How to pick a business laptop for your accounting firm

What you need to know before upgrading to the new generation of laptops that support the remote working revolution.

Buying the best laptop to suit your accounting firm’s needs can be a tough proposition, especially as the wrong choice can prove costly. Here’s how to avoid buyer’s remorse.

Every laptop looks pretty much the same, whether it carries a badge that says Lenovo, HP, Dell or Acer.

There are several points of differentiation. One is resolution. If you’re interested in running ultrawide screens, then you will need a laptop that can handle 4k resolution. 

Lenovo (Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon) and HP (HP Elite Dragonfly) have both released 4k capable laptops in the past 12 months. 

There are some outlier models that could give you a little bump in efficiency, especially if you’re planning on working more from home or visiting clients’ offices.  

Tech-savvy accountant Tyler Wise, who runs a firm called Wise Accounting, bought a more unusual model – the Asus ZenBook Duo, which displays a second, smaller screen above the keyboard.

“Because we're so used to having big monitors or multiple monitors, when you're away from the office or even just having a meeting in the boardroom, we struggle,” Wise says. 

“That little extra half a monitor permanent view gives us that efficiency. It’s trying to fit as much of the desktop environment into a portable machine.”

John Ellis, Officeworks’ national sales manager, workspace solutions and ICT, also supports the idea of upgrading to the new generation of laptops to meet the latest demands of the remote working revolution

“Working from home has most definitely embraced the move to digital,” he says. “People don’t have the storage like they do back in the office.” 

Power matters

Another point is power. Every major brand has high-end models with plenty of grunt for accounting tasks. Just don’t try to cut corners with the entry-level models, Wise says.

Wise experimented with cheaper A$1500 laptops but found it was a costly mistake. He had to replace the laptops after a few months with more powerful machines. 

“As soon as you put [the cheap laptop] under load it just starts to shake, you don't trust it anymore and you lose your data,” Wise says. 

“We learned that lesson the hard way because we lost a day's worth of work when a computer ‘wigged’ out. My dad always says, ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ and he’s never been wrong.”

Another point is ease of repair. Some brands make it easier to upgrade components yourself or replace failed internals. This allows you to eke a little more out of the laptop’s lifespan. 

Laptops with lifetime

The Lenovo ThinkPads have a strong reputation for ease of repair. They are well built, can be disassembled and reassembled with standard tools, the hardware maintenance guides are freely available, and replacement parts can be ordered online. 

Apple sits at the other end of the scale. Its lightweight MacBooks and iPads prioritise slimness over accessibility. Internal components are often glued together making self-repair almost impossible. 

However, Apple’s closed environment approach, where it assembles the hardware and writes the software, makes the machines last longer, says Wise.

Wise bought a Mac in 2011 when he started the company and kept using it until November 2019. 

Apple also has a generous support program. Wise drove the three-hour trip to Perth when he had a problem with a Mac he had recently bought. The Apple store knew he was a regular customer and didn’t bother diagnosing the problem. Instead, the employee handed him a new replacement machine on the spot. 

“That was worth the premium you pay Apple. Instead of them saying, ‘I will have it back in a week,’ we restored from a back-up on the new machine and it was like we had never left.”

The firm changed over to Windows machines because some practice software couldn’t run on the Macs. The Windows laptops need more frequent updating and seem to fail faster, Wise says.

“If we didn't need to be in the Windows environment, we wouldn't be,” Wise says.

December/January 2022
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