Best Build Quality Laptops, Which Laptops Last the Longest?
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The build quality of a laptop is one of the most important factors to look at when making a purchase. It will help you determine how well the device will hold up to daily wear and tear as well as those occasional heart-stopping drops. Moreover, it also adds to the overall user experience of the laptop. Sadly, determining what “good quality” means isn’t as clear-cut as it might seem. For example, you can determine the build quality of a thin laptop by whether it feels flimsy in the hand. Similarly, heavy-duty laptops should feel extremely rigid and should have some heft to them. Lastly, ordinary laptops that don’t fall into either of the categories should just feel sufficiently sturdy.
The actual materials don’t play as much of an important role, since a plastic laptop can be as sturdy as a metal one. Metal devices do provide a bit more resistance against external forces, therefore are a bit more durable, but plastic is lighter and cheaper to the manufacturer. However, both of these can be sufficiently durable for most use scenarios.
Unlike performance which can be represented by simple numbers, build quality is a bit more difficult to properly understand. It’s a lot more subjective since what feels sturdy to one person won’t necessarily feel the same to another. That’s why; we have compiled a few simple checkmarks which will help you gauge if the device you want is built well enough to satisfy your needs.
One of the first things to look at is the flex at different areas of the laptop. Try jiggling the screen and see if it wobbles. Very little or better yet no wobble is a sign that the hinge is high quality. You can also try flexing the entire laptop when it’s closed. If you’re unable to bend it, it’s probably less prone to cracking. It should be noted that a lot of people do prefer if the chassis flexes a bit and that’s completely fine as well. The last thing you need to look at is the keyboard, it may not be as important as the hinge, but it’s still a good indicator of good build quality.
Another important thing to look for is heat dissipation. Under high workloads, a few laptops may become uncomfortably hot. Thinner laptops are the ones most affected by this, but sometimes even larger ones can suffer from this. That’s why it’s important to look at user reviews to see if the laptop you’re about to purchase thermal throttles or not.
Lenovo ThinkPad Series
If you were to ask a random tech enthusiast what the best-built laptop is, they would likely mention Lenovo’s ThinkPad. This series has existed since the ‘90s and has established its position as one of the best built Windows laptops out there. Lenovo has a good reputation in the laptop community and the company provides reliable laptops that are often used in the business environment.
Since their early glory days, the ThinkPads have kept evolving. They may no longer be a status symbol as they used to be but are still highly regarded for their excellent built quality. A common misconception is that they are laptops just for corporate and business use, therefore an average user shouldn’t buy them. This might stem from the fact that they are commonly used in businesses. The reason for this is that they are reliable machines that can survive some pretty harsh usage. In our opinion, that’s all the more reasons one should go for a ThinkPad.
It’s not uncommon to hear stories about ThinkPads surviving extreme conditions, which would normally absolutely destroy a laptop. It’s more unbelievable when you hear that they only suffer a few scratches and dents. The hinge especially is very well designed considering how users use it to pick up their laptops, with no negative repercussion. On the more extreme side, some models have even survived being run over by a car with only very little cosmetic damage. Even the electronic components are well protected so you won’t have to worry about frying the circuits in case you provide it will more than the recommended power limit. If that’s not good enough, they also have a spill-proof keyboard, although we wouldn’t recommend purposefully trying out since liquids and electronics don’t go well together.
The ThinkPads aren’t just a one-trick pony; they have a lot of other features that make them a really good device for many consumers. Some of these include one of the best keyboards in the game, their infamous red TrackPoint, some pretty powerful components, and excellent battery life. Moreover, they even give you the option to select higher or lower battery capacities, depending on if you want portability or endurance.
The last aspect of ThinkPads we wanted to discuss is the serviceability. The after-sales of a laptop is really important in the unfortunate case that it ends up developing some technical problem. Luckily, the repairs are really easy and most shops will get them done for you. Moreover, since the ThinkPads have been around for so long, their third party replacement components are fairly common as well. Although, it’s highly likely that you’ll never actually get to go to a repair shop because of the fact that these are super durable.
