Test Center | 22 December 2010
Get the best gadget deals this festive season
By TEAM CHIP
Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that almost every few months newer models replace older ones or there’s a massive price cut on the existing models. Not too long ago, touch screen cell phones used to cost over Rs 10,000. You can now buy a more feature-rich model for almost half the price. It’s a similar case with laptops, digital cameras, portable media players and other electronics. So should you wait for the prices to drop, or should you opt for something that uses the latest technology? The key is shopping smartly and buying something that offers good value for money and at the same time uses technology that is current, if not the latest. This is where a smart shopping guide comes in handy. We have compiled one for you that covers important categories ranging from cell phones and digital cameras to laptops and LCD TVs to help you make smart decisions this festive season. Happy Shopping!
The minimum amount you should set aside for a laptop even if you’re on a shoe-string budget is Rs 27,000. You’ll find models by popular brands such as HP Compaq, Acer, Samsung and Lenovo as well as smaller brands such as HCL, Intex and Zenith. An ultra-budget laptop usually features a dual-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 320 GB hard disk, 14.1-inch or a 15.6-inch display, DVD writer, card reader and Wi-Fi. The best examples here are the 15.6-inch HP Compaq HP Compaq CQ56-105TU, which retails for Rs 25,000, and the 14-inch Lenovo G460 (59-046705) with a 500 GB hard drive, which retails for Rs 28,000. Although these models are priced well, note that you’ll have to spend a few thousand extra for the operating system.
Next come the slightly more powerful mainstream models powered by Intel Core i3, Core i5 and AMD Athlon II and Turion II processors, with 3 or 4 GB of RAM. This segment starts with models such as the Dell Inspiron 14R, which is great value for money. For Rs 35,000, you get a 14-inch laptop powered by Core i3 CPU, 3 GB RAM and 320 GB hard disk. Plus, it comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit. Another good option is the Sony Vaio EB32EN for Rs 38,990, which has a similar configuration, plus eSATA and HDMI output.
Moving up the ladder and past the Rs 40,000 mark are models that will appeal to users who need more power for multitasking and demanding tasks such as image editing and transcoding videos. These laptops are again powered by Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs. The discrete graphics and additional features such as eSATA and HDMI and a higher version of Windows 7 (Professional or Home Premium) mean they command a premium. If your budget is around Rs 45,000, you should get a model like the Sony Vaio EA33, which features Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics with 512 MB of video memory, HDMI output and eSATA. There are a few models priced above Rs 40,000 in this segment that don’t have discrete graphics, but we suggest spending around Rs 2,500 more for this feature, which will help with HD video playback and multimedia applications.
Models in the mid-range segment, which starts from Rs 50,000, have more powerful graphics processors. These pack enough punch to handle games at medium settings. Our strongest recommendation in this segment is the Sony Vaio EB36FG, which costs Rs 51,990. Its key features are the full HD display (1920x1080 pixels), ATI Radeon HD 5650 graphics with 1 GB of dedicated memory, and HDMI output. Plus, it comes in five colors for the style-conscious.
The most powerful machines are priced between Rs 60,000 and Rs 1 lakh. These are powered by quad-core processors and large screens, with hefty amounts of RAM and storage space. At the start of this price band lies the HP Pavilion dv6-3050TX with a Core i7 CPU, 6 GB RAM, 640 GB hard drive and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics. The high-end Dell Studio XPS and Apple MacBook Pro also fall under this segment. Laptops such as the Sony VaioZ 138GG cater to a niche audience. It’s slim and weighs less than 1.5 kg, but packs in tremendous power. It features a 13.1-inch full HD display, four 64 GB SSDs in RAID, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, and Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics. All this comes at a hefty price tag of Rs 1,59,900. You can also consider a gaming laptop like the Asus G51J (Rs 99,500), which has 6 GB of RAM, powerful GeForce GTS 360M graphics, and bundled 3D glasses.
