What if I told you that you can get three, brand new laptops for the same price as a OnePlus 3 and a handful of accessories? You don’t believe me? Here’s the iBall Compbook Exelance that’s powered by the latest Atom chip and costs only Rs 9,999. Is that a deal or what?
Of course, the first question that crossed our mind on seeing the device was why iBall chose to call it "Excelance" and not "Excellence." I'm sure they had their reasons. But I still can't think of any that might be reasonable.
After one month with the device, I think there’s still room for improvement. Read on to learn more.
Design and build: 4/10
The laptop costs Rs 9,999. Keep that in mind when reading this review.
It’s made of plastic; textured plastic on the top and matte-finished plastic everywhere else. There’s plenty of flex, the keyboard unit can depress inwards when typing and the charger feels flimsy and cheap. It’s also heavier than you’d expect.
Again, this laptop costs Rs 9,999 and at that price, I’m actually impressed that they managed to build a fully functional laptop.
Despite the flexing, the laptop doesn’t seem like one that will fall apart any time soon and in the one month that I used it, it held up rather well.
The one deal-breaking flaw for me was the terrible tolerances on the USB ports. It’s hard to shove a device into those ports and even harder to extract them. After some time, I avoided using the ports altogether to avoid damaging my pen drives.
Keyboard and trackpad: 6.5/10
The keyboard and trackpad on the CompBook were actually much better than I was expecting. For starters, the keyboard actually feels decent. It is, in fact, better than the generic HP and Dell offerings that you’d find bundled with uninspired office machines. It's also better than the el-cheapo ones you'd buy off the street for Rs 300.
You will have to bottom out the keys to ensure that a key click is registered, which makes it look like you’re bashing away at the keyboard.
The touchpad is very small, but it’s surprisingly responsive and smooth. Two finger scrolling also works beautifully. Clicking was a little bothersome, but I got used to it after a while.
The laptop is powered by an Intel Atom Z3735F chip (1.83GHz) and this is backed by a measly 2GB of RAM. Shockingly, you only get 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD card slot with support for up to 64GB cards. The screen is an 11.6 inch one with a 1366x768 resolution. We’ve seen phones with better specs, albeit more expensive than this laptop.
The webcam is a VGA camera. Connectivity comes in the form of two USB 2.0 ports and one mini-HDMI port. You also get a 3.5mm combo jack, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 support. The battery, at least, is a 10,000mAh one. The tiny little charger that they bundle is barely larger than the ones that came with the Nokia 1100.
The screen is only an HD one, but it’s forgivable at this price. We didn’t expect the world from the display, not at Rs 9,999 and the best thing we can say about it is that it gets the job done. Colours are washed out, white levels are horrible and response time is terrible, but it’s enough for day-to-day tasks and at this price, that’s what really counts.
You can tell that the laptop is slow from the moment you power it on. Everything happens a couple of heartbeats longer than is comfortable and if you fire up a relatively demanding browser like Chrome, you can forget about doing anything else. Office applications such as Word and Excel ran smoothly and even video playback wasn’t bad, all things considered.
Using the device is still a struggle though. While I’d classify the performance as barely functional. Simply adding another 2GB of RAM would have considerably enhanced performance. Sure, the price would have crossed Rs 9,999, but the laptop would have gone from barely functional to tolerable.
The 32GB of storage is also severely limiting. You barely get 20GB for your own apps and data and you’ll have to live off pen drives and external storage. As mentioned earlier, the USB slots are so stiff that you might not even want to do that much. Read and write speeds in ideal conditions rarely crossed the 15-20MBps mark for sequential transfers.
The low RAM creates other problems as well. You can’t open more than a couple of tabs at a time before the CompBook starts struggling and multiple background programs is a strict no no. You do one thing at a time and you better have some patience doing it. A Rs 9,999 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 easily offers much more in terms of performance. Another problem that exacerbates the issue is that the device is running a 32-bit version of Windows 10. You won't be able to upgrade the RAM beyond 4GB without installing a new OS.
The CompBook was passively cooled and that resulted in high operating temperatures. Idle temperatures were 50 degrees Celsius and under load, temperatures hit 60 degrees C. However, the device itself never got more than slightly warm, which was nice.
Speakers were loud enough to be used comfortably.
One very weird issue with the device, which may or may not be restricted to only our device, was an incessant whine from near the display unit. The whine would only turn off when the display would turn off, leading us to believe that there might be some electronic leakage of some sort.
Battery Life: 9/10
The only good thing about the device is battery life. Our PCMark test pegged the life at 6.5 hours, which is huge for a Windows device and particularly notable because PCMark is a relatively heavy benchmark. You should be able to pull through a regular workday or college day on a single charge.
Charging the battery takes almost as long to charge it as to drain it though. There’s no QuickCharge support and the laptop will take its own sweet time charging up. I didn’t have the patience to wait till the device charged fully and measure the time precisely, but I can report that even after 3 hours of charging, the laptop’s battery went only from 0 percent to around 70 percent.
The iBall CompBook is a very underpowered laptop with great battery life. It’s also not very well built and definitely not something to brag about. All this is underscored by the fact that the device retails for Rs 9,999 however, and that’s quite something.
Regardless, the reason why the NetBooks of yore were so terrible was their lack of power. The iBall CompBook suffers the same fate. It’s cheap, but maybe it’s too cheap. Throwing in at least 6-8GB of RAM in itself would have gone a long way to take this device from barely tolerable to highly recommended for those on a budget. The increase in price would have easily justified the bump in performance.
Sadly, if you’re on a really tight budget and can’t afford to spend at least Rs 20,000, you’re out of luck. There really aren’t any offerings in the market that offer more than the CompBook at a similar price.
If you really can hold out till you save Rs 20,000, I’d strongly suggest that you do. If you can’t, you’ll just have to live with the flaws.
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