Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops

Choosing the right laptop simplified.

 
Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops

It's the festival season and just the excuse required to splurge on gear and gadgets. A great majority of people these days are rather keen on switching over from desktops to laptops. Those who care less about their wallets and even lesser about getting any real work done seem to prefer the emerging tablet segment. If you belong to the latter category, watch out for an upcoming tablet buyer's guide. However, you are at the right place if you're in the market for a laptop.

Before you read further, let's ascertain if you really need a laptop. Ideally, you should consider one if you absolutely cannot do without mobility, and you...

  • Must visit clients to deliver presentations.
  • Are a student who keeps shifting around a lot.
  • Wish to take your computing from the desk to the sofa\bed.
  • Don't mind paying extra for considerably less computing power.
  • Are fully aware of the lack of upgrades and high replacement costs.
  • Aren't keen on typing a lot, because the desk is the only place that delivers the best typing position.
  • Represent 99% of the Indian population living outside the four Indian metros and therefore without access to clean and uninterrupted power.

If you satisfy the primary criterion and relate to at least one of the subsequent ones, you are an ideal candidate for mobile computing. Now that we know that you really do need a laptop, let's see what factors you should consider before zeroing in on the perfect match.

 

Budget Laptops (Up to Rs 25,000)

A vast majority of the population needs portable computers solely for music, movies, and web browsing. The weakest of the modern laptops are fully capable of these tasks, with the exception of the unoptimised, CPU throttling Flash content and complicated web applets. If you are a part of this simple computing demographic, you need not look further than netbooks and budget laptops falling under Rs 25,000. The choice between the two involves striking a balance between performance and portability.


Netbooks
With NVIDIA ION-based netbooks having virtually disappeared from the market, there are only two contenders in this segment. The first one is the ubiquitous Atom powered netbook range bearing the severely underpowered Intel HD Graphics subsystem. A much better, albeit more expensive, alternative is AMD E350 Zacate-based netbook solutions. These devices are complemented by powerful Radeon mobility graphics chipsets delivering enough juice for all but high-end gaming.

Choosing between the two is simple. Go for the Intel Atom netbooks if budget is your main consideration, knowing well that these will not handle HD video and flash content well enough. These are good for word processing tasks, while they also make for excellent download rigs. The power efficient Atoms are ideal for PC audiophiles as well. For anything more CPU and GPU intensive, it's better to choose AMD Zacate-based solutions instead.

Who should:

  • Commercial establishment owners who pay high utility rates will benefit from the sub-40 Watt power consumption.
  • Professionals who need computing on the move will appreciate the extended battery life and light weight.
  • Those who seek an excellent download rig capable of braving extended power cuts and "load shedding" nonsense.
  • Students needing a cheap portable computer for word processing, movies, music, and internet access.
  • Stock market traders who need enough battery backup to last an entire trading session.
  • The growing breed of PC audiophiles, armed with outboard USB DAC-cum-amps and headphones, will appreciate clean DC power (essential for good audio fidelity) and extended runtime provided by the netbook.

Who shouldn't:

  • Graphics professionals intending to perform heavy photomanipulation (GIMP, Photoshop).
  • Those involved in 3D content creation (MAYA, 3D Studio Max), video editing, and gaming.
  • Engineers, scientists, and business analysts seeking to run processor intensive tasks such as finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, and statistical analysis tools.
  • Anyone who uses optical media.
  • Those who aren't comfortable with small screens and trackpads.

Recommendations:

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


ASUS Eee PC 1011PX
MRP: Rs 12,300
Street Price: Rs 12,656 (Flipkart.com, Letsbuy.com); Rs 12,925 (HomeShop18.com)

Why: This is a dirt cheap netbook outfitted with all you need to deploy it as a download rig or for office productivity applications. It's good enough for PC audiophiles, as long as you don't expect to run Full HD content. It ships with 1 GB RAM, which isn't ideal for Windows 7. However, that is moot because the netbook comes preinstalled with FreeDOS. This leaves you free to install your favourite Linux distribution, which is in fact the most elegant solution available for productivity apps, multimedia, and internet.

 

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


HP Pavilion dm1z
MRP: Rs 26,730
Street Price: Rs 21,335 (Flipkart.com)

Why: The Pavilion dm1 has enough grunt to handle games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with great aplomb. The power-saving dual-core AMD E350 Zacate processor extends battery life without compromising on Full HD multimedia playback and internet browsing experience. It ships with 2 GB of RAM, which should prove plenty for Windows 7. What's more, you get a sublime 11.6" screen (1366x768) and an HDMI output to boot. This is highly recommended for those who seek portability and battery endurance without compromising on performance and features.


Budget Notebooks
Anything that cannot be handled by netbooks can be sorted out by these Intel Pentium Dual Core-powered budget laptops. The best part is that they are cheaper than most decent netbooks, albeit becoming considerably heavier and more power hungry in the bargain. On the plus side, you get enough processing power to handle anything this side of hardcore gaming. Then there are perks such as the optical drive, large screen, and a full-size keyboard. Just don't expect the same portability and battery life offered by the netbooks and you will be fine.

Who should:

  • Those seeking more power for video-editing and full-HD content.
  • Ones interested in casual (Flash-based) gaming.
  • Buyers preferring a larger screen and keyboard.
  • Anyone who absolutely needs optical drives on the move.

Who shouldn't:

  • Those who value portability over power.
  • Need extended battery life.
  • Those into latest games and heavy 3D content creation.
  • Users intending to take computing away from the desktop and onto the lap.

