Recession or no recession, India was very clear about what clinched a buying decision. With 5,455 Indians surveyed, a sizeable four out of ten tech shoppers were looking to make a switch. Their criterion -- quality and not price! We asked them to rate brands on Quality, Reliability, support, Brand Appeal and Pricing to determine which brands delivered the goods and which did not.What it takes to be the PCW Preferred brand 2008 Perceptions, and impressions on brands aren't always the real deal, so Pc World Preferred Brand survey participants were asked only to rate brands they have used, thus ensuring the ratings were based on facts. Each of the 10 Pc essentials categories allowed participants to select and rate it brands they use across the five parameters. Each one would carry varied weightage, depending on product category. For laptops, brand appeal was at par with service and support. For hard drives, service and support ranked a lot higher. Repeat purchases and brand loyalty also helped decide brands expected to be more popular in future and the ones that stand to lose their market share."LaptopsHP might be doing the numbers but the fact that almost 30% of buyers are eyeing a Dell laptop, and users are saying they would buy Dell again, speaks for a brand that has gained significant market share in a very short span. We want a perfect blend"To be fast, or offer good value is not enough" says Dheeraj from Delhi. He has switched three brands in the last two years and is currently happy with his Dell XPS machine but is secretly eyeing the Sony Vaio TZ series. Looks, style and practical design are some of the factors that have gained greater importance with the informed buyer. Satish from Bangalore doesn't mind less memory or storage space: "I can always upgrade the RAM and hard drive for as little as Rs 5,000 (US$100), but reliability, design and quality of materials stays with you till the end". Brands like Sony and Apple have also found a niche. The numbers may be low and buyers don't rate them as cost-effective but their scores on appeal and product quality are consistently positive. Eight out of ten Apple Mac book buyers are happy with their purchase, but they have concerns over lack of upgrades and how exorbitant accessories are. Adapt to market needs or perishLenovo has very high regard for the legendary "ThinkPad" series but at the consumer level, there is concern on the lack of choice. "I love my 2-year-old ThinkPad. It's built like a tank and I never worry about taking extra care," says Ninad from Mumbai. He feels that the newer ThinkPad's not up to the mark. Acer users rate their laptops high on value but the lack of "appeal" and "grace" was a letdown. "I have used Acer during college and it worked fine for its price. Now that I am starting work, I want something professional and classy" says Amit from Mumbai. Brands like Toshiba, Fujitsu, LG and HCL are yet to strike a chord here, and our survey indicates that they have a minuscule market share. Those numbers weren't enough to give a clear understanding of their market position. Inkjet PrintersHP has dominated this segment and when it comes to inkjets or MFDs for the same segment, this brand seems to have all the answers. Innovation, generous feature sets and a variety of options are the major factors that keep users loyal. While first-time buyers aren't worried about printing costs, repeat buyers and heavy users list reliability and cost-of ownership as key concerns. Cost Cutting"Easy availability of consumables, backed by a good service network makes me feel very secure about my investment" says Shweta, a graphics designer. Canon users also seemed happy with the quality of prints, but they have a common grouse -- cost per page. Kapil chose to compromise a bit on pure print quality for the richer feature set and compact design that HP Photosmart offered. "Quality is important, but for home use, the finer differences in colors or details are hardly noticed. The extra features and smarter design comes handy almost every day" he says.HP sitting on a significant leadWith almost seven out of ten inkjet users owning an HP printer, and 70% of them planning to stick to HP as their next printer purchase, canon and Epson have a steep climb ahead. The brand appeal in the case of inkjet printers seems to have a dominating influence on purchase decisions. Mr. Gupta did not want to take a chance on canon or Epson because everyone around had an HP printer and he decided to go with the mass opinion. "in addition to the vendor, my colleagues strongly recommended HP to me and with limited knowledge on printers; i did not want to take a chance," he said. Pricing is a factorApart from cost per print, users also expressed relief on how photo printers today have become so affordable and their quality levels have gone up significantly.A large chunk (about 40%) of canon users went for the Rs. 3,000- Rs. 4,000 photo printer and they are largely satisfied with the brand.LCD MonitorsIndia wants bigger flat panel monitors with sleek looks