Nine Laptops. One Winner. Which Could It be?

When you’re shelling out a hefty sum of money for a computer, you obviously expect a good blend of performance and features, not to mention good value for money, warranty and after sales service. Let’s say you’re ready to spend about Rs 60K for a good multimedia laptop, in this case, you don’t want to compromise on any aspect because you know for a fact that there are plenty of options available in this budget. When you visit stores like Chroma, Vijay Sales, EZone and so on, what you get to see is a variety of laptops with specs lists besides them. You can even see how heavy or light a laptop is and what ports and connectors each machine offers. What you cannot tell is whether one particular machine is more powerful than another (not without using it), and whether the machine is comfortable to use and what additional features you can get for that extra buck which you might as well pay up.

Ideally, in a mainstream laptop, where you’re spending 50K or more, you should at least get a Intel Core i5 CPU, which is intended for the mainstream segment, then there should be at least 4 GB RAM as opposed to 2 GB or 3 GB, a 500 GB hard drive instead of just 250 GB or 320 GB, and of course a discrete GPU is a given (unless it’s a business laptop). Now let’s say you’re getting all of this in a 50K price, but, what if there are ten other options in the same price range with similar hardware? This is where an elaborate comparison comes in handy, where you can instantly tell which laptop suits your needs the best considering the various aspects being compared, all in a single table.

Considering the fierce competition across brands and also keeping in the mind that there are non-traditional laptop-manufacturers that are gaining ground, laptops have much to offer, in terms of performance and features, than they did a year ago. Today, all mainstream laptops have HDMI ports, which was not the case and that HDMI was considered a plus point. Same was the case with discrete GPUs, that weren’t common especially in entry-level laptops. Today, while even a 35K laptop has a discrete GPU, graphics on mainstream laptops has become way much more powerful. Speaking of which, it’s possible to play demanding games with high settings even on a 50K laptop, which was only a privilege and a possibility with gaming laptops. Watching HD movies required a discrete GPU, but now, with the use of Intel’s HD graphics, even business laptops without discrete GPUs can play HD movies. Further more, features like Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth, roomy hard drives, ample RAM and a natively powerful CPU, have all become common across all laptops including entry-level ones.

So as you can see, laptops are no longer ‘weaker’ machines that cannot do what standard desktop PCs can. This time around, we have compared machines that belong to different categories, like business, multimedia and ultra-portability and but they fall into a specific price bracket of Rs 45,000 to Rs 65,000. Now, before moving on to the comparison chart, let’s take a quick look at our testing processes and on what basis the scores are given to these machines.

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Test Process
In the past, we’ve done comparisons where all laptops belonged to one particular category, say multimedia laptops, or business laptops. This time around, there’s no specific categorization, except that we’ve chosen laptops that fall into the price bracket of Rs 45,000 to Rs 65,000.

Considering that these machines come from different categories, there ought to be slight differences in hardware. For instance, while many may have discrete graphics, some might suffice with onboard Intel HD graphics, especially if they are business laptops. Then, some offer better CPU performance but are heavier and not very good at offering battery runtime. Let’s take a look as to how, we’ve tested and rated these machines.

Features
No matter which category a laptop belongs to, the better its functionality (and features), the higher it scores. In the feature-logging stage, we noted all the hardware specs and the minutest features of each laptop. From the type of CPU to its core speed, L3 cache, to the amount of RAM and hard drive space, we noted everything. That includes specifics like graphics chipset, amount of video memory, screen size and resolution, connectivity options, number and types of ports and connectors and so on. Basically, looking at the looking at the logsheet, you can instantly tell which laptop is most feature-rich.

Design and Build quality
When it comes to portables, you obviously want something stylish to carry around, who wants to carry an ugly-looking laptop right? Also, laptops traditionally had a smaller keyboard, which isn’t the case anymore, and they are more comfortable to type on. Nevertheless, from a design and ergonomics stand point; we minutely noted the usability and aesthetic appeal of each laptop. Now, these tests are largely subjective and a laptop that we found not attractive at all, could possibly be the one you really like. However, in terms of quality, things like the use of metal and the overall construction is enough to tell how sturdy the machine really is.

