I have done some web research in this area, having recently come from India. I feel that laptops in India are generally cheaper by several thousand rupees but are a bit outdated.
laptops can be cheaper in UK if u claim your VAT back when you are making a trip back home. but its not wise to buy a second hand laptop. if u are going to be here during the summer than buy a laptop during the sales time and ask them to fill in the tax returns form. by that u will get atleast 13% VAT (value added tax). In UK all good are subject to VAT which is 17.5% standard. however when you claim that back they do deduct Administration charges.
Suggest Acer or Compaq. Acer slightly cheaper. However, Compaq doesn't have much of a dealer network in the UK (which is very surprising as it is well distributed worlwide) which will prove difficult if you require repairs or hardware upgrades. Dell laptops are widely used in the UK. I don't know how much they cost in India. If you are buying a compaq in India wait until June, as apparently, they are offering better equipped laptops at today's market prices.
Also buy laptop with linux loaded as the OS. You can format and load windows later. This is much easier in India. very difficult to find laptops with linux in the UK. (Laptops with Linux as the OS are cheaper).
Suggested specs: P4 2.6 GHz at least. Don't even think about Celeron. A cheaper alternative is AMD athlon. Make sure you buy at least AMD Athlon xp 2600 plus. DO NOT buy Pentium M or Centrino CPUs, because they consume a hell of a lot of power and will exhaust your battery in about 1,1/2 hours.
512 MB RAM. Definitely not 128MB, as this is too slow for today's applications. 256 MB is OK for today's applications, but remember, you would like to use your laptop for at least 5 years, therefore go for 512 MB.
RAM should be upgradeable to at least 1GB.
Many laptops in India come with DVD-ROM and CD-RW. This ought to be good enough. If you want to be able to copy and rewrite DVD, then go for the option of DVD-RW. (If you don't know what these acronyms mean, ask anyone fairly knowledgeable in computers).
All laptops come with an internet modem (for dial-up internet connection) as standard. Look for one with ethernet connection as this is the best way to connect to broadband. A bluetooth card will allow you to use the internet and other applications in a wireless environment.
Don't bother too much with screen size. 14"-15" is standard.
Apparently, windows 2000 home is thought to be more stable than windows xp home.
Believe it or not, some laptops (in the UK) offer a floppy drive as an extra option. Make sure you take one with a floppy (a:) drive.
In general, cheaper laptops come with 20-30 GB hard drive. Both are usually sufficient for most users. Actually, you need higher hard drive capacities if you store a lot of music (when I say a lot, I mean about 7000-10,000 songs) or movies.
Never buy a laptop with the company provided carry bag. Buy it from a luggage shop - it is very much cheaper.
In general, most users find it unecessary to buy an additional battery.
I think that should about cover it.
Oh! - Don't touch a second hand laptop. They are far too outdated and will be terribly slow with today's applications.
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