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Best business laptops on Amazon Business

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How Amazon Business differs from regular Amazon
Amazon Business offers numerous perks to registered business users. ZDNet breaks down all the ways your team can benefit from joining, which is completely free to do! Read more: https://zd.net/2Zzh1EJ

Whether you’re looking to buy a fleet of laptops for your team or a single ultrabook you can take on the go, you’ll want a robust business laptop that offers more than what you can get from a consumer notebook. Power, security, durability, and a premium typing experience are must-haves, and luckily for you, we’ve found the perfect systems that tick off all those boxes. The best part is you can get them all on Amazon Business.

Also: What is Amazon Business and how does it work?

Best business laptops

Note: Some of the items below may be eligible for special discount pricing on Amazon Business if purchased in large quantities.

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Acer Aspire 5 Slim for $309

Given its low price tag for a basic Windows laptop, it’s no wonder that the Aspire 5 Slim is the most popular notebook on sale through Amazon Business. To drop its price point to near Chromebook levels, Acer eschews Intel’s Core processors for an AMD Ryzen 3 chip and provides minimal RAM (4GB) and storage (128GB SSD). You do get a full HD 15.6-inch display at least, but the Slim defaults to Windows 10 in S mode, which limits you to apps from the Microsoft Store and the Edge browser in the name of extending your computing time between charges. (You can switch to the full version of Windows 10 for free, however.)

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Lenovo ThinkPad X390 for $1,039

A solid, traditional clamshell 13.3-inch laptop, the X390 offers the ThinkPad features business buyers have depended on for years: great keyboard, TrackPoint center button, all-day battery life, and an array of security options. In her review, ZDNet’s Sandra Vogel concludes that the X390 is “a solidly built small-format laptop that frequent travelers should find easy to carry.”

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Chuwi AeroBook for $499

While not as cheap as some of its earlier notebooks, Chuwi’s AeroBook still comes in well under the price of most Windows laptops but isn’t shy about its MacBook-inspired design. With its 13.3-inch form factor and 256GB solid-state drive, the AeroBook is more about lightweight on-the-go productivity than powerhouse performance, especially given its outdated Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor. Nonetheless, ZDNet’s Alun Taylor says that the AeroBook is “is a great looker, well made, well-specified, and performs faultlessly.”

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HP Chromebook 14A for $256

Chromebooks haven’t been nearly as successful in disrupting the business market as they have in education, but they still offer an affordable alternative for those who mostly make use of web-based applications rather than traditional Windows desktop software. HP keeps the price down on its Chromebook 14A by using a plastic chassis and including a low-res display and a mere 20GB of built-in storage, but compensates with ruggedized construction, solid keyboard, and 9-hour battery life. As Vogel points out in her review, “it does the job it’s meant to do very well — at an attractive price.”

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 for $829

Microsoft hasn’t always succeeded with its forays into hardware (remember the Zune?), but it’s certainly hit with its Surface brand. While the Surface Pro tablet can be used as a convertible device with the addition of a type cover, the company realized that a dedicated notebook could appeal to business customers as well. Now on its second iteration, the Surface Laptop 2 gets a speed bump with eight-generation Intel Core processors and double the RAM of its predecessor. It retains the 13.5-inch touchscreen display and manages to weigh just 2.8 pounds.

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Dell Latitude 5420 for $1,602

Not every business notebook is used in a coworking space or on a coast-to-coast flight. Dell’s Latitude 5420 is built for harsher conditions, able to withstand knocks, drops, and bumps thanks to its magnesium alloy case, eight bumpers, and water and dust resistance (meeting MIL-STD 810G and IP52 durability standards). You pay for that tough construction rather than robust specs — the base model includes an older Core i3 processor — though you do get a full HD 14-inch screen and an additional bay for a second battery. While our review refers to the 5420 as “a competent rugged laptop,” sometimes that’s just what you need to get the job done.

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Acer Chromebook Spin 13 for $684

If you want to go upscale with a business-oriented Chromebook instead of the more budget-conscious HP Chromebook 14A, Acer’s convertible notebook may be your best bet. It’s packed with a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504 touchscreen display, Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 64GB solid-state drive. The Spin 13 even includes a stylus to use to write or draw when you choose to be in tablet mode. Even if it’s well above the price of most Chromebooks, our review argues that “it’s hard to deny the sheer value for money offered by devices such as the Spin 13.”

