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Tech

Work From Home Buying Guide: Best Laptops Under Rs 40,000 With Windows 10 & Chrome OS

E-commerce is open again. This means you can now order from Amazon and Flipkart and the orders will be delivered to you in all parts of the country, except in containment zones. This must come as a great relief for those who suddenly shifted to the world from home routine ahead of the lockdown to flatten the COVID curve, a few weeks ago. Chances are, you may not have had a good laptop or PC at home, for it perhaps wasn’t really a critical requirement thus far. But now, you can buy a new laptop or PC to rock the work from home situation, and not be bogged down by an aging and sluggish PC, a bad keyboard, a cracked screen or something you were simply bored of. It is also expected that work from home will be quite a regular thing for a lot of workers in a lot of companies, which means you should be armed with a good computing device.

Do not make the same mistake again of thinking the smartphone can be a PC replacement, because when it really comes down to it, you will need a laptop to get genuine work done. Here are some of the best budget laptops, some running Windows 10 and some Google Chromebook options, which you must add to your arsenal of work from home tools. So that this purchase remains light on your pocket, we are looking at laptops under the Rs 40,000 price point—to get the perfect blend between performance and longevity without breaking the bank. Plus, they should look good too.

HP Chromebook x360 - 12b-ca0006tu

HP Chromebook x360 – 12b-ca0006tu

Around Rs32,990

The biggest advantage of the Google Chrome OS software for computing devices is the sheer simplicity of everything. It is incorrect to assume that you must be locked into the Google ecosystem to be able to use a Chromebook—the variety of apps available for the Chrome OS is as wide as Android phones. That is why the full-fledged Play Store is also available on the Chromebooks. Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps? The Spotify app? Video streaming apps. You name it, and the whole wide world of productivity, utility and entertainment apps are available. For any Android phone user, the switch could prove to be close to seamless—and that is a genuine value addition. In fact, this works brilliantly with the Intel Celeron N4000 processor with 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage and a card slot if you wish to use that for adding more storage space. What’s most interesting is the square-is aspect ratio of the 12-inch display, and the hinge allows it to be folded all the way back into a sort of a tablet mode. Windows machines have never performed as well on this sort of hardware.

Dell Inspiron 14 5490

Dell Inspiron 14 5490

Around Rs 35,585

This started out with a price tag above the Rs 40,000 mark but price corrections have now pushed this beneath that virtual ceiling we have for this buying advice. That means you get the newer 10th generation Intel Core i3-10110U processor with 4GB RAM and a fast 512GB SSD. There is a 14-inch Full HD display which should do well for most productivity and entertainment tasks. The keyboard is not backlit though—perhaps you need to keep that in mind in case working in a dimly lit room is your thing. Dell’s ExpressCharge Boost tops up a fully discharged battery to 35% in 20 minutes and up to 80% in 60 minutes—great if you need to splash and dash. Then there is the Dell Mobile Connect app which pairs your iPhone or Android smartphone with your laptop, which mirrors most things from your phone on the laptop itself, thereby reducing distractions.

Lenovo IdeaPad 330

Lenovo IdeaPad 330

Around Rs 19,990

If you really are on a strict budget, the Lenovo IdeaPad 330 (model number: 330-15IKB) could be a steady enough pick. Do not expect this to be powerful or do anything more than basic computing, but what you get is a comfortable 15.6-inch HD display. This runs an Intel Celeron processor, along with 4GB RAM. There is a 1TB hard drive, and these basic specs are really all you should expect at this price. While there are many similarly priced laptops that don’t give you a preloaded Windows 10 operating system, this one does—and that is very important. A keyboard that is well laid out and the build quality doesn’t really betray its budget price tag.

Acer Aspire 5 A515-43

Acer Aspire 5 A515-43

Around Rs 38,369

This started out in life with a price tag around Rs 50,000 and that means you get specifications which are quite powerful. This runs the AMD Ryzen 5 3500U quad-core processor (for some reason, many potential laptop buyers still have a bit of mistrust towards AMD machines). This has 4GB of RAM to get Windows 10 and your apps purring along. What should also make a difference is the 512GB SSD, which will speed up performance. You get a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display. The keyboard isn’t backlit. The laptop weighs around 1.8kg. You should probably also consider this if you are taken in by the large screen goodness of the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 (model number 81W800FXIN).

