Notebooks have evolved from being computers for businessmen to mainstream computing machines. There are those who continue using notebooks on the move, while some others use notebooks as their everyday computers. In the midst of all the upgrades and updates being made by notebook manufacturers, marketing jargons and competition between brands, the consumer is left confused as to which notebook to buy. There are quite literally hundreds of models you can find in the market today. By the end of this guide, we hope to leave you with a clear picture of what a good notebook ought to have.

Choosing the correct type of notebook

Like we mentioned earlier, each person has different needs from the technology he or she buys. The needs differ from person to person and it’s important to choose a notebook that fits your needs. It’s important to set budgets for the purchase accordingly, as well. For example, don’t expect to find a high-end gaming notebook for anything less than 80,000 or so and don’t expect a Rs. 40,000 notebook to play high-end games.

Plenty of notebook types to choose from

Plenty of notebook types to choose from

The cheapest of notebooks in the market start from around the Rs. 23,000 range. Netbooks start at prices closer to Rs. 13,000. Broadly, there are four segments of notebooks that most people look at. Most people spend between Rs. 23,000 and Rs. 40,000 on a notebook. Many of these users are going to use these notebooks as their primary computer at home and maybe at work. These notebooks won't offer excellent performance for gaming and content generation purposes, but they will do just fine for desktop applications. Although cheap, they cover most of the needs that majority of the people have.

The slightly more power hungry user will want more performance than these notebooks can offer. While the feature set of costlier notebooks doesn’t change a whole lot, notebooks priced above Rs. 40,000 have faster processors and even entry-level discrete graphics solutions. Screen sizes also drop at this point. While most mainstream notebooks that we talked about earlier have 14 and 15-inch screens, notebooks above Rs. 50,000 or so can be found with smaller 13-inch screens.

Compact and portable, but might not offer excellent performance

Compact and portable, but might not offer excellent performance

Gaming notebooks are more expensive and way more powerful than the cheaper notebooks that we’ve been talking about. Prices of gaming notebooks start roughly from Rs. 80,000 and go on well over a lakh. These notebooks come with powerful graphics solutions and have large screens, as well. They offer poor battery life in comparison and carrying them around is a pain. On the other hand, there are ultraportable notebooks that are designed for people who travel a lot. They aren’t as powerful as the gaming notebooks but will offer way better performance than netbooks.

Processor

The processor is one of the key components of a notebook. An entry-level Intel Core i3 i380M might be sufficient for most purposes, but when you start using more CPU intensive software and multitask with a number of browser windows open, CPU performance is essential and a faster processor can come handy. Majority of all the notebooks sold around the world come with Intel’s processors, so although AMD too has solutions in the market, you’re more likely to come across a wider range of Intel processor-based notebooks. A decent speed Core i5 such as the 480M processor is a good start. Also look for one of the newer Sandy Bridge processors from Intel.

HDMI connectivity

HDMI connectivity is handy when at home you want to connect a notebook to an external display.

HDMI connectivity is handy if you own a LCD or Plasma display

HDMI connectivity is handy if you own a LCD or Plasma display

Most notebooks these days that come with an HDMI port are also capable of playing full HD content smoothly. You can watch movies on your TV or use it as a primary display and use the notebook like a desktop PC. Simply connect a USB keyboard and mouse, disable the notebook display and you’re good to go.

Graphics solution

A discrete graphics solution is always a good idea. It allows you to play games on the notebook. The integrated graphics solution on the notebooks these days allow users to run HD content without any problems. If you’re looking at some gaming, or some 3D modelling on the notebook, then a discrete graphics solution is necessary. Obviously, the budget for the notebook should be above Rs. 50,000 to get a decent solution. A GT540M graphics solution on a notebook should offer decent graphics performance for playing most of the recent games at a normal graphics setting. The downside of using a discrete graphics solution is usually a somewhat lower battery life. 

Screen and speakers

For a good entertainment experience, it’s important to have a large enough screen. The downside of this unfortunately, is that the laptop gets bulky. If you’re looking for a notebook that is a desktop replacement or is going to be used only in one place, then a 15 or a 17-inch can be a good thing to have. If you are going in for a smaller screen, try and find a notebook that offers higher resolutions. A resolution of 1366×768 is sufficient but having a high-density 1920×1080 does add a lot to the experience and offers you a lot of workspace. 

A large screen and good speakers means you compromise on the size of the notebook

A large screen and good speakers means you compromise on the size of the notebook

Most notebooks also have poor speakers that sound horrible and tinny. Before you buy the notebook, it’s a good idea to play some music or movies on it to ensure you get a good sound, but don't expect much. Speakers that are placed facing downwards often sound muddy so look for notebooks that have speakers at the front near the screen. If you’re particular about your audio quality, it makes sense to buy a pair of portable speakers, or good headphones as well.

Keyboard and trackpad

Cheaper notebooks have cramped keyboard layouts. Look for notebooks with isolated, chiclet-style keys. They are somewhat easier to type on.

A good chiclet-style keyboard makes typing a little easier

A good chiclet-style keyboard makes typing a little easier

In the hunt of finding a large spacious keyboard, don’t ignore the trackpad. If you’re using the notebook on the move, you’re very unlikely to be using an external mouse, so you’ll have to depend on the trackpad to get the job done. Make sure that it’s large and has two separate buttons.

A good trackpad eliminates the need for an external mouse

A good trackpad eliminates the need for an external mouse

The feel of the buttons should be sturdy, but have a soft feel to themselves, as well. Many notebooks these days have multi-touch support, so you can use gestures to complete simple functions quickly.

Bundled operating system

While looking for a really cheap notebook, you’re likely to find deals that might sound unbelievable. Manufacturers also offer notebooks without any operating system preinstalled or they might come bundled with Linux, which is free. If you’re specifically going to be using Windows applications, you might want to look out for a notebook with an operating system preinstalled, so you’ll have to spend additionally for the OS. If you get a really good deal on a notebook without an operating system installed and you don’t absolutely require Windows, you can choose to install a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu.

Battery life

Battery capacity is extremely important when it comes to notebooks. Most notebooks will only last around two hours on moderate use. Before you go out and buy a notebook, make sure you do your homework on the capacity of the battery. Some manufacturers will give you the option of choosing a larger battery with the notebook. If the price difference isn’t much, then take the higher capacity battery over the smaller one from the get-go.

Armed with that bit of information, you should be able to able to find the best notebooks deal by skipping all the jargon that the shopkeepers hurl at you. Happy hunting!

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