Buying a laptop is a headache. There’s a whole lot of jargon to get through: Core i3, Core i5, Ivy Bridge, DDR3, DDR5, 1600MHz, SSD, HDD, 4-cell, 58whr, and so on. Those in the tech industry find it difficult to keep up with the changing terms, so how is a consumer supposed to fare any better?
Add to that, companies aren’t always accurate. Even when listing specifications on their own website or an e-retailer like Amazon or Flipkart, you often incorrect information. My colleague Javed Anwer of India Today recently took to Twitter to vent his frustration about this. Check out his tweets here and here.
The Flex 2 isn’t alone in this. You’ll often find laptops credited to have a dedicated graphics unit, but a closer inspection shows that isn’t the case. And more often than not, a “matte finish” listed in the “Screen” section applies to the body of the laptop, while the screen stays glossy.
So if you’re in the market for a new laptop, how do you decide what to buy? We went hands-on with several notebook PCs to determine the actual specifications and how the computer performed in real life. Based on our tests, these are the laptops we would currently recommend:
Best Battery Life
Dell Inspiron 15 3000
In this price range, you won’t get battery life that lasts you a whole work day. About 6-7 hours is the best you can do, and the Dell Inspiron 15 delivers 7 hours on regular usage. If you dim the large screen to 50% or less brightness and are connected to one Wi-Fi network the whole time, it will even last a little longer. More importantly, this model packs a 5th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, which guzzles less battery while providing the same power as its predecessors.
There are a few flaws to live with though. The Inspiron 15 3000 is quite heavy, and while it has a full-size keyboard, there is no backlighting so you can’t use it comfortably in a dark room.
Specs: 15.6″ display (1366×768 pixels) | 2GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 5005U processor | 4GB DDR3 RAM | Intel HD5500 Graphics | 1TB HDD | 16x DVD Writer | HD webcam | Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | 4-cell battery | Windows 8.1
Price: Rs. 39,890
Note: On several shopping sites, we found an upgraded model of this laptop for the same price. It features a Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. However, we haven’t tested that model.
Lenovo Ideapad Flex 2-14
There are plenty of models of the Lenovo Flex 2, starting from about Rs. 26,000 and going all the way up to around Rs. 50,000, depending on the configuration you want. We tested a variant with a Core i3 processor and 500GB HDD with 8GB SSD.
The Flex 2’s core appeal is the touchscreen, which flips back so that it can be propped up as a tablet. You won’t use this much in the initial few days with your laptop and it just feels gimmicky. Give it time. Over a couple of weeks, you get used to the idea of lying in your bed, the keyboard resting upside down on your stomach, while you read a book or play a game or watch a movie. It’s not gimmicky any more, but you need to get used to it.
Apart from that, the Flex 2 is a pretty good laptop by itself, although it’s a bit bulky. The bigger problem is its battery life. The Flex 2 lasts for about 4 hours of average usage, so you’ll need to carry a charger along.
Specs: 14″ display (1366×768 pixels) | 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 4010U processor | 4GB DDR3 RAM | Intel HD4400 Graphics | 500GB HDD, 8GB SSD | No DVD Writer | HD webcam | 2xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB3.0 | Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | 4-cell battery | Windows 8.1
Price: Rs. 35,000-37,000 approximately, depending on where you buy it
Note: As Javed Anwer pointed out above, Lenovo is claiming some models of the Flex 14 have a Full HD display. We can’t vouch for that, nor claim that’s untrue. The model we tested has a 14″ HD screen, not Full HD. We would advise caution before purchasing this online for the Full HD display, based on what you read on a website. If you do want to buy this model, it’s best to go to a Lenovo showroom, since Lenovo usually bundles in an additional 2-year warranty for about Rs. 1,000.
Asus Transformer Book T200
We were quite impressed with the Asus Transformer Book T100 (read our review), and the T200 lived up to our high expectations. It’s the perfect companion for the on-the-go executive. This is a 2-in-1 hybrid, which means the screen detaches from the keyboard to be used as a standalone tablet. Yes, Windows 8.1 isn’t the best operating system for touchscreens, but hey, it’s still convenient enough for simple things like watching a movie or reading a book on the Kindle app.
More importantly, the Transformer T200 uses a microUSB charger, which makes it incredibly convenient to use it as your travelling companion. Imagine, not only will the same cable power your laptop and your phone, but you will almost always find someone with a microUSB cable that you can borrow from. No more having to lug around that brick!
The T200’s shortfall is in its processing power. This isn’t the laptop for high-end games or intensive photo-editing. It’s fine for browsing, it’s fine for Microsoft Office, and it’s good enough for watching movies and listening to songs. If that’s all you want, the T200 is a winner.
Specs: 12″ touchscreen display (1366×768 pixels) | 1.46GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3775 processor | 2GB DDR3 RAM | Intel HD Graphics | 500GB HDD, 32GB SSD | No DVD Writer | 5MP rear camera, HD webcam | Keyboard dock: 2xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, 1xHDMI | Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | 2-cell battery in tablet, 2-cell battery in keyboard dock | Tablet: microUSB port, SD card slot | Windows 8.1
Price: Rs 35,000