As you can possibly imagine, we get a lot of reader queries asking us about the best laptop they can buy. The trend that we noticed was that most of these queries were regarding machines under Rs. 30,000 or around the same price band. Clearly, for a lot of first time buyers and also those who are on a strict budget, this is the most important price segment as far as Windows notebooks are concerned. But equally, we also sense some misconception and confusion in the consumers’ mind. And with the help of this article, we will attempt to solve that.
Look for the OS: In the hunt for the best prices, most consumers don’t realize that they may end up sacrificing a bit more than would be ideal. Among these compromises, the biggest one is that of the OS. For a price difference of around a few thousand, you get a machine with a preloaded OS, and one without. Without doubt, we will always recommend buying a machine with Windows 8 preloaded, over one with plain DOS and the headache of getting an OS later, a process you will have to undertake.
The processor generation: For less than Rs 30,000, it would be very hard to imagine getting a machine with an Ivy Bridge or even a Sandy Bridge Core i3 processor. What you get are the much older Intel Pentium dual core processors. Or, you have the option of the much newer AMD dual core and quad core APU’s. Between the two options, you are better off with the newer architecture, better power delivery and improved battery life that the AMD APUs offer.
The keyboard: An affordable laptop doesn’t mean you have to deal with a flimsy machine, with the biggest sacrifice coming in the form of a compromised typing experience. The best way to test this right there at the store is to actually type out a document on Windows Notepad, and see how comfortable you are with the layout. Second, press down at the middle of the keyboard - this will give you an idea of the flex or the dip the keyboard may suffer from. The newer HP and Asus keyboards have a different design, with the keyboard sitting on a metal base which makes it a lot more precise and stable.
Now that you have been warned about what to look out for, here are some worthwhile options that you need to consider, if you are in the market for a machine in this category. The machines listed here are in accordance with the price set in ascending order.
Acer Aspire V5-121
Approx Market price: Rs. 24,500
This is a machine that panders to the newer trend of smaller 11.6-inch displays, which is gaining popularity. This display size, with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels is the balance between usability and portability, which is one of the reasons why buyers prefer it. The V5-121 is powered by the AMD A68M dual core 1GHz power package, with a 256MB AMD Radeon HD 7290 graphics chip and 4GB of RAM. The machine packs in a 500GB hard drive, and comes preloaded with Windows 8. No shortage of connectivity options either, with two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. Windows 8 comes preloaded on this device, and we believe it is the best option at this price.
Lenovo Essential G505 (59-387133)
Approx Market price: Rs. 25,500
If the 11.6-inch screen isn’t for you, then the 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) screen that the G505 will probably be a better bet. It also gets the AMD A68M dual core APU clocking at 1GHz with the AMD Radeon HD 7290 graphics, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive. There is one USB 2.0 port, and two USB 3.0 ports. What you will not get is a proper gaming experience on this display and with this power package in the machine, but what you will get is a smooth daily usage routine that will work seamlessly.
Fujitsu Lifebook AH532
Approx Market price: Rs. 28,000
You will notice that as you go higher up the price band, the better the specs become. The Lifebook AH532 is one of the rare machines with a Sandy Bridge series Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M (1GB) graphics chip. The storage also gets bumped up with a 750GB hard drive, and no shortage of USB ports with 1 USB 2.0 port and 3 USB 3.0 ports. What you will have to live with is the slightly thick design and rather basic looks, but the 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) LED display just adds value to the overall package.
HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11-e006AU
Approx Market price: Rs. 30,000
Okay, so we are at the very edge of the price limit. And there is pretty much the delight in store with the TouchSmart 11 notebook from HP. You get a more powerful AMD A4-1250 dual core APU with 4GB of RAM and the AMD Radeon HD 8210 graphics. But, this is...wait for it...the real bonus - the 11.6-inch display (1366 x 768 pixels) is a 10-point multi-touchscreen, complete with Windows 8 pre-loaded on the machine. HP has also packed in DTS sound, which does make this a bit of an improvement over the sound experience from the rivals. At just 1.3kg, the TouchSmart 11 can be carried around with ease, but the best part is the modern design and the materials used give it a much more expensive look. Again we will mention this - this machine has the best keyboard by far. You will have to compromise with a smaller display size, but we tested this machine recently and the battery life was rather impressive.
HP Pavilion 15-n006ax
Approx Market price: Rs. 30,000
For those of you who would not like to compromise on the power and the performance, then you need to consider the HP Pavilion 15 notebook. This gets the AMD A4-5000 quad core 1.5GHz processor along with 4GB of RAM. The 15.6-inch display isn’t a touchscreen, but with the AMD Radeon HD 8670M (1GB) graphics, this will be able to handle a bit of gaming. This is an excellent keyboard, if typing out articles is your source of livelihood! The HP is a tad on the heavier side, at 2.2kg, but brilliant build quality in line with HP’s new design theme and premium materials used.