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Laptop Buying Guide

Ubermensch
Overview

So here we go, its time for your MBA and here’s one of the first few decisions you
need to take future managers: “Which laptop do I buy?” Hmm...Looks like an
easy question! “I’ll go for whatever my budget allows!”…
Good Answer!!...But is it really that simple?
With the plethora of options available from reputed manufacturers, taking an
informed decision is essential, not only for saving costs but more importantly,
getting exactly what you want.

Thru the means of this guide, I’d like to try and demystify some of the
technical mumbo-jumbo about computer components, address laptop-
specific requirements for a typical B-Schooler and yes, most importantly,
some recommendations for different category of buyers.
Things to Consider:
 Form Factor/ Screen Size:

12”-13.3” : Ultra-portables
Pros: Weight<2kgs, easiest to carry around
Cons: Keyboard & text can be cramped for some users, expensive

14” : Sense & Sensibility


Pros: Weight 2-3kgs, Great mix of screen-size & portability
Cons: Almost impossible to spot ones with a discrete GPU

15”-15.4” : Mid-sized Workhorse


Pros: Big screen & keyboard, innumerable options, least expensive
Cons: Weight 3-4kgs, can be taxing to lug around

17”+ : Desktop Replacement


Pros: Huge screen, excellent for multimedia, best GPU’s available
Cons: Weight>4.5kgs, not meant for carrying around, expensive
 Processor:

Here’s one component everyone knows well about . Almost everyone I’ve
talked to recently ‘knows’ that he/she would like a Core 2 Duo processor in their
notebooks. Is that justified? Well…almost!

The performance chart would look something like this:


Core2Duo > Core Duo > TurionX2 > Pentium M = Turion64 > Celeron = Sempron

But does that mean the Intel processor is a must buy? Of course NOT! The
TurionX2 from the AMD stable is very much capable of performing any task you
throw at it. And given a sweet price can be a great deal over its Intel counterparts.
Also note that all AMD processors are 64-bit capable, compared to Intel’s 32-bit
(barring only Core 2 Duo’s which are also 64-bit)
 RAM, HDD & Optical Drive:

For RAM, its as simple as this…”The more, the better”. Do not for once undermine
the importance of RAM as it is directly related to the speed of your applications.
For a normal user with Win XP, 512MB should be sufficient. But for those of you
looking at Vista and/or gaming, or if you do any kind of video-encoding and the
like, 1GB is the bare minimum…2GB if you can budget for that.. ;)

As for HDD, its a matter of personal preference. These days, 60GB should
be taken as the base figure; anything above that is great.

With increasing need to share and care, a DVD-Writer is almost a must. Trust me
on this, you’d be better off with a DVD-Writer than without it.
I’ve heard this query from a no. of people, so this is for them: A DVD-Writer can
read and write both DVD’s and CD’s 
 Graphics:

Often most potential buyers think that if they don’t game or do hi-end multimedia
work, they don’t need a discrete graphic card and integrated graphics will do. And
well…they are mostly correct! You don’t necessarily need to go for a dedicated
GPU; the onboard GMA950 or the X1150/Go6150 is often more than sufficient.
There are, however, reasons other than that to go for a discrete GPU:
 It has its own memory and doesn’t take away a part of your system memory (RAM)
 Better visual features/ eyecandy, especially with the latest Aero feature in Vista
Do note: Discrete GPU consumes more power and eats up on your battery life.

Performance-wise, this is how they stack up:


Go7600 = X1600 > Go7400 = X1400 > Go7300 = X1300 > Integrated Graphics

PS: CS 1.6 runs just fine on even integrated/on-board graphics ;)


 Battery Life:

Needless to say, another critical decision for most laptop buyers.


Most laptops come pre-equipped with 6-cell batteries which is good enough to last
3 hours assuming basic usage (surfing, word, etc) with minimal settings.

There is an option to move to a higher capacity battery (say 9-cell) to give you
those extra work hours, but do keep in mind that the higher-capacity battery will
stick out from the back of the notebook and hence, is not recommended for the
aesthetically-inclined.

Battery consumption is also dependent on the processor. Generally speaking, the


latest Intel offerings consume lesser power than their AMD counterparts.
 Operating System:

Obvious question: XP or Vista?


I’ll keep this short. There “seems” no reason why one should not opt Vista if his
configuration allows so, but still for now at least, I’d say: Stick to XP! Let all the
bugs/issues get resolved, let more applications become available for this new OS
and then make the switch (sometime in mid ‘08)!

 Connectivity & Extras:

• Wi-Fi and at least 3 USB ports are a must for an average B-Schooler!
• Bluetooth would be great, but don’t let that be a detrimental factor: A BT
dongle costs 200 bucks only!
• Availability of a Firewire port would be a plus.
What would you need?

