Every year, Diwali makes people break their piggy banks and splurge on a smorgasbord of technology products. Most people opt for the latest, fastest and coolest gadgets of the season and are caught up in a shopping frenzy of sorts, thanks to the hundreds of seemingly attractive deals on offer. However, are those purchases the most prudent ones? Are those deals the best? Maybe not. We’ll try to give you some practical advice across popular categories to enable you to make the wisest Diwali gadget-buying decisions.
Devices on the go
Smartphones and tablets are the most sought after gadgets this year. The category has seen an intimidating number of new offerings very recently. Today, aside from Apple’s iPad 2, there are a number of new Android Honeycomb devices to choose from, and the smartphone market is now a battleground. Just a few months ago, a 1 GHz processor was the norm, but today most new phones have dual-core processors, that have much more power.
Based on our analysis of trends, if you are going in for a high-end phone, i.e., upwards of Rs 24,000, then go the extra mile and opt for a dual-core phone such as the HTC Sensation, or the Samsung Galaxy S2. This is clearly going to be the minimum for the next generation of phones, and the requirements of future operating systems and high-end applications need at least this.
Imaging by Raajan/Mint
If you plan to purchase a BlackBerry, it would be best to hold off till Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry, comes out with true QNX devices. RIM’s upcoming QNX-based operating systems will let users access the ever-expanding Android ecosystem, and not only the BlackBerry App World. The touchscreen BlackBerry Colt expected in the first quarter of 2012 is the QNX phone to look forward to for the best of both worlds—BlackBerry’s efficient push mail and messenger, and all of Android’s apps.
Picking a tablet on the other hand depends on how you’re likely to use it. For most people, the tablet is a portable screen with Wi-Fi access to use around the house. Not too many people are using 3G connections for their tablets to use on the move.
The best advice before purchasing a tablet would be to think about how you intend to use it and for how much time. As for whether it can replace a laptop, most people will reply with a resounding “no”. However, if you’re just a social networking junkie, who likes Web videos and the occasional email, there’s no reason why a tablet won’t work for you.
Laptop buying mostly depends on the configuration. There are literally hundreds of permutations and combinations that are possible in this space. Still, there are a few guidelines that you can follow as buying rules. When looking at the specifications of your prospective laptop, you’ll find the processor names to be similar, i.e., Core i3, Core i5. However, check for the exact model number. If it’s a three-digit number such as Intel Core i3-380M, then it belongs to the older generation. What you would ideally want is a next-generation Sandy Bridge processor, also named Core i3 or i5, but with a four-digit model number, such as Core i3-2310M.
To pick the right core, remember that Core i3 is best suited to working on document files, basic image editing and Internet use. A Core i7 is a powerhouse suited for gaming, or high-resolution image editing and video editing, while a Core i5 is somewhere in between—basic gaming and image editing works well on it.
Entry-level netbooks are a bad bet right now; at least not with the current generation of Atom processors. A new range of Atom processors, code-named Oak Trail, are due soon, and Atom Z670-based netbooks will be a lot more useful. AMD’s Fusion APU- (accelerated processing unit-) based netbooks are also a good choice for basic browsing and online use.
Smart TVs or idiot boxes?
This Diwali you’re bound to find yourself inundated with offers on “Smart TVs” or products with identical nomenclature. Simply put, these networked TVs offer you nothing more than a few sources of Web content via a wired LAN port. Instead of getting caught up in the fancy terminology, (much like 3D or LED), what you must think about is whether you have a home network in the first place. You’ll need a spare LAN cable from your router to use the functionality of a Smart TV to the fullest. If your home set-up fulfils this requirement, think about whether you’re the type who will actively view Web content on TV. Also check out the exact sources of Web content as they may not be of relevance to the Indian audience. Considering all this, you may not want to pay an exorbitant premium on these so-called Smart TVs. In the long term, these may be the way to go, but the question to ask is if it makes sense to buy them now.
All-in-one (AIO) desktops may not be the most popular category with hardcore geeks, but these PCs find many takers with families. AIOs make good “home” PCs thanks to their attractive form factor and space-saving ability. These desktops are available at retail chains such as Croma or Ezone and many people opt for these. They’re based on mobile chipsets similar to the mainboards found in laptops. One of the things to remember in this case is that you won’t be able to easily upgrade components in the long run, so choose the specifications wisely. Also, some AIO desktops come with TV tuners which let them double up as TVs. Some models from Lenovo even let you view TV without booting into Windows, so keep an eye out for such conveniences offered by some of the brands.
When buying headphones or in-ears, it’s best to look for them online; malls and big-format retailers offer a very limited range to choose from. Most places will not stock the exact model that you desire. Most places won’t even let you demo the products, so what’s the point of going to a physical store? Instead look for speciality audio gear at places such as primeabgb.com, lynx-india.com, and pristinenote.com. Many of these online retailers have shops on eBay.in too.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help you find your way to the smartest purchases of the season. After all, who doesn’t want a bargain? Who doesn’t want bragging rights for getting a steal and making the wisest purchase? Good wishes and happy shopping.