  Lightweight, extremely fast-boot with the SSD drive, feels like it runs on battery forever, backlit keyboard, awesomely bright screen, can upgrade the processor to Intel i7, but for my needs (proposals, presentations, limited development) the extra horsepower is not needed
    Cons:  A bit pricier, since you need to buy Windows separately and take the time to install it yourself (or get a consultant to do it), cannot add more RAM later, the space bar has some “known issues” under long-term use (google it)

  2. Lenovo Yoga Ultrabook – This notebook was not out when I bought my Air, but if it was, I would have given it serious consideration.  It essentially matches just about everything in the 13″ MacBook, with the exception of the backlit keyboard.  But all in all, it is a great laptop.  And at $999 for the entry model at Best Buy, it is a great price point.  It even has a touch-screen!  But for me, as a sales guy, I require laptop functionality – if I have to keep taking my hands off the keyboard to “touch” the screen, it takes longer than just putting my finger down on the trackpad and moving the cursor the old-fashioned way.  (Perhaps I am just getting too old!)
    Note: Be careful with this choice!  The Yoga RT version IS NOT the Ultrabook version.  You should pay no less than $999 for this laptop!  Otherwise, you are getting the RT version, which will not likely run all of the software you want to run!
    Pros:  Lightweight, slim, great screen, could double as a tablet (see below), great price point (right at $1k!), you can upgrade the memory yourself, slightly larger screen resolution (matching that of the Air 13″)
    Cons: Touchscreen will want you to “touch it” – expect to clean it a lot like your iPad, doesn’t come in 11″ form factor, slightly heavier (1 lbs for 11″, .5 lbs for 13″)


All in all, if I were to buy today, I would probably buy the Lenovo.  It’s a better deal at $999, and already comes with Windows (saving some time for an IT guy to load up bootcamp).

A couple of additional notes:

  • I leverage Microsoft SkyDrive.  For $50 per year, I get 100gigs of redundant storage in the cloud, that works across all my devices.  That is why I really no longer need a “large hard drive” for my laptop.  All of my sales collateral, presentations, training materials, Six-Sigma documentation, and so on are all in the cloud, available to me on any device.  It also gives me the freedom to “switch hardware” whenever I need to, with little or no IT intervention.
  • I have purchased a PNY Key 32gb USB Flash Drive that I often carry around, but have not used since I extended my Skydrive account to 100gb.  But I often use it to transfer presentations and files from my Air to a client’s conference room PC or desktop (often giving them a copy of my presentation on the spot)