Lenovo IdeaPad S145

Lenovo IdeaPad S145

Around Rs 35,010

We are specifically talking about the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 (model number 81W800FXIN) which runs the Intel Core i3-1005G1 processor with 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD. It looks like it means business and has the sort of serious personality that most good productivity centric machines have. This is ideal if you prefer large displays—this has a 15.6-inch Full HD screen for you to work on. Not the lightest, tipping the scales at 1.85kg, but that’s the compromise for a large screen laptop. You will quite like the keyboard, which has the sort of inspiration from the more expensive ThinkPad laptops, which make these genuinely good to type on. Lenovo also doesn’t clutter Windows 10 too much by preloading apps, which should also be good in the long run.

HP Notebook - 15s-du0093tu

HP Notebook – 15s-du0093tu

Around Rs38,990

And this price point, you get multiple laptops running the older generation Intel Core processors as well as some Celeron versions. However, this HP Notebook – 15s-du0093tu should hold up well with the Intel Core i3-8145U processor, with 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. What you get is a 15-inch Full HD display, Windows 10 preloaded and six months of 25GB bundled Dropbox storage. This weighs 1.74kg and is 19.9mm thick. You also get a fingerprint sensor as an added authentication layer to keep your data safe. The HP Fast Charge feature charges a fully discharged laptop battery to 50% in 45 minutes, which should be handy in case you need to get stuff done in a hurry and don’t have access to power at the time. Oh, and the keyboard is backlit too.



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Tech

Work From Home Buying Guide: Your Health is Important And These Gadgets Will Help

Working from home is great for productivity, if you can put your mind to it. You don’t need to travel every day; you also don’t need to spend time stuck in traffic jams and you save a bundle of energy (and anger) that way. But on the flipside, your health could take a beating if you aren’t careful. Sitting at one place working hour after hour can have a long-term impact on your health. That is where technology has a solution for you.

For starters, there are a lot of gyms that have gone online over the past few weeks and you can simply book a class online, follow the video guidance on your phone or tablet screens. Yet there are times when you may need certain hardware that focuses on health and wellness, around you at home. Not just because you may be unwell, but because it is convenient and safer to test for BP and blood sugar, for instance, at home rather than going to a nearby clinic. And to keep a track of your exercise routine, you need a fitness band with a good companion

TOGO Infrared Thermometer

Around Rs 3,800 on The Earth Store

Infrared thermometers, also known as contactless thermometers, are perhaps the right way forward as far as hygiene is concerned. Unlike classic thermometers which require contact with a human body to register temperature, such as under the tongue or under your armpit, these can simply be aimed at your forehead from a distance of 3-5 centimeters and will register your temperature. In Celsius or Fahrenheit. The TOGO Infrared Thermometer (model number TG8818H ) works for all ages—infants, children, adults and the elderly. The temperature detection time is one second—you aim, and you get the reading. You get a lot of options for infrared thermometers, mostly unbranded ones, and those are best avoided. This one on www.earthstore.in is one of the more reliable options.

Fitbit Inspire HR

Around Rs 8,999 on Fitbit India

To see how often and how much you are moving around and exercising every day, a fitness band is a good companion to have around. And you would be hard pressed to find a more competent than a Fitbit band. We are recommending the Inspire HR to be precise. This has a heart rate monitor with heart rate zones and better tracking of calorie burn. You also get the resting heart rate option, for your night sleep. The Fitbit app for your smartphone (free for Android and iOS) is one of the best fitness companion apps when it really comes down to that—you can track detailed activity and exercise stats, track your food and water intake and more. The Fitbit Premium optional subscription also gets you guided training programs, advanced insights into your activity routine, and dynamic workouts tailored for you. There is also a full library of sleep sounds and peaceful tracks to help you reduce stress, lay in bed for a restful sleep or simply feel better after a bad day.