Performance
This is the part which leverages on the tables most. Looking at the scores, one can easily tell the difference between the performance of laptops. Obviously, in benchmarks like SiSoft Sandra and PCMark and a few other real-world tests, the higher the scores, the better the laptop. When it comes to tests where time is a measuring factor, like video encoding, file compression and ray tracing, there, the lesser the time taken , the better the laptop. Finally, when it comes to gaming, the higher the fps scores, the better the laptop is at gaming. The gaming tests were waived off for laptops without discrete GPUs, for obvious reasons.

Overall, you’ll notice that each laptop is good at something, with perhaps a couple of exceptions here and there. So let’s take look at them closely and see which one wins this time.
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Best Value and performance

Acer Aspire Timeline X 4820TG
The Aspire Timeline X 4820TG is a revamped version of the previous ULV-based ultra-portable Aspire laptops. The strongest points of the 4820TG are that you get a portable 14-incher which performs as well as a powerful desktop replacement and offers superb battery backup. All of this at an attractive price tag, and speaking of attractive, this one is quite a stunner. In fact, in terms of looks, it’s a business laptop, but in terms of performance, it even trounces multimedia machines. These are the primary reasons, as to why it won both, the Best Performance and the Best Value awards.

Here's an excerpt from our review (Click here for full review )
__STARTQUOTE__'The Aspire Timeline X 4820TG is a mainstream laptop which is ideal not only for office use, but even for power users. Be it for mainstream office chores like using the latest office suite, designing software, video/audio encoding, and so on, this laptop will suffice. Even gaming is one of its assets, thanks to a good dedicated GPU. The most striking aspect is that it offers the slickness and light weight form factor of a ULV laptop and the functionality and performance of a powerful mainstream laptop. In terms of features, there’s everything you might need, except for a finger print scanner (which is usually found on business machines).'__ENDQUOTE__

Personal Take
The Acer Aspire Timeline X 4820TG won the Best Performance and Best Value awards for good reasons, however, I still prefer the Lenovo IdeaPad 560. Now, there are complains about the machine heating up quite a bit, but, name one multimedia (and gaming) laptop that performs as well without heating up. And besides, it’s not as bad as people are putting it out to be.

When it comes to buying a mainstream laptop, my first criteria is performance. All other aspects like build quality, aesthetics and portability follow. If you notice, the 4820TG and the Y560 are very similarly priced, but, the former offered way much better battery life and is comparatively more portable too. In a nutshell, the Y560 trounces the 4820TG mainly in terms of performance and features, and it’s the other way around when it comes to portability, aesthetics and battery life. Also, if you want something powerful, portable and business-like, the 4820TG is an excellent pick.

Onward, here’s an example of a laptop that I’d never buy, the Samsung R480L, because it’s more of an eye candy than a laptop that offers good value for money. But if you really like the look of it, go ahead. The Aspire 5745 is also a good pick if you’re looking for a cheaper version of the Timeline X, but here, you won’t get the metallic shell, hence lack of superb aesthetics, it’s comparatively weaker in terms of graphics (compare the gaming scores), and it offers almost half the battery runtime. Then there’s the MacBook 13-inch, which is great in terms of looks, portability and is superb when it comes to battery runtime (way more than 8 hours). Now, although it’s slightly expensive and weaker in terms of performance, but at 60K, it’s still a good pick, especially for people who want an Apple computer and not spend through their nose.

The Asus N61JV is another laptop which I don’t recommend, because it’s an older model and doesn’t offer the same value for money that it did six months ago. The point is, that there are way better options available, clearly! What I recommend is the Asus B53F for business.

It’s a stunner when it comes to aesthetics. Yes is might seem over priced, but it has a full-metal shell, a brushed metal matte lid, chassis and wrist rest, and it performs well too. It’s not a multimedia laptop, so don’t expect gaming or heavy multimedia applications on this machine, except for watching HD movies.


Published Date: Oct 20, 2010 10:25 am | Updated Date: Oct 20, 2010 10:25 am