A notebook that is capable of the following:

 A fast processor and sufficient RAM capable of comfortably handling basic


needs like surfing, MS-Office, movies and mild gaming.
 Connectivity options: At least Wi-Fi & LAN
 Ability to run Win XP smoothly and possibility of upgrading to Vista in the
future. (Mac & Linux not recommended for lack of 3rd-party software
availability)
 A light (actually, not heavy) notebook so it is easy to carry around.
 Good sound output for all those hours working on projects, PPTs listening to
your favourite tracks
 A machine that doesn’t go kaput on you and if it does, a manufacturer which
has a reputable after-sale services.

*The above requirements are for a typical B-schooler and not the heavy
gaming, high on multimedia demands junta*
Category of Buyers
 Type I
This buyer is not looking for all those added frills. He wants a basic laptop that’ll
carry him thru easily for the next 2 years. His priority is work only and everything
else is a distant second. He is looking for extreme VFM (Value for Money).
Generally, a person in this category thinks of his notebook as only a 2-yr
investment and probably, rightly so!
Typical Budget: 30-45K

 Type II
This buyer wants his machine to be more than a basic utility. He wants a notebook
for mid to hi end gaming, needs those hi-end built in speakers, plethora of
connectivity options, an in-built webcam or maybe just an expensive machine for
the heck of it! ;)
He would ideally like to use this machine post his Masters as well.
Typical Budget : 45-60K
 Type III
This buyer is very similar to the Type II buyer but for slight differences. He either
wants a machine that’ll be ideally suitable for hi-end gaming and/or a complete
media center. Also, a possible buyer here is the style/brand conscious.
Such users tend to go either the 12”er or the 17”er way and stick to big brands.
Great features is what they’re looking for and they don’t mind spending extra for it.
Typical Budget : 60-75K

 Type IV
These are the ultra-rich lads (Hey! Nothing wrong in that!) who want a notebook
that stands well-apart from the rest of the junta. VFM is not what they’re looking for
but a distinctive style statement and if one can afford it, then why not!!
Typical Budget : What’s that? I want the very best!
Recommendations:

By now you must be thinking…”Ah...Finally some recommendations! One more


slide of gyaan and I would’ve hit the Esc key!” 

Okay first-things-first, all the previous slides took a lot of effort, so you better read
it!! It’ll only help you take a better, more informed decision. ;)

Now, pls understand that it is not possible to list out all models in the market. I’m
listing out only those carefully selected models, which I think are worth your time.
Don’t flame me if you don’t see a particular model here that you’ve seen & liked in
the market. Also note that all recommended models have Wi-Fi capabilities..

All prices as on 17th April’07 in Nehru Place, New Delhi


(except for DELL of course).
Type I Buyer: Recommendations

Many won’t agree with me, especially with the “Typical Budget: 30-45K” part and
that is completely understandable.
But this is not a typical “laptop buying guide”...Its for the B-school junta who’s
spending 4L+ on their education and needs to use this laptop almost 24X7 for the
next 2 years!
A hi-quality basic laptop, which is still good enough for all basic tasks
even after 2 years can easily touch the 45K mark today! I’ll intentionally not be
recommending any single-core processors here as its a big risk with demanding
apps coming up everyday. That said, they might just be able to manage the next 2
years but not recommended.
 Option 1: Compaq V3239TU ~ 44K
14.1” WXGA, Intel Core Duo 1.6Ghz, 512 RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire….
My take: Pretty neat offering. Add an additional 512 stick and you are good to
go..

 Option 2: Compaq V6211AU ~ 41K


15.4” WXGA, AMD X2 1.6Ghz, 512 RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer, Integrated
nvidia Go6150, Vista Home Basic, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire….
My take: My take’s same as option 1. Do note that this has a slightly slower
processor (5-7% max) but better graphics capability.
 Option 3: Lenovo N100 (0768GZQ) ~ 44K
15.4” WXGA, Intel Core Duo 1.66Ghz, 512 RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam…
My take: Again a pretty good offering, especially for you IBM/Lenovo fans. An
integrated webcam sweetens the deal. Do add a 512 stick though!

 Option 4: Acer Aspire 5052 ANWXMi ~ 39K


14.1” WXGA, AMD X2 1.6Ghz, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer, Integrated
ATI X1100, Linux, Stereo Speakers, Media Card reader, Bluetooth, Firewire,
Integrated webcam…
My take: Brilliant offering for the price. Add the OS of your choice and you’re up
and running.
 Option 5: Acer Aspire 5572 ZNWXMi ~ 37K
14.1” WXGA, Intel Core Duo 1.6Ghz, 512 RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Linux, Stereo Speakers, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated
webcam…
My take: Same as option 4. This one, however, features an Intel processor.