Cameras can be categorised into three categories—entry level, mid-range and high-end. With a plethora of models in the market, it is easy for you to get lost in a sea of information. We have highlighted some of the best cameras across various price ranges.
The sheer number of entry-level cameras might be overwhelming, but when it comes to performance, the Panasonic F2 is a winner. At Rs 6,690, the F2 not only offers great value for money, but also has a very good noise reduction capability, which is hard to find at this price point. Its performance is good even at ISO 400. However, it isn’t one of the best looking devices in the market. If you are looking for something a little more stylish, the Canon IXUS series should be your choice. For instance, at Rs 9,995, the IXUS 105 offers very good value for money with its compact styling, 28 mm wide angle lens, and 4x optical zoom. Other options include the Samsung ES75 (Rs 8,490) and the Samsung PL100 (Rs 9,990). However, features in this price range are limited to only auto and preset modes, and video recording is limited to the 640x480 resolution.
If you are looking for added features such as HD (720p) video recording and fancy shooting modes such as miniature and fish-eye effects, then the IXUS 130 fits in perfectly at Rs 13,495. But those aren’t the only factors that make this model tick. Apart from its slick design, the camera also features a 28 mm lens and a host of shooting modes. Another brand to look out for is Sony. The Cyber-shot series of cameras not only offer excellent style, but also perform brilliantly under low light. With a drop in price, the DSC-WX1 can easily be considered the ideal camera under Rs 13,000. It packs in 5x optical zoom, a brilliant 24 mm wide angle lens, and support for HD (720p) recording. If night photography is what drives you and you are need a compact point-and-shoot, the DSC-WX1 will not disappoint. Other cameras worth considering under Rs 15,000 are the Panasonic Lumix ZR3, and Sony DSC-W380.
However, not all users are satisfied with just 5x zoom. This is where cameras such as the Samsung WB600 and Sony DSC-H55 come in. The WB600 is currently the most versatile and well priced (Rs 15,990) compact megazoom camera. It features a massive 15x optical zoom packed in an extremely compact body. In addition to that, its super wide 24 mm lens and HD (720p) recording make the WB600 a great buy in this price bracket.
Lastly, there are the cameras that offer even more than 15x optical zoom. As far as price is concerned, these megazoom monsters don’t come cheap. However, they offer a rich set of features that
3D is the latest buzzword in the market, and all the big brands have 3D LED HDTVs in their product portfolios. But the question is, is it worth going in for one at this point of time? First of all, there’s very limited 3D content out there, which straight away defeats the purpose of owning one. However, it will appeal to gamers who have deep pockets. If you have a PC with a high-end Nvidia graphics card such as the GTX 470 or higher and a 3D Vision kit, which costs Rs 10,000, you’re in for an awesome visual treat. Since 3D and LED technologies are brand new, the cost of ownership at present is extremely high.
Consider the case of a 46-inch LCD TV. The Sony 46HX800 from the full HD Bravia LED LCD series comes in at a whopping Rs 1,53,900. Then you have a raft of other LED TVs to choose from; the Samsung Series 6 UA46C6900VR is priced at Rs 1,15,000. The most affordable of the lot are basic CFL backlit LCD TVs that have been around for quite some time. The Sony Bravia KLV-46EX400 from the EX400 series costs Rs 79,900. So you see, 3D technology commands a premium of Rs 40,000 over the price of an LED TV. Between LED TVs and LCD TVs, the former have much better contrast and color reproduction, they consume less power, and are slimmer. Although the cost of manufacturing LEDs is much lower than CFL that LCD TVs use, LED TVs are more expensive than LCD TVs because the technology is relatively new. You can expect a price drop and find newer models on shelves in six months or a year’s time. So if you’re planning to invest in an HDTV, go in for an LED TV if it fits in your budget, or buy an LCD TV if you want good bang for the buck. If buying one is not a priority right now, we suggest waiting for the prices of LED TVs to drop.