Dr Trust Digital Blood Pressure Monitor

Around Rs 1,700 on Amazon.in

A blood pressure monitor is essential for homes where you may have elders, parents or even self who may suffer from blood pressure issues. Dr Trust Digital Blood Pressure Monitor (model number 118) is what can be categorized as a smart BP monitor. You can pair this via Bluetooth to your phone using the Dr Trust app (free for Android and iOS) and get all the tracking data on your phone—that quite convenient if you need to make a log or share the data with your doctor. You get a BP monitor and a cuff that you wear around your arm to get the reading and voila. Hope you are doing well.

Dr Trust Glucometer

Around Rs 1,599 on Amazon.in

Having a blood sugar monitor around can be extremely important at times when you may feel suddenly low as far as your health is concerned. You can’t always rush to a doctor these days to get tested. This has three operation modes. There is the General mode which lets you take blood glucose measurements at any point of the day. There is the AC mode which is meant for measurements in the early morning on an empty stomach. And there is the PC mode, where you may take readings after taking your meals. This machine comes with 60 strips and the GDH-FAD Strip Enzyme Technology is meant to avoid any variations in the readings according to interference from blood oxygen changes. This also stores the results of the last 1000 tests in its memory, with the data and time.



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Tech

Microsoft Says More People are Buying Surface Devices Due to Rise in Remote Working

File photo of a Microsoft Surface Pro 7

File photo of a Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft this month launched Surface Pro X, Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3 in India at a starting price of Rs 98,999, Rs 72,999 and Rs 98,999 respectively.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 18, 2020, 3:15 PM IST

Already witnessing a strong commercial demand for existing Surface laptops, Microsoft India on Monday said that driven by the needs of remote working, the company is seeing a surge in demand for Windows PCs, including the new Surface line-up, to continue among both the enterprises and individuals in the country.

Microsoft this month launched Surface Pro X, Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3 in India at a starting price of Rs 98,999, Rs 72,999 and Rs 98,999, respectively. According to Amrita Sapre, Devices Head, Microsoft India, it is incredible to see customers adapt and scale to sustain critical products and services – all while preparing for a post-pandemic comeback and the ‘new normal’.

“We saw strong demand as companies and individuals around the world adjusted to working and learning remotely during Covid-19. We are seeing strong commercial demand with our Surface products. Driven by the needs of remote working, we expect the demand for Windows PCs including Surface, to continue,” she said. The all-new Surface Pro X is Microsoft’s latest 2-in-1 laptop. Measuring a mere 7.3mm and weighing at 774 grams, Surface Pro X features a 13-inch edge-to-edge PixelSense display.

The device also features a custom processor developed in partnership with Qualcomm, making it 2.3 times faster than previous generations, and is coupled with full solid-state drive (SSD) size and speed, and dual 4K video output via USB-C. Surface Pro X aims to offer an all-day battery life of up to 13 hours, fast-charging to about 80 per cent within just an hour and LTE connectivity.

“Surface Pro remains the most versatile 2:1 device you can buy – whether you choose Surface Pro 7 or the brand new ultra-mobile Surface Pro X. The Surface Pro X stands at the intersection of mobility, productivity and speed,” said Sapre. Redesigned from the inside out, the other device – Surface Pro 7 – is more powerful than ever with the latest quad-core, 10th Generation Intel Core processor, and is 2.3 times faster than previous generations.

Meanwhile, the all-new Surface Laptop 3 retains its iconic slim, sleek and lightweight design but is now twice as fast as previous generations, with faster multitasking and improved graphics. To help navigate the current environment people are turning to Windows PCs more than ever.

Over four trillion minutes are being spent on Windows 10 a month, a 75 per cent increase year on year. “Surface is driven by a singular ambition – to build the most productive devices on the planet to help people achieve more. As the Surface family of devices expands, our goal is to design a Surface for every person, every work style and every location,” said Sapre.

Surface delivers the security features you need, with modern and increased control to effectively manage devices, wherever they may be. “We have a multi-layered, end-to-end approach to security across the entire Surface portfolio. Organizations can revolutionize the way new devices get deployed with over-the-air, instant, and secure device deployment, including automatic device identification and imaging setup through Windows Autopilot,” informed the Microsoft India executive.

