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How to buy a laptop
Smita Tripathi
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February 14, 2005

Okay, not all of us travel -- but we might! Besides, a laptop has the kind of flexibility no PC does, so with a little bit of market research and your bargaining skills, you could actually find one that won't burn a hole in your pocket and still suit your needs.

But first let's consider some of the basic criteria you need to look at while buying your laptop.

Size and weight: Remember that the whole purpose of a laptop is that it can be easily carried around and is meant for the person on the move. If you need to hire a person just to lug it around, you are better off using a desktop.

Processor: This depends upon what purpose your laptop is going to serve. Says Sudhir Malik of Indus Technologies, a Delhi-based importer, "If it is meant to be a mobile web browser, email, word processing or even DVD player, any CPU above 800 MHz should be sufficient. Hence, unless you are a graphic designer, a PIII will suffice."

Display: When purchasing a laptop, look at the resolution of the screen as well as the size. A large screen is generally preferred but some large screens have such high resolutions that it can make standard fonts unbearably hard to read.

The size of the screen also impacts the size of the laptop. Newer systems with 17-inch screens tend to be very large and more difficult to carry. "A 14-inch display is sufficient for most people," says a Delhi-based dealer.

Battery life: Just how good is your portable computer going to be if you are only able to get half-an-hour of computing time on a single charge. Check the manufacturer's listed battery life for the standard battery. Look at getting a system with at least two hours of battery life under normal conditions.

Warranty: Since laptops are used on the move, they take a lot of abuse and are more prone to breakdowns. When buying a system, make sure to get at least a year's warranty from the manufacturer.

Before you pick up your shopping bag, be sure of the purpose your laptop is going to serve. If you are the kind who needs it for using Microsoft Office and to check your mail, you do not need a very high configuration state-of-the-art machine. Settling for a slightly older configuration may, therefore, help land you a good deal.

Consider this: You can buy a Dell laptop with a 850 Mhz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 10 GB hard disk drive, 15-inch display screen, a CD Rom Drive and a 56 KbPs modem for Rs 32,000. However, it has a Pentium III processor and not the latest Pentium IV.

Says Malik, "With the launch of the PIV, the PIII has become obsolete in Europe and US. However, that doesn't mean that it is not good. After all, people were very happy using PIII till some time back."

As a result importers in India are able to buy these laptops at cheaper prices as companies abroad try to get rid of stock.

Says Susheela Pandey, an executive with a multinational firm in Delhi, "I needed a laptop but couldn't afford one for Rs 60,000-70,000. I found this Dell one for Rs 32,000 and it solves my purpose perfectly. It comes with an international warranty which Dell India respects."

If you are willing to work on Linux, your comp will become even cheaper. Linux as an operating system is free while Windows costs around Rs 7,000. So if you decide that the Microsoft monopoly is not for you, you may be able to save a few thousand. Of course, you need to be sure about using Linux.

However, the whole thing isn't as simple as it seems. Since instead of buying from authorised dealers you are buying from importers, you need to be sure that you are finally paying for the configuration, which was promised to you. Most of these people do not have a ready stock.

They send you a quotation and once you have paid a certain sum upfront (10-15 per cent of the quoted price), the laptop is then delivered within two-three weeks. You must insist on a product, which has a valid warranty. Depending upon your bargaining skills, things like a carrier bag, a separate mouse etc, are also thrown in.

And if the moolah is the chief concern and you are in no tearing hurry to possess a laptop, wait till after the Budget. Industry sources claim that duties on laptops are likely to fall to 8 per cent. So hang on for a few weeks more and you may be able to pick up a laptop, which fits right into your budget.


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