Lenovo ThinkPad T440 (OLD but GOLD, Workstation)
ThinkPad T440 is one of the most popular ThinkPads of all time. Most stories you hear about laptops surviving extreme conditions can be traced back to this machine. The only downside is that it’s a bit old. But if you can get it for a good price, it can be a really valuable find.
It has some pretty powerful components for its time with either a 4th Generation Intel i3, i5, or i7. Although if given the opportunity, we recommend getting the i7 as the other variants may seem slow since the laptop is old. You also get either 4, 8, or 12 GB of RAM, with 500 GB HDD and a 128, 256, or 512 GB SSD.
The display also may seem a bit old, but it’s still more than useable. The size is 14-inches and the resolution will vary depending on what variant you get. It didn’t miss out on other important features either like a webcam, amazing backlit keyboard, and even a full VGA port.
As previously mentioned, there are multiple battery options ranging from 48 Whr to 72 Whr, which can provide approximately 4 to 10 hoursof battery life in real-world usage. Although this will depend on your usage, battery capacity, and processor variant. It’s impressive to see that despite excellent build quality and great battery, this laptop only weighs 4 pounds, which may not be as light as an ultrabook, but still portable enough for most people.
Lenovo ThinkPad E595
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, then we got you covered. The E595 is one of the first AMD powered ThinkPads that provides all the same great features that we mentioned earlier with a more modern makeover.
The processor powering this laptop is either the AMD® Ryzen™ 7 3700U or AMD® Ryzen™ 5 3500U. Both of these are capable CPUs that match or outperform their Intel counterparts. Going with either one of these will fulfill most users’ requirements. Along with that, you also get either 8 or 16 GB of fast DDR4 RAM as well as 256 or 512 GB of SSD storage.
The display is a 15.6 inches, anti-glare panel, that produces some pretty nice colors and is plenty sharp. There are many other features that make this a much better deal like the inclusion of a webcam, USB-C port, and the regular ThinkPad security features like the Kensington® lock slot.
The battery easily lasts 6 to 8 hours, and even more if you’re conservative with your usage. The weight of this laptop is on the slightly heavier side at 4.7 pounds, but it’s still portable, although not as much as the previous option.
Lenovo ThinkPad E15
All the options we previously mentioned were either old or high-end. That’s not to say that Lenovo doesn’t make any budget ThinkPads. The best example of this is the E15, which comes at various price ranges, each with different specs, to satisfy a larger audience.
There are three main variants of this laptop. The lower end version comes with a10th Generation Intel i3, which is still really capable despite the lower price. The middle and higher-end models come with 10th Generation Intel i7. Your choice will obviously depend on what your budget is, but whichever one you go with, will provide you some of the best value for your money. They come with a 500 GB HDD, 256 GB SSD, or 1 TB SSD respectively. The i3 model comes with 4 GB RAM and the i7s come with either 8 or 16 GB RAM. Our personal favorite out of the three is the middle i7 variant as it’s the perfect balance between performance and affordability, but feel free to go for whichever model suits your needs. You also get the option to upgrade to a dedicated RX 640 GPU for those looking into gaming or other graphically intensive tasks.
The display on all three of the models is the same 1080p anti-glare panel, with the only difference being that the i7 models get a slightly brighter one. Features like a webcam with a privacy shutter, USB-C port, and an optional backlight keyboard make this laptop the perfect buy for anyone.
The battery life is superb as well, considering you get 8 to 10 hours of usage. Even with this large battery, it’s surprisingly light at only 4.3 pounds.
Apple MacBook Series
Apple is one of the oldest computer companies out there and they’ve made some pretty revolutionizing changes. A lot of technology that we use on a daily basis can be credited to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak such as the modern smartphone and even making the mouse mainstream.