Recent advances in security research demonstrate that as more protections are built into the operating system (OS) and connected services, attackers are looking for other avenues of exploitation with firmware emerging as a top target. According to Sapre, Microsoft Surface has a unified approach to firmware protection and device security through complete end-to-end ownership of the hardware design, in-house firmware development, and a holistic approach to device updates and management.

“All Surface for Business devices ship with Windows 10 Pro, with powerful built-in security features including automatic updates, BitLocker, and cloud-powered intelligent security to protect your devices from modern threats,” said Sapre.



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Tech

Contactless Grocery Shopping: Your Guide to Buying Essential Items Without Touching

Representative illustration. (Image: News18.com)

Representative illustration. (Image: News18.com)

From instant noodles to medicines, companies such as Amazon, BigBasket, 1mg, Paytm, Swiggy and Zomato are stepping up the contactless transactions game.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 13, 2020, 3:09 PM IST
  • Edited by: Shouvik Das

The Covid-19 pandemic is not going to dissolve into oblivion any time soon. Many of us have already spoken about the “new normal” — a world with as little physical interactions as possible. In such a world, it would seem that minimising points of physical contact would be the way forward, just like how we have managed so far. On this note, myriad companies and startups such as Swiggy, Zomato, BigBasket, Amazon, 1mg and more have rolled out steps such as contactless deliveries, where packages are left at your doorstep, with details about sanitation and health of the delivery person. Here’s looking at how we can make a habit out of minimum-contact grocery shopping, and how our new world can thrive with as much of contactless exchanges as possible.

Abundant stores

India’s largest metropolitan cities are still confined in red zones. As a result, only essential items are available in stores. However, the crisis period has led to practically all forms of essential items and household supplies being available across all grocery stores around you. Even multi-purpose chemist stores now stock household items, turning each shop into a one-stop shopping station. This reduces the number of places that you will need to access, in order to get yourself everything that you need — thereby reducing the amount of physical interactions that you would generally have.

More delivery options

Contrary to only a select number of grocery delivery services (Amazon Prime Now/Pantry, BigBasket, Grofers) that are generally available to you, a far larger number of online grocery delivery services are now accessible in most places. Alongside the more established players, startups such as AaramShop, Omart and LocalBanya are aiming to fill up the hyperlocal essential items demand. Companies such as Swiggy and Zomato, which so far operated in the online food deliveries space, have also delved into delivering groceries. Swiggy, in fact, is also helping in the delivery of packages from one location to another, much like Dunzo.

Going forward, initiatives such as JioMart are targeting smaller shops that are still not listed on hyperlocal delivery platforms. The idea is to help them use a free, accessible tool such as WhatsApp, to take orders and payments online, and deliver essentials via in-store or outsourced delivery partners.

Second wave for digital payments

All of this is introducing a new wave for digital payment adoption across India, in our quest for contactless techniques. With minimal touch points now a necessity, contactless payments via wallet to wallet transfers, and primarily UPI, are set for an exponential rise. More platforms such as WhatsApp Pay are almost here, and with a minimal onboarding cost, even the smallest of businesses are finding it easier to shift to taking online payments. Digital finance giants such as Paytm are increasingly rolling out options such as a loyalty programme for local kirana stores to onboard them on their platform.

Hence, with more stores, plenty of delivery options and a steadily increasing adoption of contactless payments, you can do your bit by continuing to shop via these steps as much as you can, even after the pandemic passes by.



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Tech

Broadband Buying Guide: Spectra Plans Start at Rs 899, Speeds up to 1Gbps & Unlimited Voice Calls

Spectra is one of the oldest and most popular broadband service providers in India. In fact, Spectra was the first among broadband companies to offer unlimited data for home broadband users as everyone went on the work from home routine back in March—anticipating users will need more data as they acclimatize to working remotely in the midst of the COVID pandemic (You can read more here). Recently, in an email communication with consumers, Spectra confirmed that they have upgraded all connections from single path to dual path, which makes connections more reliable. That is good to know, particularly at this time when home broadband lines are as important as the air we breathe. And well, it is among the fastest broadband service providers in the country, offering speeds of up to 1Gbps with the subscription plans.

