An inventory of the best machines in your budget.
It’s been eight months since we put out the last laptop buying guide, and I occasionally have to jump in on Twitter when I see someone sharing it, to clarify that there are better options available now. So it seems timely to put out an updated list.
I will repeat the disclaimers from the last column. I haven’t personally reviewed all of these machines. So, my recommendations are based on the specs the laptops offer, professional reviews of the model where available, and the experience of people who have used it.
The recommendations are based on current availability and prices and these may change in the coming days. And if you are not able to find them as described, I do apologise.
Below Rs 30,000
The budget segment is where Chromebooks rule elsewhere, but the Chromebooks available in India are by and large poorly specced and overpriced. Add to this the fact that internet connectivity in this country is not always a given, and I’d say it’s best to give Chromebooks a miss.
It’s a testament to how pathetic budget laptop options are in India that there’s virtually nothing worth recommending under Rs 25,000, and so I’ve had to change this category definition to squeak in a few relatively inexpensive models! There’s one piece of our under-Rs 25,000 stalwart from the last column, Acer One 14, still available, but I don’t know for how much longer.
For Rs 26,500, Acer Extensa offers decent specs, including a Pentium processor, and the flexibility of upgradeable RAM and storage. The inexpensive extended warranty is a nice perk. While this Lenovo, for Rs 26,990, does not come with Windows preloaded, if you know how to install Windows, or know someone who does, it provides a significantly better AMD processor and otherwise broadly similar specs.
There are a bunch of other under-Rs 30,000 laptops from various manufacturers, but they all appear to offer roughly the same (or worse) specs as these models, and for more money. If you can go just above Rs 30,000, Acer Aspire offers a similar configuration to Lenovo Ryzen 3, but with Windows preloaded, for Rs 31,000.
Below Rs 40,000
Around Rs 40,000 is where the 11th Gen Intel processors start to become available and, if you can afford it, it is worth spending at least this much on your laptop purchase. There are a couple of decently specced models I could find with 11th Gen Core i3 processors below Rs 40,000 and the first is Asus Vivobook X415. The spec sheet on the Acer website suggests the 4 GB RAM is upgradeable, and if so this is perhaps the best option under Rs 40,000, especially considering MS Office also comes bundled.
There is also the Dell Inspiron, which has roughly the same specs as the Asus, but is a little bigger and heavier, for the same price.
There are a few other models that offer configurations with older processors but unless the Vivobook or the Inspiron are not available, or the other laptops tick a specific box you are looking for, I wouldn’t consider them particularly compelling.
Below Rs 50,000
This is the segment where the options are more plentiful, so let me list out a couple that give compelling value for money.
For starters, I’d look at MSI Modern for Rs 46,990. It has the same 11th Gen Core i3 processor as the recommendations in the category below, but offers much in the way of upgrades, including a thin and light chassis, a backlit keyboard, 8 GB of RAM and an IPS display – all of which should offer a substantially improved user experience over others.
Not to mention that it’s good looking and well built, to boot!
For roughly the same specs but without the great screen or build quality, you can pick up HP 14. While it lacks the backlit keyboard, it does have expandable RAM, and comes with MS Office bundled. Less pretty, more practical.
Below Rs 60,000
Things get fun at this price point. More options in terms of processors and form factors become available. If you feel inclined to pick up a convertible, a laptop that turns into a tablet, HP Pavilion x360 offers good value for just above Rs 50,000 (there’s even a version for Rs 5,000 more that has double the storage). A weight of 1.7 kg is a bit bulky for a tablet, no doubt, but if you need the touchscreen and the flexibility, this is a solid option at the price point.
Moving on to traditional laptops, MSI Modern (yes, an upgraded version of the one from the previous section) ticks all the boxes for Rs 55,000. An 11th Gen Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, backlit keyboard, good build and screen. A solid mid-range laptop that should suit the needs of most users. The 11th Gen Core i5 is probably the best processor for most users, since it has the strongest single-core performance in its price class.
On the AMD side, there is the Asus Vivobook with the Ryzen 5 5500U. While this trails the Intel Core i5 in single-core performance, it is substantially better in multi-core performance (not to mention better battery efficiency), so if you need to render video, edit large volumes of photos, or crunch a lot of data, this may be a better choice than the Intel machines.
Above Rs 60,000
Now, we’re in premium territory. Above Rs 60,000 you are really spoilt for choice, so these are just some of the very good options you can buy, if you have this much money to spend.
If you’ll remember, in the last edition I had advised against buying Apple laptops, because at the time they were all pretty poor value. Now I am happy to say one of my top choices for a premium laptop would be the Apple Macbook Air with the M1 processor, for Rs 92,900. The processor is extremely powerful and efficient, and can equal or better anything else in its price class. The laptop still lacks ports, but is otherwise an excellent machine in virtually every regard. Even if you’re a Windows user, this is worth considering switching to.
But, of course, if you don’t have Rs 90,000 to spend, there are still several options in the premium segment. My favourite model line in this segment continues to be the HP Envy series. The machines are very well built, with great screens, keyboards and trackpads, and with a raft of processor and config options. The cheapest entry point to this line is this x360 convertible model for Rs 67,999. It features a last generation Ryzen 5 4500U processor, but that is still a very capable processor, and in every other aspect it’s both an excellent laptop and a solid tablet.
You can get the same great machine but with Intel 11th Gen Core i5 for Rs 85,000. This also comes with Intel’s Evo certification which guarantees certain performance standards for laptops.
The Acer Swift 5 comes in both an i5 version and an i7 version, for Rs 68,999 and Rs 94,999, respectively. Both come with the Evo certification, and the i7 version has lavish specs with 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD.
There are laptops even above this price range, but as I have said before, if you’re spending that much money you probably know specifically why you’re spending it and don’t need my advice. If you do pick up any of the machines based on the recommendations here, I do hope you enjoy using them. If you think I’ve missed out on any compelling models in these price ranges, please tweet them out to me!