Despite being relatively new to the laptop game, no one can deny Apple’s overwhelming influence. Their Macbooks are some of the best built and well-designed laptops in the market. They have gone through multiple design refreshes, but the basic blueprint of a sturdy all-aluminum body is the same. It both looks and feels premium that’s why we have included it on our list.
A common problem with MacBooks is that they don’t have the best specifications and are often overpriced. That may be true, but it’s really difficult to find Windows laptops that are that well built. Moreover, you can also buy more budget-friendly Macs, although they won’t provide the same power when compared to their more expensive counterparts. Luckily, ultra high performance isn’t necessary unless you need it for heavy technical usage. MacBooks are in a league of their own and making a fair comparison between them and a Windows laptop is difficult due to the vastly different experience both of these provide.
Apple has designed MacBooks in a way that they are difficult to user upgrade, but to compensate for that they also have some of the best customer support in the form of Apple Care. Any problem you face can be fixed with a simple visit to the Apple Store and they often provide you with replacement units at fraction of the cost of the original device. A mixture of durable hardware, amazing third-party services, and an amazing operating system in the form of MacOS is the reason why many often don’t upgrade their MacBooks for even up to a decade. Even when you want to get it changed, Macs hold their values much better than their Windows counterpart, which is also one of the reasons they are slightly more expensive when purchasing.
Apple MacBook Pro
Those looking to get the best of the best from Apple should look no further than the MacBook Pro. It’s the most expensive line of laptops by Apple and rightfully so. Along with having all the benefits of a regular MacBook, it also offers amazing performance. However, we would only recommend professionals to get it as it’s really expensive and you can get a similar experience from the lower end Macs as well.
The processor on this laptop will depend on which variant you want or how much you’re willing to pay. It comes with either a 9th Generation Intel i7 or i9. However, Apple has also launched the Apple silicon equipped M1 Macs, which are more powerful and with better battery life than their Intel predecessors. We highly recommend going with those as they are a total game-changer. Along with that, there are also many storage and memory variants as you get 512 Gb to 1 TB storage, as well as 16 to 64 GB of RAM.
The display on the MacBook Pros is absolutely stunning. Since it’s targeted towards productivity and professional use, the screen is color accurate and can definitely be used as a primary display for video and photo editing, and other tasks as well. The port selection is what you would expect from any ultrabook that is only 4 Thunderbolt ports. We would’ve loved to see a USB-A, but Apple hasn’t included it in their laptops for a while, so we can’t really complain. You also get a Touch bar, which can be helpful when you want to have keyboard shortcuts for different types of commands.
The battery life of the M1 equipped MacBooks is way ahead of the competition as you get 18 hours on a single charge, which is by far the best battery we’ve seen on any laptop out there.
Apple MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is a more affordable version of the MacBook Pro, which provides you a slightly toned-down laptop. It’s mostly targeted towards general consumers, that’s also why you won’t need the extreme specifications of the Pro.
Like the MacBook Pro, the Air also used to come with Intel processors, but ever since the transition to Apple Silicon, allMacBooks now come with the M1 processors. However, it should be noted that this one has 2 of its performance cores disabled which makes it slightly less powerful but it can compete with and even beat the old Intel processors. The reason for this nerf in performance is that the MacBook Air has no fans, so disabling 2 of the cores helps it avoid heating up, which would otherwise result in thermal throttling.
The display is almost identical to the Pro which is a really good thing. Sadly, the port selection is worse as you only get 2 Thunderbolt ports. The touchpad has also been removed from this model, but that’s excusable since it has a very niche usage scenario and won’t affect a lot of people.
The battery time you get with the Air is a little less than the Pro at 15 hours, but that still one of the best performing batteries when compared to Windows laptops and even older Macs.
The last category of laptops we want to discuss is the extremely rugged laptops. They are built like tanks and can survive all sorts of use scenarios such as being completely submerged in water or even dropped from a high altitude. We wouldn’t recommend regular consumers to go for this type of laptop as these have a few downsides, but those who prioritize durability over everything else can certainly look into getting one.