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Apple MacBook Pro for $2,499

A year ago, ZDNet experts were debating whether Apple was still worried about professional users of its Mac computers, but the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro update should assuage some concerns about that. By upgrading to ninth-generation Intel Core processors — including eight-core Core i9 CPUs — and more powerful AMD Radeon Pro graphics, Apple is giving the creative professionals who support the brand a major performance boost. There’s a hefty price to pay, but then again, that’s always the case with Apple. It doesn’t dissuade ZDNet’s Cliff Joseph from concluding that “thankfully, it’s…powerful enough to justify that price and ensure that it earns its keep when you’re on the road.”

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page.



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After ICBM test, US stresses it was “not the result of current world events”

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Enlarge / This old file photo shows a Minuteman III rocket being launched from California.

Lee Corkran/Sygma via Getty Images

Early on Tuesday morning, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, to test the capabilities of the US nuclear armed forces.

The missile carried a test reentry vehicle, which traveled about 6,700 km to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where there is sophisticated tracking equipment to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. During an armed conflict, such a missile, which has a range of nearly 10,000 km, could be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

In a news release, the US Air Force took pains to describe this test as long-scheduled and not conducted due to current world events. Rather, the Air Force said, it was the result of “months of preparation” across multiple government partners.

“This scheduled test launch is demonstrative of how our nation’s ICBM fleet illustrates our readiness and reliability of the weapon system,” said Col. Chris Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “It is also a great platform to show the skill sets and expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s test—which occurred at 12:49 am local time in California on Tuesday, or 07:49 UTC—was notable due to its timing. At least twice this year, the Air Force has delayed or canceled a Minuteman III test because of geopolitical tensions.

On March 2, the Pentagon said it was delaying an ICBM test to avoid any miscalculations with Russia, which had just invaded Ukraine. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin had placed his nuclear deterrent forces on a “special regime of combat duty.” A month later, as tensions continued to escalate, the Air Force confirmed that the planned Minuteman III test had been canceled.

Tuesday’s test had also been delayed due to geopolitical events, Reuters reported. It was moved so as not to send the wrong message after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a trip to Taiwan, and China responded with a show of force earlier in August.

During the last half-century, the US military has carried out more than 300 ICBM tests to ensure the readiness of its stash of missiles, more than 400 of which are deployed around the United States in case they are called upon in a nuclear conflict. These missiles are intended to serve as a deterrent, in that no matter who acts first in a nuclear war, the United States would be able to retaliate with devastating force.

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Which microbes live in your gut?

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When you hear about the gut microbiome, does it ever make you wonder what tiny creatures are teeming inside your own body? As a microbiologist who studies the microbiomes of plants, animals and people, I’ve watched public interest in gut microbes grow alongside research on their possible dramatic influence on human health. In the past several years, microbiome testing techniques used by researchers like me are now available to consumers at home. These personal gut microbiome testing kits claim to tell you what organisms live in your gut and how to improve your gut microbiome using that data.

I became very interested in how these home test kits work, what kind of information they provide and whether they can really help you change your gut microbiome. So I ordered a few kits from Viome, Biohm and Floré, tried them out and sifted through my own microbiome data. Here is what I learned.

Your gut microbiome can be a partner in your health—if you have the right bacteria.

How do gut microbiome kits work?

All gut microbiome kits require you to carefully collect fresh fecal material. You put it in the various tubes provided in the kit and mail the samples back to the company. Several weeks later, you’ll receive a report describing the types of microbes living in your gut and suggestions on how to change your diet or activities to potentially alter your gut microbiome.

What consumers don’t exactly know is how companies generate the microbial profile data from your fecal sample. A typical approach I and other microbiome researchers use is to extract and decode the microbial genetic material from a sample. We use that genetic material to identify what species of microbes are present. The challenge is that this process can be done in many different ways, and there are no widely agreed-upon standards for what is the best method.

Different home gut microbiome test kits can give conflicting results.
Enlarge / Different home gut microbiome test kits can give conflicting results.

For example, microbiome analyses can be done on two types of genetic material, RNA or DNA. If the profile is based on DNA, it can give you a snapshot only of what types of microbes are present, not what microbial genes are active or what activities they are doing in your body. On the other hand, if the profile is based on RNA, it can tell you not only what microbes are present, but also whether they’re playing a role in your digestion or producing metabolites that can reduce gut inflammation, among other functions. Viome generates its profiles by looking at RNA, while the other companies use DNA.

Other data analysis choices, such as how different types of genetic sequences are sorted or which databases are used to identify the microbes, can also affect the level of detail and utility of the final data. Microbiome scientists are usually very careful to point out these nuances when interpreting their own data in scientific papers, but these details are not clearly presented in home microbiome kits.

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De-extinction company sets its next (first?) target: The thylacine

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Of all the species that humanity has wiped off the face of the Earth, the thylacine is possibly the most tragic loss. A wolf-sized marsupial sometimes called the Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine met its end in part because the government paid its citizens a bounty for every animal killed. That end came recently enough that we have photographs and film clips of the last thylacines ending their days in zoos. Late enough that in just a few decades, countries would start writing laws to prevent other species from seeing the same fate.

