Pretty difficult. As I found last month while looking for a decent, mid-range laptop for a friend.
What Seems to Be the Problem?
You would think that all the guides, discussions in various forums, and video reviews on YouTube would come in handy when you are looking for a computer. But that’s not the case. Especially if you are like me, someone who does not keep track of the latest laptop models. For instance, I have no idea what’s the current highest standard when it comes to a laptop’s processor or why Alienware computers are so damn expensive. Or is it Apple that I am talking about? I know Apple boasts about its design and centres its marketing around the quality of the work that you can produce using its products. But I don’t know how its MacBook it different from, say, a high-end Lenovo laptop other than the operating systems they use. I just want to be able to work, play games, and listen to some music, that’s it.
You could call it ignorance. And I am not proud about my lack of knowledge about these technologies or that I haven’t yet figured out the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit systems. I plan to do it, but it’s just farther away in my long list of things to know and learn about.
But that is exactly my point too. I don’t know what the best laptops under 40,000 rupees are. So, I would expect tech bloggers, reviewers, and influencers to tell me. They are better equipped with that information and they understand the terms that are used to gauge the usability and functionality of a laptop. Plus, I am the exact audience they are targeting. Unfortunately, none of the guides or reviews that I read or viewed helped me make a decision. While the blame is partly on Google for burying honest pages in the nether search results, I would think that the quality of such guides and technology review in general in India is subpar.
How Difficult Is It Actually?
There is no Wirecutter or a Tom’s Guide for Indians. The closest we have to those dependable review havens is NDTV Gadgets 360, but even it resorts to paid promotions. The sponsored posts automatically diminish its overall dependence. A lack of credible source is why the difficulty stings.
I had a hard time finding a decent laptop for my friend because of two reasons: no idea about what’s selling (or what’s worth buying) these days and the paradox of choice (or overchoice). The requirement was for a mid-range laptop for heavy office use (spreadsheets, Outlook, at least three different VC apps – you know the drill these days), heavy web browsing (over a dozen Chrome tabs), some moderate video gaming (GTA IV and Among Us, maybe Phasmophobia), and decent portability. So, naturally I started by searching for models in the price range. Then, I compared brands, sub-brands, and features. I entered the rabbit hole and came out with more questions that I couldn’t answer.
Should I go with Lenovo, Dell, or a third brand? Or should I go for a notebook? How is it different from a laptop? What about a tablet that doubles up as a laptop? All this while HP and Apple were staring at me with their ads about laptops. I started losing patience. No luck.
So, I created a spreadsheet and added into it the features, pros, and cons of the top five laptop models that I found satisfactory based on their marketing texts. This is when a new problem appeared. All the models had similar features, were within a narrow price range, and seemed good enough against the requirement. But the problem? Polarizing user reviews. Each one of those models had almost equal number of critical and positive reviews. The aggregate ratings didn’t help nor did individual reviews by tech bloggers that I wrote about earlier.
I stopped putting any more time on the exercise, forwarded the spreadsheet to my friend, and moved on. I moved on with the hope that my current laptop (by HP) never dies on me. So far, so good. TN.