At this time, Spectra is competing with the likes of Reliance JioFiber, Airtel Xstream broadband and ACT Fibernet, to name a few. And the company has some rather unique plans, in terms of what is bundled, depending on the duration you choose to pay for in one go. Also, plans tend to change from region to region, and the Spectra website simply allows you to enter your present location to check the home broadband subscription plans in your area. At this time, Spectra is available in multiple cities across India, including Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, Ghaziabad, Noida and Chennai.

100Mbps is your entry point

In many regions, Spectra offers 100Mbps as the entry point to its broadband subscription plans. That speed, to be honest, is great for most home users—they work very well for video streaming, document sharing, video calls and even 4K video, as long as your Wi-Fi network isn’t being drained by other devices at the same time. For instance, in Mumbai, Chennai and Ghaziabad, you get the Spectra Starter plan which is priced at Rs 899 per month. What you get is 500GB data per month if you decide to go for the monthly billing option or 1000GB per month if you decide to pay for 6 months or 12 months in advance.

And a push to 150Mbps too

If you want to upgrade the speed a bit more, there is also the Spectra Fast 150Mbps option in cities where 100Mbps is the entry point. This plan costs Rs 999 per month and the data bundling options remain the same as the 100Mbps Spectra Starter pack.

250Mbps plans for 4K and more

If you have a heavy user, which includes generous doses of 4K streaming, sometimes even on multiple devices simultaneously, the 250Mbps plan would be fantastic for you. You get great headroom for video streaming, document sharing, video calls and 4K binging with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on multiple devices at the same time, without your broadband line even showing the slightest of strain.

In the cities where 100Mbps Spectra Starter and 150Mbps Spectra Fast plans are available, this 250Mbps plan is called Spectra Faster and is priced at Rs 1249 per month. What you get is 500GB data for the monthly billing option, 1000GB per month if you pay for 6-months in advance and unlimited data if you pay for an entire year in one go.

In cities such as Delhi where this is the entry spec plan, the 250Mbps Spectra Fast is priced at Rs 999 per month. Now that is a great deal. You get is 500GB data per month if you decide to go for the monthly billing option or 1000GB per month if you decide to pay for 6 months or 12 months in advance.

Spectra Voice for calling

Spectra has also added the Spectra Voice feature, which enables high definition audio calling over the Wi-Fi network. You need to use the Spectra Voice app for your Android phone or iPhone. This is either free or costs Rs 99 per month, depending on the plan that you have selected. It is a great value addition for someone who may not have a landline phone and struggles with spotty mobile network coverage at home.

Have you also read?

I Want a 1Gbps Broadband Connection For my Home, How Much Does it Cost? Answer: Not a Lot

#StayHome: Spectra is Making All Broadband Plans Unlimited For The Month For Free

500Mbps is all about speed

In some cities, the 500Mbps plan is priced at Rs 1,599 per month and offers 750GB data per month with the monthly billing cycle, 1500GB data per month if you pay for 6 months and unlimited data if you pay for a year in advance.

In other cities, the same plan is priced at Rs 1,999 per month and offers the same data bundles. Do note, that not all cities have the 1Gbps option just yet, and in those regions, the 500Mbps plan is the flagship plan.

1Gbps is the pinnacle of the broadband experience

Incidentally, the 1Gbps journey started long ago for Spectra. They have been offering 1Gbps plans in various regions for a while now—though there have been price revisions since. At present, Spectra has the Spectra Fastest plan which offers 1Gbps speed is priced at Rs 2,499 per month. This is actually an increase from the Rs 1,549 price tag that was slapped on this plan till a few months ago. Nevertheless, you now also get the Spectra Voice VoIP service for free with this plan, which means unlimited voice calls as well over Wi-Fi. If you choose the monthly billing plan, that will get you 1000GB data per month. If you choose to pay for 6 months in advance, you get 2000GB data per month. If you decide to pay for an entire year in one go, then you get unlimited data usage per month.