and advanced feature sets. LCD monitor users have set the bar high when it comes to what they expect from the manufacturers. Survey participants largely named Samsung as their preferred brand of monitors, but the survey revealed that Dell was rapidly gaining popularity with gamers and enthusiasts. Samsung and LG have been the dominant forces since the CRT days but the LCD round seems too skewed heavily towards Samsung. Almost 40% of the LCD monitor response group has used Samsung monitors and ranked Samsung very high on brand appeal and reliability. Dell has retention on its sideA whopping 70% of Dell users are completely satisfied with the brand and will buy a Dell monitor again."Though I had to wait for almost two weeks to get my 22-inch Dell monitor, it was worth the wait. The build quality, finish and image quality is stupendous for the price I paid" says Thomas from Bangalore. Viewsonic, a brand known for its image quality and color purity surprisingly received only 6% of the total response. LG LCD monitors were rated high on cost-effectiveness but the ratings on quality and service levels could not quite match up. "I had to change my 19-inch wide LCD monitor twice because of dead pixels and I went through hell to convince the vendor about the problem", says Nilesh Pawar from Kolhapur, who plans to buy a Dell 24-inch monitor, but isn't too keen on the wait involved.More brands soonWhile Acer has been around on the LCD scene for a while, the 22-inch wide monitor seems the current hero."When I was in the market for a 22-inch widescreen LCD monitor almost a yearback, I only had Acer and Samsung to choose from and I chose Acer over Samsung simply because the price differential was too much" says Chandan who plans to keep his 22-inch LCD monitor for at least 2 more years.Internal StorageThis category was also dominated by a veteran brand on the bases of goodwill and strong service support. With larger capacity hard drives available at great prices, buyers are now looking to upgrade and boost their PC storage capacity. Seagate received a healthy 60% approval on internal storage and scored high on service levels and cost effectiveness. Samsung came in next with about 20% rating, but WD clearly ranked higher than Samsung for Reliability and Quality (performance). "I have heard that WD drives are slightly faster than Seagate, but I decided to stick with Seagate based on my previous experience with the brand. I have never encountered bad sectors or driver failures with the three drives I have used and that is testimony enough for me," says Rahul from Jammu. Wanted: Performance drivesIt's true, that hard drives have had a very linear performance curve over the last five years and now users want more performance to keep up with other hardware."I realized that the hard drive was the bottleneck for my PC and I upgraded to the WD Raptor series drive which spins at 10,000 RPM and has super fast seek times" says a gamer who chooses to stay anonymous. Low brand recall for Hitachi and Samsung Samsung was a big player in this arena once and that explains the 20% response on a brand that doesn't enjoy anything close to the market presence it did five years ago. Hitachi on the other hand, has kept a silent profile with a limited range of products. The new surge in laptop hard drives has seen brands like WD and Hitachi sprinting with a new range of laptop drives.We spoke to Arvind from Ludhiana who recently purchased a 500GB laptop hard drive to build his custom portable storage solution. "It was cheaper for me to buy a 500GB 2.5-inch drive with a good casing. Not only did I save money, but I got five years' warranty, which otherwise was impossible with most portable hard drives that come with one year warranty," he said.Desktop ProcessorsIntel has been the choice of the masses for a long time, but it now seems to have found a foothold in the enthusiasts' segment as well. Almost 30% of the Intel respondents owned the latest high performance processors that were launched not more than eight months back. There is a clear trend on upgrade cycles going shorter with buyers wanting to upgrade to newer, faster and energy-efficient chips. The average money spent on processors has not changed much though: it ranges between, Rs. 3,500 and Rs. 5,000. AMD still holds the value card with about 90% of the users being happy with the cost-benefit ratio they get from AMD. Most of the AMD users were on a budget or midrange products and less than 5% of the users owned a higher-end AMD quad core Phenom or even a triple core Phenom processor.Intel scored a home run over AMD in the performance department but AMD was quick to bounce back with equal scores on support and reliability.Performance is still the single most important factor for processor buyers with very few actually being worried about the performance-per-watt trend. Akhil had a very strong opinion on the power consumption wars between AMD and Intel. "The extra 20W of power consumption will not cause any concern to my PSU, but a hit in performance or heating