There are quite a few laptop models available for less than Rs. 30,000 today and while performance will understandably be limited, many of them are still excellent value for money. There might not be much variance when it comes to internal components, but you can get these entry-level laptops in many shapes and sizes, with or without additional features that make them attractive for certain use case scenarios.
Choosing the right model is often about striking the right balance of compromises. For example, while you can get devices with screens ranging from 10 inches to 15.6 inches, you won't find any resolution higher than 1366x768. The more powerful models have up to Intel Core i3 processors, but tend cut corners in other ways, such as not including a licensed copy of Windows. There are also plenty of older models floating around at discounted rates, most of which you can safely avoid.
We'll help you navigate through the minefield of choices so you can buy the best budget laptop for your needs. Please note that prices fluctuate every day.
Best choice for students: Lenovo G50-70, Rs. 28,500 (approximate street price)
Students require flexibility and reliability, so our choice is the Lenovo G50-70 which sells for approximately Rs. 28,500 online (with a free bag, at some retailers). This model isn't the sleekest or lightest option by a mile, but it does come with an up-to-date fourth generation Intel Core i3 processor. There's 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, which should be enough for assignments, research, presentations, social media and a bit of casual entertainment too. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB 3.0 are standard. The G50-70 comes with FreeDOS, which is an advantage if you're planning to use Linux.
Best choice for work: HP 450, Rs. 29,990 (approximate street price)
This surprisingly affordable laptop is based on a mainstream Core i3-3110M CPU. This means it doesn't sacrifice performance for low power consumption and heat dissipation, but even so, it manages to pull off five hours of battery life. You get 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive which will come in handy for presentations, spreadsheets, communications and even some light work with graphics and multimedia. You or your office will have to pay extra for a Windows license though.
Best choice for home and entertainment: Dell Inspiron 15 3542, Rs. 28,890 (official online retail price)
The Dell Inspiron 15 is large enough for the family to gather around and comfortable enough for all ages and all uses. It has a relatively low-powered Intel Pentium processor, but everything else is absolutely standard for this price category, including the 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive. You'll be able to play basic online games, surf the Web, type out documents and chat with friends. The HDMI port makes it easy to hook this laptop up to a living-room TV so you can watch movies together and show off photos too. Windows 8.1 comes preloaded, meaning home and casual users will have no hassles setting up.
Best choice for portability: Dell Inspiron 11 3137, Rs. 26,990 (official online price)
This little laptop could easily be mistaken for a netbook, though it's a little more powerful than that. The Celeron 2995U CPU should be enough for most basic tasks but we wouldn't try anything more intensive than browsing the Web and editing simple documents on this laptop. Its main attraction is its weight - at only 1.45kg, you can easily toss the Inspiron 11 into a bag and take it everywhere you go. There's 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive but also, unexpectedly, a touchscreen. Windows 8.1 comes preloaded, so you can enjoy the touch-centric Modern UI apps too.
Best choice on a shoestring budget: Asus X550CA, Rs 25,750 (approximate street price)
If our Rs. 30,000 price ceiling is too high for you, there are a few ultra-budget options to consider as well. Both HP and Acer sell Chromebooks for around Rs. 22,000, but we think a full-fledged laptop is a better investment even if it comes with very weak components. Our choices is the Asus X550CA, which comes with a low-power but still modern Core i3-3217U processor, 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Of course there's a compromise - you'll have to use a free Linux distribution or buy your own copy of Windows. Still, this model offers solid value for money.