 Option 6: DELL Inspiron 640M ~ 40K


14.1” WXGA, Intel Core Duo 1.86Ghz, 512 RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire….
My take: Again a very good offering for the price. Add another 512 stick and have
fun . DELL’s after-sales service reputation makes it probably the best available
option.
Type II Buyer: Recommendations
 Option 1: Compaq V6218TU ~ 50K
15.4” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Ghz, 512 RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire…
My take: Good offering with a Core 2 Duo processor, but lacks a dedicated
graphic card. Another stick of 512 RAM is a must.

 Option 2: HP Pavilion DV2214TU ~ 51K


14.1” WXGA, Intel Core Duo 1.73Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Premium, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media
Card reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam…
My take: Lacks a dedicated graphic card and is equipped with a Core Duo
processor. But still a slightly better offering than option 1.
 Option 3: HP Pavilion DV6226TX ~ 57K
15.4” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Nvidia Go7400, Vista Home Premium, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam…
My take: Great config at a great price! But if possible, get your hands on the now
discontinued  DV6137TX at 60K.

 Option 4: Acer Aspire 5583 NWXMI ~ 47K


14.1” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66Ghz, 512 RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Linux, Stereo Speakers, Media Card reader, Bluetooth,
Firewire, Integrated webcam…
My take: Adding another stick of 512 is desirable, esp. if planning for Vista. It’s a
very good option for people who already possess legit OS.
 Option 5: Sony Vaio VGN-N27GH ~ 54K
15.4” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Ghz, 512 RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Stereo Speakers, Media
Card reader, Firewire…
My take: Better options available at this price point. This is only for Vaio fans
and/or people who love “beautiful” machines.

 Option 6: DELL Inspiron 6400 ~ 48K


15.4” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo1.73Ghz, 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated Intel GMA 950, Vista Home Basic, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire….
My take: DELL gives you the option to customize your machine and add more
RAM, a dedicated GPU, etc...A top-end config can be had for approx 60K.
Type III Buyer: Recommendations
 Option 1: DELL XPS M1210 ~ 65K
12.1” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Nvidia Go7400, Vista Home Premium, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam….
My take: If you want a highly portable machine without compromising on
performance, look no further!

 Option 2: DELL Inspiron 9400 ~ 72K


17” UWXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
ATI X1400, Vista Home Premium, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire...
My take: A behemoth of a machine with a performance to match. Highly
recommended for those movie and gaming sessions but really heavy to lug
around.
 Option 3: HP Pavilion DV9222TX ~ 65K
17” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 160GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
nvidia Go7600, Vista Home Premium, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam...
My take: Same as option 2. Only difference: Slightly slower processor but an
added feature in an integrated webcam.

 Option 4: HP Pavilion TX1016AU ~ 61K


12.1” WXGA, AMD X2 1.66Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Integrated nvidia Go6150, Vista Home Premium, Altec Lansing Speakers, Media
Card reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam, Tablet PC….
My take: Finally, an affordable tablet! Brilliant for those managers giving
presentation to their teams but at the B-school level, its strictly for the style
conscious junta.
 Option 5: Lenovo Y500 (776137Q) ~ 68K
15.4” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 120GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Nvidia Go7400, Vista Home Basic, Dolby Home Theater Audio, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire, Integrated webcam with face recognition, Integrated
TV-Tuner…
My take: A complete offering, but for the OS and the hefty price tag!

 Option 6: Sony Vaio VGN-C25G ~ 70K


13.3” WXGA, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66Ghz, 1 GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-Writer,
Nvidia Go7400, Vista Home Premium, Stereo Speakers, Media Card
reader, Bluetooth, Firewire...
My take: Beautiful looking machine with performance to match! If you’re
ready to pay a premium for those uber-cool looks, this one’s for you!
Type IV Buyer: Recommendations

No specific recommendations for you guys…But if you want to stand out from the
crowd, do check out the following:
 Acer’s Ferrari Range
 A fully-customized DELL XPS
 ASUS’s Lamborghini Range
 Hi-end Sony Vaio’s
 Toshiba’s Qosmio Range
 And oh yes…The Mac Book Pro’s 

A piece of unsolicited advice: Buy this post your Masters degree...You really don’t
need it now...Really!!
Some Final Suggestions:
 For most average users, its better to stick to screen sizes between
13.3”-15.4”. Anything more or less will prove to be inconvenient, one way or
the other. Check the screen sizes at any showroom before you make a
purchase.
 Try and get at least 1GB RAM, more so if planning on Windows Vista. Do
remember that you can buy any machine and get an after-market RAM. A 512
stick can be had for around 2K.
 Its oft said that a person with high notebook usage (which would soon include
you guys) is better off with a higher-cell (9, 12) battery. This may be true but
do consider that it’ll stick out from the back of you machine.
 A dedicated graphic card is a plus, but in no way is it essential for a typical
B-schooler. Your integrated GPU is capable of most tasks, including some
common games like CS, FIFA, NFS-UG.
 Do negotiate for or buy a back-pack for your notebook. Will be much more
convenient.
Thank you!