issues will surely spoil the party. I would go for the best performing CPU for my budget without worrying about power consumption or approach. Who cares how AMD or Intel achieve their quad core chips, as long as they perform better? native or non-native makes no difference to me!" he says.Multi-core awareness While not many could highlight the applications or benefits of quad core chips over dual core chips, 90% of the dual core users said that they would want to upgrade to quad core chips.This might sound as a good opportunity for Intel and AMD to sell their new multi-core solutions, but it won't be that easy with the same set of respondents expecting quad core chips to fall below the Rs. 5,000 mark. External StorageMost Transcend buyers opted for 4GB or 8GB drives.They claim to have found affordable and easy storage solutions backed by a 5 year warranty. Warranty and reliability were top concerns for flash drive buyers. They weren't very particular about the speeds, but ruggedness and ease of use was important to them. SanDisk and Kingston aren't as big as Transcend in terms of numbers but they scored high on performance and brand appeal amongst power users who demand enhanced features and speedy data transfers.Kingston buyers were typically interested in the security and performance features that are offered by their high-end series. Pocket Hard Drives gaining paceIn the hard drive-based category, the 2.5-inch based pocket hard drives are the most popular. Users are excited by the proposition of carrying 320GB of data in their pocket for as little as Rs 5,000. "I can carry my entire music and movie collection in my pocket with enough space to back-up my laptop data. The Seagate Free Agent Go series comes with useful software and cool looks to complete the package" writes Praful Desai from Surat. Western Digital Passport series also had good recall for its looks and slim profile. "When I compared the other drives to the Passport series, I found them sleeker and classier than the rest. The passport went well with my Sony Vaio Laptop" says Nisha from Mumbai.Brand loyalty More than half the buyers we surveyed are planning to repeat the brands across all the top 3 players. Seagate and Kingston had the highest rate of brand loyalty (about 60%), indicating readiness to pay a slight premium for more features and performance. Consumers hope these brands bring slimmer form factors and better looking products that stand out. Consumers also voiced their warranty concerns, "Some brand offer five year warranty while other offer only one year, and this can be a deal breaker for many, including me"says John from Kerala.Wi-Fi RoutersThe fact that users aren't still sure what to expect from routers, apart from wireless access, and which features actually make a difference, made their response relatively passive. D-Link is clearly the brand with the highest sales figures but the user base isn't the most satisfied. Though the response to Linksys was far less (19.1% v 43.6%), customers were satisfied with its performance, reliability and brand appeal. Speed... Give us more speed With Draft-n routers now boasting a5x increase in speed, users are happy to pay a premium for better range and speeds, but not all are happy. "I upgraded to Draft-n access point from D-Link, but the boost in range and bandwidth isn't near to what it promises.Does the brand have a problem or is this the max the new technology provides?" asks Nikhil from Chennai.Service and Support Among router users, 70% said they called for technical assistance at least twice after purchase, and the problems ranged from drop in speed to total loss of connectivity or security configuration. "I like my Linksys router's friendly user-interface. I configured and secured my network without breaking a sweat" says Shweta, who admits to not being comfortable with wireless technology. It's raining brands A year ago, there was a select set of brands in this segment. Today we have 12 brands and are still counting. New brands like Asus, Compex and i-Ballare getting aggressive with competitive pricing and beefy packages. "it's tough to choose a router brand, as all are similarly priced and offer the same tech specs. There aren't enough differentiators to help us decide. Most of them go for known brands like Linksys, Netgear and D-Link" says Kiran Sharma, a reseller from Delhi. international brands like Buffalo and Belkin are also taking the Indian market seriously by widening their range, and we can expect to see more action. Desktop PCsYes, Laptops are eating into the desktop market share and the segment is growing in single digits but the number of desktops sold this year is still high compared to last year and that keeps the brands interested in the game. Assembled desktops are the flavor of the day across 70% of the buying segment. The reasons range from better value to customization and superior performance but it's clear that India still prefers to buy assembled desktops. Demand for stylish desktops HP bags the most preferred brand for