Recommendation:

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


Acer Aspire 5733G
Street Price: Rs 19,500 (Flipkart.com)

Why: The Aspire 5733G is incredible value for money. Not only do you get a 2.33 GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core and 2 GB of RAM, but also a 500 GB HDD and a USB 3.0 port. That's unheard value at this price range. The large 15.6" screen makes it good enough to be used as a poor man's desktop replacement..

 

Mid-Range Laptops (Up to Rs 50,000)

This segment is meant for those seeking desktop replacements. That makes discrete graphics indispensable for photo \ video-editing, moderate gaming, and other GPU intensive tasks. Mid-range AMD graphics solutions are generally a wee-bit faster than NVIDIA mobile GPUs, but our recommendations break the norm by incorporating a powerful NVIDIA GPU for cheap. While 2 GB of RAM is the bare minimum, anything more is welcome to complement the muscle of the Core i-series CPUs. USB 3.0 support is imperative at this price segment.

Those using the laptop mainly for productivity applications should opt for glare-reducing matte screens. On the other hand, gaming and multimedia usage is benefited by glossy screens that are prone to glare, but they make colours appear more natural. Needless to say, these feature packed devices tend to be heavy, so portability and battery life take a backseat to performance. This segment is ideal for those looking to move around the house with the laptop, without missing out on the functionality and grunt of a desktop. Therefore, a 15.6" screen is an ideal screen size requirement.

Who should:

  • Those seeking a desktop replacement.
  • Mainstream gaming at non-native resolution and moderate graphics details.
  • Ones intending to run processor intensive tasks such as video encoding.
  • Buyers preferring a larger screen and keyboard.
  • Anyone who absolutely needs optical drives on the move.

Who shouldn't:

  • Those who value portability over power.
  • Gaming enthusiasts seeking 60+ frame rates with eye candy maxed out.
  • Need extended battery life.
  • Those into heavy 3D content creation.
  • Users intending to take computing away from the desktop and onto the lap.

Recommendations:

 

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


Acer Aspire 5755G
MRP: Rs 50,000
Street Price: Rs 42,572 (Flipkart.com)

Why: Acer delivers much better value with the Aspire 5755G as opposed to the similarly priced HP Pavilion dv6 alternative. For starters, you receive a 2 GB NVIDIA GT 540M, which is considerably faster than Pavilion dv6's 1 GB Radeon HD 6490M and a terrific value at this price point. Let's not forget the cavernous 750 GB HDD. Then there's the competent 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M mated with 4 GB DDR3 RAM. This puppy will not only serve as a solid desktop replacement, but will handle most new games at reasonable frame rates as well.

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


HP Pavilion dv6-6115tx
MRP: Rs 41,895
Street Price: Rs 42,500 (Letsbuy.com)

Why: While the Pavilion dv6 may be similarly specced as the Aspire 5755G, it falls short in the graphics department. Ditto for the preinstalled OS, which happens to be Windows 7 Home Basic edition, as opposed to Acer's Home Premium license. The dv6's 500 GB HDD is 250 GB short of that offered by Acer. The only reason why one may consider this is if you pathologically hate NVIDIA and\or Acer. Either that or you may want to convince the salesman to give you a good discount on the basis of the arguments mentioned above..

 

Gaming Laptops

(Budget? Isn't that due in February?)


I fail to understand this category, save for the instances where rich kids want to take their gaming to hostels, or out of the country for that matter. Getting decent gaming performance on a laptop is a considerable engineering feat, and therefore extremely expensive as well. My advice is to opt for a regular tower gaming rig unless moving around is absolutely unavoidable. However, if the need arises, put a lid on the budget and go the whole hog, because upgrades aren't feasible in this category. That means, if a blu-ray option is available, go for it by all means. Ditto for 3D.

Since these laptops will anyway be characterised with hernia-inducing heft, there's no excuse to settle for anything smaller than a 17" display. Only high-end mobile GPUs are capable of delivering 60+ fps (anything less is a compromise), with all the eye candy maxed out in modern games. NVIDIA 5-series mobile GPUs are preferred by most gaming laptops and they are your best bet. It's better to save up and go for the best. That way, your investment will last you longer, before you have to cough up an obscene amount all over again.

Who should:

  • Gaming enthusiasts seeking 60+ frame rates with eye candy maxed out.
  • Those seeking to setup a mobile ICBM launch control.

Who shouldn't:

  • Everyone else.

Recommendations:

 

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops


Alienware M17x
MRP: 1,65,000
Street Price: Rs 1,34,972 (Flipkart.com)

Why: The Alienware M17x may cost a small fortune, but it includes a powerful Core i7 processor complemented by a monstrous 2 GB NVIDIA GTX 580M GPU. The 17" panel is capable of Full-HD 3D and ships with glasses to dive into stereoscopic gaming out of the box. The lightshow on offer with the M17x helps it look the part too.


ASUS G74SX
Street Price: Rs 1,09,447 (Flipkart.com)

Why: The ASUS G74SX's GTX 560M GPU may not have the same processing grunt of its Alienware counterpart, but it's blessed with an additional gigabyte of RAM. Moreover, it is well over a kilogramme lighter than the Alienware. The rest of the specsheet, from the CPU to the Full-HD 3D panel, is similar as well. What isn't similar, however, is the lack of backlighting and a considerable discount. Go for the ASUS if you don't mind toning down the detail level to accommodate its less powerful GPU.

 

Diwali Special Buyer's Guide: Laptops



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