The best mobile workstations offer the kind of power you would only expect to see in robust desktop PCs and the best laptops. But they are also trimmed enough to be easily used on the road. As internal components such as GPUs and CPUs have gotten smaller, so have the laptops equipped with them. Fortunately, this also applies to these portable workstations, which have been called lighter and thinner while providing more performance than their predecessors.
Thanks to all the power they contain, you can use these portable desktop PC replacements for several applications. So, whether you need something that can keep up with the best business laptops or do some video editing without breaking a sweat, one is more than capable. All that power and their reliability also mean that you should get quite a few years of use out of them before upgrading, making them an excellent value. And some of them can go head-to-head with some of the best desktop workstations available.
We tested many mobile workstations to determine the best ones for power users. We analyzed their performance, graphics, display, hardware design, and storage, among other things. The workstations we’ve listed are suited for different uses — while some are great for business professionals, others are perfect for content creators and creatives at varying levels.
We’ve gathered our picks of the best mobile workstations 2023 has to offer here to help you find your next portable.
Also, check out the best laptops and tablets for drawing and artwork here.
The best mobile workstations of 2023 in full
If power and portability are what you’re looking for, there’s no better choice right now than the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2022). It’s more of a creative laptop than a business one. However, if you need a workstation for your creative tasks that you can carry anywhere, its M2 chip comes with a lot of processing and graphical prowess. That’s while touting a battery life that’ll last you even past your work hours.
This laptop may be overkill for normal users, but it is incredible for video editors, music producers, photographers, and programmers.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022)
One of the most powerful mobile workstations out there, the Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) comes with a lot of power, a gorgeous display, and a whole lotta ports. Best yet, it is priced well below its less-powerful rivals, making it a better proposition even if you have a more flexible budget. It is not by any means perfect. The battery life could use a bit of a boost, for example. But, for how much you are paying and for the other things you are getting in return, it is a minuscule sacrifice.
The Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) boasts exceptional build quality and can run AAA games pretty well too. Not just that, this midrange laptop offers terrific performance when running video editing, graphic design, and 3D rendering apps.
Read the full review: Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021)
No matter what you’re looking for in a computer, the MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) can probably handle it. That’s thanks to Apple’s in-house M1 Pro and M1 Max (if you choose to upgrade) that can blaze through any application you can think of.
The Pro comes with an incredible display that'll eliminate the need to plug into an external monitor, as well as plenty of ports including next-gen Thunderbolt 4 ports. All that performance does come at a price, as even the base model costs a lot. But, considering how powerful this laptop is, it’s worth the price of entry.
The laptop's also large and heavy, so you'll want to check out the 14-inch MacBook Pro, unless you really need the larger screen and longer battery life.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021)
There are very few laptops that are more powerful than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6. This 2-in-1 workhorse delivers excellent battery life of up to 14 hours, and if you’re going to be working long hours, this is the mobile workstation you’ll want to be working in.
It also comes with a breathtaking 16:10 display as well as many security add-ons, features business professionals will appreciate. We’re also pretty sure that they’ll appreciate its connectivity ports (two USB Type-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-Cs, and HDMI 2.0) and garaged stylus.
The X1 Yoga Gen 6 does lack an SD card slot, making it a bit inconvenient for creatives and photographers. Despite its stunning performance, the laptop has a rather plain design that won't grab any eyeballs.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6
The HP ZBook Studio G7 may have been meant for creative professionals looking to get away from the Macbook Pro. However, its versatility, thanks to all the customizable options when purchasing, makes it ideal for a number of different uses, whether you’re looking for a reasonably priced ultrabook or one that can tackle gaming.
It can be upgraded to have some serious RAM and storage, up to an Intel i9, as well as an NVIDIA Quadro RTX3000 with Max-Q Design and a beautiful 4K display. And, even in its souped up configuration, it comes in at a decent price especially when compared to similar offerings from Dell or Apple.
