Too many options taking a toll? We pick out a few laptops for you

Bowing to public demand, here are 12 options at five price points.

WrittenBy:Vinay Aravind
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The last edition of this column went all in on the “teach a man to fish” ethos and described all the factors that one must look at when buying a laptop. A good chunk of the feedback for the piece was on the lines of “just feed us some fish”.

Therefore, bowing to public demand, I am compelled to set out a few options that you could consider buying, at different price points. It’s impossible for me to say that these are the very best at each price point, since there is a vast array of options, and the prices for online listings keep fluctuating. But the attempt here is to ensure that they offer a solid set of specs, and a good value, for the price you pay.

Before I start, a few disclaimers. As with the last column, I am not putting in anything about gaming laptops. Most gamers know exactly what they need. Also, I am not mentioning any Apple laptops. As things stand, I don’t think any of them are worth the money they cost, but this may all change next week when laptops with Apple Silicon launch.

Most importantly, I haven’t personally reviewed these models (we hope to do some reviews by and by). These recommendations are based on a combination of (1) the specs the laptops offer, (2) other professional reviews of the model where available, and (3) the experience of people who’ve used it, where that information is available. Also, as before, you could follow the recommendations here and still get a dodgy laptop. I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, I have to disclaim any responsibility for it. Remember to scrutinise and make full use of the returns policy to the extent allowed.

Below Rs 25,000

This is the most challenging category, further compounded by the fact that the better models in this price range drift in and out of stock like elusive spectres. From the models that are currently available, one good option would be the Asus X543MA for Rs 23,990. Although it has a spinning hard disk and only 4 GB of RAM, reviews praise the comfortable keyboard and decent battery life. It’s also worth noting that the hard disk can be upgraded to an SSD at a later point in time. Some variants of this laptop also allow a RAM upgrade, but it’s unclear whether this one does, so it’s best to assume you’re stuck with 4 GB of RAM. That said, you’re very unlikely to find more than 4 GB of RAM at this price point.

You could also consider the Acer One 14, also for Rs 23,990. The specifications are mostly comparable to the Asus X543, except that it expressly offers RAM upgradability. The Pentium processor inside is also marginally more powerful than the one in the Asus. Being a relatively recent model, there are not many professional reviews to be found. Based on the specs alone, however, this is a better option than the Asus X543.

Below Rs 40,000

There are a number of choices at this price point, but the one that truly ticks all the boxes for a great price is the Mi Notebook E-learning edition that just launched. With an up-to-date Core i3 processor, a 256 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and a full HD display, and weighing in at 1.5 kg, it does a splendid job of delivering all of the basics. While there is nothing to suggest that either the storage or RAM are upgradeable, what is in built should be sufficient for some years of careful use. Since this is a new model there are not many reviews to be found, but going by the standard of past Xiaomi laptops (and other products), this should be a good option.

Below Rs 50,000

As the budget goes up, the choices available also expand proportionately, and it’s much the same at this price point. However, there are a couple of options that seem to stand out in terms of the specs and value they offer. The first of them is the Honor Magicbook 14 for Rs 42,990. Huawei’s sub-brand has only one laptop on offer in India, but it’s a good value option. A near-identical model is sold as Huawei Matebook D15 in Europe and has received strongly positive reviews overall. The main downside of this laptop is that the webcam pops up from the keyboard, so if you’re doing a lot of Zoom calls, your face will be captured from an unflattering nose-up angle.

This is of course still a (slightly) better compromise than Xiaomi which decided to exclude the webcam from the laptop and bundle it as a separate attachment. If you can live with that compromise, however, the Mi Notebook 14 is also a great option for Rs 1,000 less.

The other compelling option in this price range is this Asus Vivobook 14. It features the same previous-gen AMD Ryzen processor as the Honor laptop, and most of the same specs, apart from having double the SSD storage (512 GB vs 256). It’s also a little bit more costly at Rs 44,990, but I do think that’s a worthwhile premium to pay, to have the webcam in a more flattering position. But then again, I’m vain.

Below Rs 60,000

It’s a strong show from the Asus Vivobook line in this price range as well. My favourite in this segment (and a couple of people I know use and love this model) is the Asus Vivobook Ultra for Rs 51,990. It’s a 15” laptop and therefore weighs 1.8 kg, but if that size and weight are okay with you, then this model offers tremendous bang for your buck. A fast, latest-gen AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of fast NVMe SSD storage, and what’s more, both the RAM and storage are upgradeable! This is an increasingly rare feature and a great way to future-proof your laptop purchase. There is even a Ryzen 7 4700U version for Rs 59,999 if you want even more performance.

Acer is the first company to launch laptops in India with the latest 11th generation intel Core chips (as of last week), and the Acer Aspire 3 featuring an 11th Generation Intel Core i5 and Intel Xe graphics, sounds like a great option for Rs 54,999. Just like the Asus it has fast NVMe storage and has upgradeable RAM, while weighing in at a svelte 1.45 kg. If you value compactness, this is an excellent option to consider.

Above Rs 60,000

As your budget crosses Rs 60,000 the chances of encountering a bad laptop are a lot more remote. Therefore, I am just going to recommend a couple of models here and call it a day. Remember that there are plenty of great options above Rs 60,000 including the newly launched 11th Gen intel toting Acer Swift 3, for Rs 67,990.

However, my favourite premium laptop line right now is the HP Envy series. It delivers almost everything that the much more expensive Dell XPS line does, without costing the earth, or sacrificing USB-A ports. The Envy line has both regular laptops and the x360 convertibles, both of which are very good machines, depending on your needs.

For basic laptop uses, the standard HP Envy for Rs 76,990 delivers a powerful 10th gen Core i5, 8 GB RAM and 512 GB of fast storage, in a top class chassis with a great keyboard, great screen, and good sound (a rarity in Windows laptops). With a 13.3” screen size and 1.3 kg weight, it’s very small and compact as well. You also get an MS Office licence, for good measure.

If you want a convertible, the HP Envy x360 is the one to go for. For Rs 72,990 (there’s even a Rs 2,000 coupon right now), it offers everything the regular HP Envy offers, plus a tablet form factor. Instead of the Intel i5, this one comes with the Ryzen 5 4500U (every bit as good). The only minor compromise here is that it has a less bright screen, compared to its non-convertible sibling. But if you plan to do a lot of Netflix watching lying in bed (or annotation, illustration, etc using a stylus), this is the machine to get.

Above this price range, you are probably buying a laptop either for very specific professional needs, or as a little bit of a status symbol, and for both these factors, I am sure you know your requirements much better than I would. For the rest of you, I hope you find these suggestions useful. If you know of models that are as good, or better than, the ones that I suggested for the price, do mention those in your comments, or tweet them out to us.

Contact the author on Twitter at @vinayaravind.


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