On Tuesday, a company called Colossal, which has already said it wants to bring the mammoth back, is announcing a partnership with an Australian lab that it says will de-extinct the thylacine with the goal of re-introducing it into the wild. A number of features of marsupial biology make this a more realistic goal than the mammoth, although there’s still a lot of work to do before we even start the debate about whether reintroducing the species is a good idea.

To find out more about the company’s plans for the thylacine, we had a conversation with Colossal’s founder, Ben Lamm, and the head of the lab he’s partnering with, Andrew Pask.

Branching out

To an extent, Colossal is a way of organizing and funding the ideas of Lamm’s partner, George Church. Church has been talking about de-extincting the mammoth for a number of years, spurred in part by developments in gene editing. The company is structured as a startup, and Lamm said it’s very open to commercializing technology it develops while pursuing its goals. “On our path to de-extinction, Colossal is developing new software, wetware, and hardware innovative technologies that can have profound impacts on both conservation and human health care,” he told Ars. But fundamentally, it’s about developing products for which there’s obviously no market: species that no longer exist.

The general approach it lays out for the mammoth is straightforward, even if the details are extremely complex. There are plenty of samples of mammoth tissue from which we can obtain at least partial genomes, which can then be compared to its closest relatives, the elephants, to find key differences distinct to the mammoth lineage. Thanks to gene editing technology, key differences can be edited into the genome of an elephant stem cell, essentially “mammothifying” the elephant cells. A bit of IVF later, and we’ll have a shaggy beast ready for the sub-Arctic steppes.

Again, the details matter. At the plan’s inception, we had not created elephant stem cells, nor done gene editing at even a fraction of the scale required. There are credible arguments that the peculiarities of the elephant reproductive system make the “bit of IVF” that’s needed a practical impossibility; if it does happen, it will involve a nearly two-year gestation before the results can be evaluated. Elephants are also intelligent, social creatures, and there’s a reasonable debate to be had about whether using them to this end is appropriate.

Given these challenges it may not be a coincidence that Lamm said Colossal had been looking for a second species to de-extinct. And their search turned up a project that was taking a nearly identical approach: the Thylacine Integrated Genomic Restoration Research Lab (TIGRR), based at the University of Melbourne and headed by Andrew Pask.

In the pouch

As with Colossal’s mammoth plans, TIGRR intends to obtain thylacine genomes, identify key differences between that genome and related lineages (mostly quolls), and then edit those differences into marsupial stem cells, which would then be used for IVF. It, too, faces some significant hurdles, in that nobody has made marsupial stem cells yet, nor has anyone cloned a marsupial—two things that have at least been done in placental mammals (though not pachyderms).

But Pask and Lamm pointed out a number of ways that the thylacine is a far more tractable system than a mammoth. For one, the animal’s survival until recent years means there are a lot of museum samples, and thus Pask says we’re likely to obtain enough genomes to get a sense of the population’s genetic diversity—likely critical if we want to re-establish a stable breeding population.

Marsupial reproduction also makes things significantly easier. A marsupial embryo “places far less nutritional demand on getting to the point of birth,” Pask told Ars. “The placenta doesn’t really invade the uterus.” Marsupials are also born at a stage that’s roughly half-way through embryogenesis for a mammal; the rest of development takes place in the mother’s pouch. In contrast to the in utero years needed by a mammoth, the thylacine may only need a few weeks. The marsupial embryos are also so small at birth that the foster mothers can be considerably smaller than a thylacine; Pask said his group plans to work with a fat-tailed dunnart, which is roughly the size of a small rat.

Even after birth, the thylacines would fit in the dunnart’s pouch for a short period, and Lamm is excited by the prospect of developing an artificial pouch to get the animals from there to the point where they can be hand-reared. If not, some larger marsupials could act as foster parents.

The dunnart isn’t the ideal surrogate, as it’s lineage diverged from that of thylacines several million years ago (compared to well under a million for mammoths and elephants). That means a lot more genome editing needs to be done to dunnart cells to get them to a thylacine-like state. That’s one of the reasons that Pask was excited about the opportunity to team up with Colossal, which is working to develop methods for high-throughput genome editing.

None of this is to say that the thylacine is more or less likely to be revived. Colossal will still face challenges identifying which changes are absolutely essential for producing a thylacine-like animal, and which other changes are needed to ensure the genome will survive all of that category of changes (these compensatory mutations can be essential for allowing species to survive evolutionary changes). Still, most of the risks involved appear to be more manageable in its case.

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