Tablets, phablets and smartphones are great -- but no patch on the laptop for portable work-n-play.
October 27 2014: Sometimes products just don't live up to their hype: As phones became smarter and tablets morphed into phablets, their makers started writing obituaries for that original platform of portable computing, the laptop PC ( and its younger brother, the notebook). Turns out they were premature. Surveys by industry watchers have shown tablet sales still struggling. Granted smart phones are flying off the shelves -- but not as substitutes for old fashioned PC-style computing.
A report last week from ResearchAndMarkets.com, said the India laptop market reached 4.71 million units during the year ending June 2014: "Changing work style and increasing need for access to information 24/7 is fueling the growth of the Indian Laptop market."
Also last week, IDC reported that in the quarter since June, "Higher-than-expected shipments in the consumer space in the two biggest markets - China and India – characterised personal computer business in Asia-Pacific."
So in India at least, laptop mey abhi bi dum hai! ( there's life in laptops, yet!) I am not surprised -- and I'll tell you why. I am a closet laptop lover. Like everyone else I bought the hype about the tablet-phablet business and tried out the best of them -- including the 2-in-1s which come with a keyboard. Having strayed from the straight and narrow to embrace these new upstarts, I returned fairly quickly to the comfort of my old laptop love. Why? Because, I need to do fairly basic things while on the move -- create documents, review and edit files that people send me, read or create presentations and financial spreadsheets and photoshop some pictures. You don't have to be some high tech geek to be doing all this -- most us of need to. And as I discovered very soon -- all of this is inconvenient, if not painfully slow, to do on tablets -- and impractical on a phone.
Acer recently launched a laptop that tries to bridge the gap between work and play even while pricing it sensibly: I tried out the Aspire E 15 ( E5-511), which offers a 15.6 inch LED display, fuelled by an Intel quad core Pentium N3530 processor, 2 GB of memory , 500 GB of hard disk storage, an 8X DVD writer and the usual WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. In the version sold in India, Windows 8.1 comes pre installed -- but I was relieved to see that Acer has tweaked it, to open with the old familiar Windows start screen and leaves you the option of switching to the newer brick wall menu -- or not.|
The audio through the built-in stereo speakers is really good. I tried it out playing a You Tube video at the maximum HD resolution and the effect was excellent. Mind you, the laptop's native resolution is less than full video ( at 1366 by 768 pixels) and I think they might have gone full HD (1920 by 1080) if they wanted to live up to the promise of a laptop for family as well as professional use. Also 2 GB/ 500 GB seems on the low side on the memory-storage side -- especially when many international versions of the same laptop offer 4GB/1 TB at a very small increase in price .
Acer is known for its intuitive laptop touch pad and this one does not disappoint: supporting 2-finger scroll and some basic gestures. The DVD drive is another Acer-only innovation: it is M-Disk ready, which means it is compatible with new generation DVD disks that are meant to last a 100 years.
For Rs 22,999 the Aspire E 15 is solid value -- considering that most smart phones or tablets cost more. Beware of online offers for as low as Rs 19,000 -- the fine print will show these are without the Windows OS, which will cost you another Rs 3000 at least.
- Anand Parthasarathy