This laptop can handle lots of heavy tasks, from graphic design and video editing to AAA gaming. The fan can be a bit loud and the laptop sometimes gets hot when running intensive apps, but overall, it's a sleek and well-built device.
Read the full review: HP ZBook Studio G7 review
For those who think that MacBook Pros are overpriced but still need a powerful mobile workstation, there’s the Acer ConceptD 7. This formidable laptop capable of handling complex and demanding tasks such as 3D rendering, thanks in part to its Nvidia RTX graphics, was designed specifically with creative professionals in mind.
Beyond the sheer power it delivers, it also offers decent port selection, a minimalist solid white design, and that stunning Pantone-validated 4K IPS display. Obviously, it’s still pretty pricey, but if you’re looking for a Windows-powered MacBook alternative for video and photo editing, it’s a great option.
The Acer ConceptD 7 is quite a stylish laptop and with Nvidia's RTX graphics, you can run AAA games on it too. But with support for Adobe GB and Delta E<2 color gamut, this laptop is not designed for normal users or gamers. Rather, it's perfect for those who need color accuracy, like photographers and video editors.
Read the full review: Acer ConceptD 7
Do you have a lot of cash to spare and require a powerful mobile workstation? Look no further than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme mobile workstation, whose impressive specs are only the beginning.
You’ll also appreciate working with that bright and crisp 15.6-inch screen, especially if you’re getting the 4K version, as well as all that storage space if you go all out. Though, fair warning, this isn’t exactly the lightest laptop you’ll lug around, so investing in a sturdy backpack with padded straps is ideal for stowing it in.
Although the interior of the laptop is packed with powerful, high-quality technology, the laptop's exterior is almost the same as the previous ThinkPad models. Although this may not appeal to users who want a more aesthetic-looking laptop, it's quite apt for the corporate market and working environments.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme mobile workstation
The Lenovo ThinkPad P16 is not for the faint of heart. Its large size can be intimidating, but the raw power is truly the most shocking thing about this computer. This laptop can perform at desktop levels thanks to the 12th gen Intel i9, RTX A5500, and 64GB of RAM. In addition to the impressive internals, this laptop has quite a few ports, allowing for this to be a workstation to complete nearly any project that you may need a computer for.
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How do I choose a workstation PC?
- TechRadarPro Q&A with Anu Herranen, Director of New Product Introduction, Advanced Compute and Solutions at HP Inc.
There are a couple of basic questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a workstation. The first is simply to think about the work you need it to support. Do you need fantastic graphics performance, or to analyze huge data sets in hours, rather than days? Do you need to be able to do a range of tasks concurrently? Which applications or operating system are you relying on?
The next step is to think more broadly about how and where you will use your workstation. Are you always in the field, therefore need a lightweight device, combined with great battery life? Or like so many of us today, do you need something that you can use at home, but doesn’t take up much space so you’re able to hide it away when not working? What audio experience do you need? Do you need to be able to work collaboratively?
Reliability is another key factor in choosing a workstation PC. Imagine that you are in a hospital environment analyzing CT scans: your computer needs to run 24/7 all year round and must never fail. Likewise, a NASA astronaut in a space station cannot ever take the risk of having their computer fail due to system crashes, component breakdowns and sluggish performance.
Some have undergone hundreds of thousands of hours of extensive testing under extreme conditions, where frequency, voltage and temperature are varied in such a way that it goes beyond what one could call normal operating conditions.
The best mobile workstations: how we test
We evaluated various aspects of different laptops to arrive at the best mobile workstations. Performance is essential, so we looked at how the workstations run different types of applications — from graphics-heavy programs to large data sets.
We analyzed numerous specs, like CPU, RAM, graphics, and storage, to determine what kinds of users the workstation would be best suited for. We considered how many connectivity ports the workstation had, whether the fan was noisy, and if the laptop would get hot with prolonged use.
Another key area we assessed was the laptop’s portability and battery life. We looked at the size, weight, and design of the workstations and included laptops of varying builds in our list.