Rugged laptops are the exact opposite of a thin ultrabook. They’re supposed to minimize the impact when being dropped or whenever pressure is being applied. Due to the nature of materials, that means that the device has to be heavier as well as thicker than a normal laptop. You can find these laptops weighing more than 7 pounds and sometimes even up to 9 or 10 pounds.
Sadly, these laptops have a downside of not providing you the best performance. They almost always have worse specifications than other windows laptops in their price range. The reason for this is that most of the cost is used to make your laptop more resistant to extreme use scenarios. Moreover, the purpose of this laptop isn’t to provide you the best performance for the money, but rather a device that can connect to the internet for basic tasks like web browsing, and can also survive a good beating. That’s also the reason, survival stories of these rugged laptops are even more spectacular than the ThinkPads.
Due to the nature of rugged laptops, they are also really easy to upgrade. Most have a modular design in which the components like the storage or RAM can come out like Lego pieces. This feature is exclusive to rugged laptops.
Dell Rugged Series
Many manufacturers make rugged laptops, but one of the best rugged laptops series is by Dell. We will specifically be talking about the Dell Latitude Rugged as they are the most popular in the whole lineup.
The processor provided will depend on the exact model you’ll be going for. We did mention that the performance will be slightly worse than a normal laptop, but that doesn’t mean that it will lag or feel that much slower. The basic experience will be very similar, the only difference you feel is when doing more intensive tasks like video editing, gaming, or rendering.
The port selection on these laptops is amazing considering there is a lot of space inside the laptop. You get everything from USB-C to Ethernet. All the ports are covered with a plastic flap to protect the internal components in case of water spillage.
The extra space also means that there is room for a large battery. That’s the reason why these laptops provide upwards of 8 hours and sometimes even 10 hours on a single charge. The weight of the latitude rugged series is 7 to 8 lbs. depending on your exact model, which isn’t that bad.
Panasonic Toughbook Series
The last laptop series we want to talk about is the Panasonic Toughbook. These along with the Dell are the most popular laptop for those looking towards getting something extremely durable. Since both of them are direct competitors, you’ll see some common elements between both of them.
As previously mentioned, performance isn’t the focus of these laptops so we won’t fixate much on that. Panasonic has included a high amount of storage and RAM. Most models we looked at had more than 512 GB of storage, and sometimes as much as 2 TB. They also have anywhere from 8 to 32 GB of RAM which is fantastic. We doubt that you’ll ever need to upgrade them anytime soon.
The port selection on this laptop is excellent as well since you even get old ports like VGA, as well as more mainstream ports like USB. Like the Dell, these ports are also covered to provide a water-resistant seal.
The battery life of the Toughbook series is around 8 to 10 hours. However, some of the models can store two batteries which double the screen-on time. As a result of this, those laptops are also much heavier. A good example of this is the Toughbook CF-31 which weighs 10 pounds.
We reviewed three very different types of laptops. All three of them are useful in different scenarios for different people. Below we have summarized each type of laptop as well as explained if they are right for you.
The first category we discussed was general-purpose well built Windows laptops, and we more specifically talked about the ThinkPad. These laptops are the perfect balance of heft, performance, and durability. They can survive a good beating, therefore can last a very long time. We think that these kinds of laptops are perfect for those who want something durable, but without sacrificing portability that much. These might not be as portable as an Ultrabook, but they can certainly survive a fall, with little damage.
Next comes the Apple MacBook. We think that these laptops should only be purchases by professionals, or those who are already heavely invested in the Apple ecosystem. The high barrier of entry, as well as a completely different user experience, won’t suit most people who aren’t already part of the Apple ecosystem. However, those who already own an iPhone or iPad will be please by the sheer amount of Apple-specific features that this laptop offers like AirDrop.
Last comes the extremely rugged laptops. We believe these are very niche laptops and you’ll need to determine by yourself if you really need them. If you’re ok with the added heft as well as a slight decrease in performance, then you should go for it. Otherwise, we recommend sticking with the other options, since they also provide good durability, without the downsides.