Diwali 2017: If you're looking for a mainstream laptop this holiday season, this is where you start

Mainstream laptops are the workhorses of the computing world. We might buy them, use them and abuse them, but they’ll always be there when we need them.

Mainstream laptops are the laptops that we’re all going to buy and use at some point in our lives.

Representational image

Representational image

These devices aren’t as flashy as the MacBooks or the Dell XPS devices of this age and neither do they boast of fancy features like RGB lighting or slim form factors. Mainstream laptops are the workhorses of the computing world. We might buy them, use them and abuse them, but they’ll always be there when we need them.

Here are our picks for the best mainstream laptops available this holiday season:

Apple MacBook Air 13: Rs 49,990

Despite its age, the MacBook Air 13 is still a surprisingly decent option in 2017

Despite its age, the MacBook Air 13 is still a surprisingly decent option in 2017

The MacBook Air 13 is Apple’s aging workhorse. At one time, the Air represented the pinnacle of Apple’s technological prowess, now it’s simply the Apple laptop you buy when you can’t afford anything else. That said, it’s still not a bad device, and at its price, represents reasonable value.

When it comes to specifications, Apple isn’t very forthcoming. This is because the 2017 MacBook Air is powered by a 5th generation Intel Core i5 chip. Today, Intel is on its 8th generation CPU Intel Core i platform.

That said, the 5th gen Intel Core i5 powered MacBook Air with a 128 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM is more sensible than many Windows devices in the market. For some reason, Windows PC makers still don’t see the merits of offering mainstream devices with 8 GB RAM and SSD storage options. There is no point in having a modern CPU if your memory and storage configuration is going to bottleneck your system.

Another point in the Air’s favour is that this is the only sensible Apple laptop left in the market today. Why? You get 2x USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, a MagSafe 2 charging port, a Thunderbolt 2 port and an SD card reader. Compared to the 12-inch MacBook and the MacBook Pro 13, this is bliss.

Oh, and battery life is phenomenal. If you’re using macOS, getting 8-10 hours of use is normal.

The biggest downside to the Air is, of course, that ancient display. The Air is the only device in Apple’s entire product lineup that doesn’t feature a retina display. A 1440x900 TN panel might seem like a bad choice, but given the options in this price range, this display is almost best in class.

The Air isn’t fancy, nor is it cutting edge, but it is practical.

Lenovo Ideapad 520S: Rs 48,300

You get a healthy selection of ports

You get a healthy selection of ports

The Lenovo Ideapad 520S represents great value for money in the Windows domain. It’s powered by a 7th gen Intel processor, the Core i5 7200U, comes with 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage and a 14-inch display with a 1366x768 resolution.

In our testing, we found the performance to be adequate for everyday tasks and light gaming, the storage to be expectedly slow and the screen to be quite decent and usable. Battery life was a sore point, but the build and design were good and the keyboard also pleasant.

Compared to the MacBook Air, you’re losing out on an SSD and the stellar battery life. The Air also has a better screen, though the 520S includes more modern connectivity (USB Type-C), a fingerprint reader and a faster CPU. The 180-degree hinge is also nice to have.

Dell Inspiron 15 3567: Rs 55,590

The Inspiron 15 in this configuration should be a great option for Windows users

The Inspiron 15 in this configuration should be a great option for Windows users

While this is the most expensive device in our list here, it’s also the most capable of the lot. Your money gets you an Intel Core i5 7200U powered device with 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB HDD, an AMD Radeon R5 M430 Graphics chip and a 15.6-inch Full HD screen. Devices with a more powerful Nvidia GeForce 940MX are available at the same price, but these devices usually come with lower resolution displays. And it’s not like gaming is going to be a vastly superior experience on a 940MX anyway.

Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G: Rs 36,990

Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G, an option to consider if you don't mind Linux

Acer Aspire 5 A515-51G, an option to consider if you don't mind Linux

This laptop is cheaper than most of our recommendations here, but it’s configuration represents good value. If you can get by without a legitimate copy of Windows 10, this laptop is a great option for someone on a tighter budget. Powered by a 7th gen Intel Core i5 7200U CPU, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB storage, an Nvidia GeForce 940MX and Linux, there’s really not much to complain of on the hardware front.

We haven’t tested this laptop ourselves, but the Acer laptops we’ve tested so far, even the budget ones, have proven themselves well built. That said, Acer’s budget laptops aren’t exactly renowned for the quality of their displays.

Dell Vostro 3468: Rs 24,990

The Dell Vostro 3468 offers the most barebones of Windows experiences

The Dell Vostro 3468 offers the most barebones of Windows experiences

The cheapest of the lot, the Dell Vostro is the laptop you buy when you can’t afford anything else. The configuration is, in our opinion, the bare minimum required for a tolerable computing experience. Anything less and you might as well buy a Chromebook.

With a 7th gen Intel Core i3 7100U CPU, 4 GB RAM, a 1 TB HDD, a 14-inch 1366x768 display and Ubuntu instead of Windows, this laptop will get you through light workloads. Don’t expect more than that. The biggest downer here is the 4 GB of RAM, which for Windows 10, is barely acceptable.

If you have the chance, upgrade the RAM at the earliest.




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