Finding a functional laptop for less than Rs.15,000 isn't too tough these days, and most big brands like Dell, HP, and Acer have something to offer in this segment. Not too long ago, we also saw Hyderabad-based startup RDP enter the market with a very compelling solution. iBall has been in this space for a while now and our previous encounter was with the CompBook Exemplaire, which was alright, but its dated CPU and questionable build quality made us think twice before recommending it.
Most laptops in this segment use the same entry-level displays, CPUs and other components, but some Indian companies like iBall are aiming to raise the bar by offering convertible options. Meet the CompBook i360, a 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop that converts into a tablet - still for less than Rs.15,000. While this sounds very tempting on paper, it’s time to put it to the test and see iBall has fixed the issues we faced with its previous model.
Laptops in the budget segment are limited when it comes to material quality, and the i360, like most others, is built using plastic. The champagne colour is actually not too bad to look at, but the build quality is pretty average. With the lid closed, there isn't much noticeable flex to the body, but the base creaks when you type with any pressure and there’s a lot of warping in the display when you press the lid even gently. The laptop is also quite thick, measuring 17mm, and feels heavy at 1.35kg.
The dual-hinge mechanism feels sturdy and there’s enough torsion to hold the display in place at pretty much any angle. Being a convertible, you can flip the display all the way back to use this laptop as a tablet. Physical connectivity is pretty decent - you get one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, Mini-HDMI, a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo port, and a microSD card slot (up to 64GB). There’s no full-sized SD card reader here. The power button is placed on the right alongside a switch for disabling the keyboard when you switch to tablet mode. The latter function should have been automatic, and having to do this manually feels a like a lazy solution.
The display is a 11.6-inch TFT LCD panel with a 1366x768 resolution and multi-touch support. Viewing angles are very narrow and the display isn’t good with colour reproduction. The low resolution also means that text is very noticeably jagged, especially when you’re using the laptop as a tablet. The trackpad is wide and its buttons are easy to press, but tracking isn’t very good. Quite often, we would wind up randomly minimising windows when we were just trying to move the cursor. The island-style keyboard is laid out well and key travel is good, but the keys are too mushy, which means that typing isn't very comfortable. In the box, you get a charger, a cleaning cloth, and for some reason, a Micro-USB cable.
Powering the CompBook i360 is an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 SoC, which is the same chip used in the RDP ThinBook and Notion Ink Able 10. It has four CPU cores without Intel’s HyperThreading, running at a maximum speed of 1.84GHz, plus Intel HD Graphics. There’s 2GB of DDR3 memory soldered onto the motherboard, and 32GB of flash storage. The laptop also features Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a VGA webcam.
The CompBook i360 ships with Windows 10 Home 32-bit, and just the bare essential drivers for all the hardware. There aren’t any extra utilities, like bigger OEMs tend to preinstall. Apart from a few apps and games from the Windows Store, there isn’t any unwanted bloatware.
The i360 might be able to perform dual roles, but at the end of the day, you need to remember that it only has entry-level hardware so you need to manage your expectations. Thankfully, the flash memory used here is decently fast so booting doesn't suffer. In SiSoft Sandra, we got a physical drive score of 148.7MBps, and in the file system benchmark, we measured sequential read bandwidth at 160MBps and sequential write bandwidth at 79.6MBps. One good thing about this SoC is that it doesn't need active cooling, so the i360 always runs silently. The base gets a bit warm while charging but not enough to become too uncomfortable.
App and gaming performance is weak. Programs take a while to load and sometimes, even opening Windows Explorer needs a bit of waiting. This is also reflected in the benchmark scores, where PCMark returned only 1208, 1314, and 1377 points in the Home, Creative, and Work suites respectively.
The iBall CompBook i360 isn't the most effective tablet when converted, mainly due to its weight and thickness. The 10-finger touch response is decent, but due to the gap between the outer surface and the actual display, it feels more like using a resistive panel than a capacitive one. Plus, brightness is quite weak, viewing angles are poor, and colours are muted. We’re also not overly fond of the enormous bezel around the display.
The iBall CompBook i360 can handle high resolution video playback thanks to a dedicated video decoding engine in the SoC, so 4K videos are playable. There are stereo speakers at the bottom that don’t get blocked when you’re in tablet mode. The speakers are fairly loud but only higher frequencies are handled well, and the mids and lows are drowned out. Dialogue in videos isn't always distinct.
The CompBook i360 packs in a 10000mAh battery which managed to last 5 hours and 53 minutes in Battery Eater Pro. With regular use, the laptop will easily get you through a full work day and possibly more. The only gripe is that it takes forever to charge as the bundled 12.5W power adapter isn’t adequate enough.
iBall has the right idea here with the i360, but sadly its execution needs a rethink. It’s not easy fitting this sort of functionality into a laptop at this price, which is also a reason why bigger brands haven’t pursued this concept. At Rs. 13,999, iBall’s version of a convertible laptop isn’t a very good product and we think you’d be better off with a traditional laptop.
Interestingly, iBall offers a model called the Flip-X5 priced Rs. 2,000 higher (but selling for less of a premium than that), which on paper, is the same as the i360 but with a full-HD display. We can’t really comment on its performance since we haven’t seen it in person, but at least you’d have a much sharper display with that model.
Battery life is pretty much the only redeeming factor for the CompBook i360. Also, this is one of the least expensive Windows 10 machines in the market with a touchscreen, which we’re sure will appeal to many. However, if you have serious computing needs, you should look elsewhere.
Price (MRP): Rs. 13,999
Ratings (Out of 5)
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