offering the widest range of desktops that look like anything but white boxes. HP desktop buyers rated them very high on Quality and Brand Appeal. "i never imagined that a desktop can look as sexy and futuristic as mine does. it has touchscreen controls and a super slim profile"says Vineet from Chandigarh. Dell came very close to matching HP with its high value ratings and Dell customers also exhibited a high level of satisfaction on the performance and quality front. Shyam from Calcutta decided to go for a gaming Dell desktop because the pricing differential between the assembled and Dell machine was a mere 3K, "i get superior quality components, a brand name and the freedom to choose my configuration just like an assembled Pc, so the 5% extra premium is well worth the money" he says.Value brands compete fiercely Brands like Acer, HCL and Zenith that play the value card seem to have a tough time outdoing each other. HCL is clearly looked upon as a value brand and has managed to capture a sizeable market share. Most HCL buyers were first time desktop buyers looking for desktops under Rs 25,000. They rated HCL high on performance and value but Brand Appeal and support received average ratings. HCL buyers clearly expressed their desire to switch to Dell and HP as their next desktop brands.Antivirus SoftwareSymantec is the brand of choice when it comes to Antivirus software and about 56% of Symantec users have been using their antivirus solution for over a year.Most of them got the antivirus solution free with their laptops or desktops and they later upgraded the three-monthly trial period to a full version or downgraded to a free version of the same. McAfee received 18.4% of the total response and the brand scored particularly well on reliability.Resistance to change As shown below, only 1\/5th of the respondents were open to the idea of shifting to a new brand. Symantec and McAfee users had similar apprehensions about the getting accustomed to new software, especially when it came to security software. "i once tried uninstalling Norton Antivirus from my system and ended up with a string of boot errors that forced me to reinstall the OS," says Dharmesh Gada from Indore. Some users also expressed concerns about system requirements for Symantec products and wished for lighter and simpler products for older systems with modest specifications. Free is better Whether it's the OS or Antivirus, free is more popular than paid. in case of the latter, users prefer the free versions or fully free brands. "When none guarantees complete protection, my investment is not foolproof and i'd rather go with the free versions" says Malini from Nagpur. She prefers McAfee to Symantec for its lower system resource usage. Newer brands Newer entrants like Kaspersky and esets noD32 have seen steady growth with lots of AVG and Avast users contemplating a shift. Their free home editions are popular with first-time users who want to try out security suites before they decide which one deserves their money. Service and support are the only concerns here and users hope to get updates and definitions as frequently as the ones released by Symantec and McAfee. All In OnesWith almost 70% of respondents having used HP, their experience with the brand speaks volumes about its firm grip over the All-in-one segment.Despite the modest response, Xerox users seemed the most satisfied as 90% rated the quality in the 8-10 range out of 10 and about 53% said that they would buy Xerox again. Cutting cost with All-In-ones Whether it's the office or home All-in-ones, buyers had two reasons for choosing them -- operating costs and convenience. "if you get a copier and scanner along with the photo printer by paying 20% premium, it's worth it and the additional cost is recovered soon" says Vishal shah from Ahmedabad. Canon users are happy with the quality but their concerns over features and cost of printing tilts their preference towards HP as their next buy.Home users are also receiving All-in-ones with open arms and are not shying away from investing in a scanner and copier along with a photo-printer."my concerns about compromise on quality with All-in-ones over dedicated Photo printers were instantly dissolved when i saw almost no comparison between the two for a 4x6 borderless printout. I find myself making good use of the scanner and copier as well" says Deepali narkar from Pune. More speed A sizeable population of All-in-one users demand slimmer form factors that take less space and are easy to move around. Canon users aren't all that happy with the bulky All-in-ones and wish canon would compact their products further.HP users are relatively happy with the form factors but some hoped that the photo print speeds could improve. Brands like Brother, Epson and Samsung were received well for their value proposition along with a generous feature set but consumers had concerns on the overheads and service support for which they preferred HP and Xerox products, though they commanded a slight premium in comparison to the latter two.