A little over a year before, we reviewed the iBall Compbook Exemplaire, a 14-inch laptop that cost less than Rs. 15,000. We found it to be underpowered and flimsy, but ultimately worthwhile, because there really isn’t a lot of choice at this price level, and at least you could get basic task done. There still isn’t much choice – and we all still feel that there is a difference in the market where netbooks used to reign. Sure, tablet computers can be enjoyable to use and easy to watch movies on, but typing, browsing the internet, and multitasking are still largely off the table. IBall was smart enough to take the guts of a tablet computer and set them into a clamshell with a usable keyboard and display, without pushing costs up too high.

Now, we have with us the successor to this product, the newest iBall Compbook Marvel 6. It looks quite similar, but benefits from newer technology. The price is still the same, so we hope that iBall has managed to iron out a few of the problems with the Exemplaire and give us a machine that’s even better value for money.

IBall Compbook Marvel 6 look and feel

At first glance, you’d not be able to tell that this is an ultra-low-cost laptop just by looking at it. The casing is made of a glossy blue-grey plastic with a textured finish, which really looks quite slick. The only thing giving away this device’s true nature is that the iBall logo on the lid, which is printed on and looks just a little tacky. The finish even carries around to the bottom, which is free of vents due to the low-power CPU which doesn’t need a fan.

The whole thing is pleasantly light, at only 1.41kg, but it does not feel very sturdy. The body flexes quite worryingly once you press it, especially in the centre of the lid in which there’s zero reinforcement. We definitely would not put anything heavy on top of this laptop or let it get squashed inside a tote. There are also some rough edges in which the plastic tiles meet.

The hinge feels stiff, and it takes just a little attempt to raise the lid. The first thing you will notice is that there is hardly any plastic round the 14-inch display, giving this laptop a fairly modern look. Unfortunately, that also means there is little structural rigidity, and the lid could be flexed and bent quite easily, resulting in warping and discolouration on the monitor.

The display bezel and keyboard deck are equally grey plastic, while the trackpad and keys are black except for iBall’s trademark red ‘I’ key, a brand identifier which goes back to its earliest days as a PC peripherals business. Again, we are impressed just by looking at this device – it does not appear like a inexpensive piece of plastic at all – except for one thing. That one red key does look very cheesy and tends to become distracting, and we wish iBall would stop doing this even if it is distinctive.

In terms of the user experience, things get a little more down to earth. The display is obviously of a low quality, and the two photos and videos are a little boring and lifeless. It’s glossy, and comes with a factory-fitted scratch protection film which you might or might not appreciate. Viewing angles are horrible, and blacks seem shiny even at approximately 30 degrees off-centre. On the other hand, the 1366×768 resolution at 14 inches is fairly regular even for laptops that cost six to eight times as much, making for a decently comfortable workspace. Text isn’t too jagged and also you may find all of your everyday work done.

The keyboard keys are a bit stiff and make a loud sound when pressed. It takes very little effort to actuate them, and the lack of resistance requires a little getting used to. We managed to type comfortably and with our typical amount of accuracy quite quickly. The design is good, without any significant keys being lost. The one issue is that the power button, integrated into the top-right corner, is way too easy to hit by accident – it ought to have at least been stiffer.

The entire keyboard deck flexes when typing, which in turn causes the lid to twist back and forth. We discovered ourselves adjusting to a lighter touch to compensate. You can also feel the same thing happening when you try to click on the trackpad. Sometimes, we’d upward clicking and right-clicking simultaneously when pressing on the trackpad – we also had to learn to just tap, or click in the lower corners more deliberately. Other than that, tracking is eloquent and Windows 10 gestures operate nicely enough.

There isn’t much to watch about the Compbook Marvel 6 sides – only one USB 3.0 interface, one USB 2.0 port, a Mini-HDMI video output, a 3.5millimeter combo audio socket, and a microSD card slot. This isn’t a lot in terms of connectivity, and brings us back to the simple fact that this is essentially a cheap tablet in laptop form.

In the box, you get a synthetic protective cover which can be applied as a sleeve, a microfibre cleaning cloth, the wall-wart style charger, and for some reason a Micro-USB cable – possibly iBall forgot that this isn’t actually a tablet with a Micro-USB charging interface. There is also a hard drive mounting kit, which we’ll get to in a minute.

iBall Compbook Marvel 6 specifications and software

Compared to last year’s model, we see quite a big jump with all the hardware. The CPU is currently a Celeron N3350, which is a dual-core model without Hyper-Threading, and operates at a maximum of 2.4GHz. It’s based upon the 14nm Apollo Lake architecture, which is just two steps ahead of their previous 22nm Bay Trail generation. Despite the Celeron brand, this CPU is effectively the successor of this once-popular Atom line, and that is the amount of performance you should expect.

There is also a relatively generous 3GB of RAM, but just 32GB of embedded flash storage. You can use the microSD card slot for file storage, like you would on a smartphone or tablet computer, and there are always cloud services, depending on the kind of Internet access you have. According to the included instruction leaflet, you are going to need to unscrew the bottom of the laptop, which involves punching through two tamper-detection stickers and pulling off two of those rubber feet. It isn’t clear if this will void your warranty, though that’s quite likely. After a drive is installed, the booklet warns, you might find that the laptop gets slow and jittery when USB devices are plugged in – since the battery can not handle as much load at precisely the same time.

You also get a 2-megapixel webcam, a 38Whr battery, stereo speakers, and dual mics. We are also pleased to find that a fully functional copy of Windows 10 Home is included, which too a 64-bit installation. There is no bloatware other than the normal Windows 10 programs, which is a relief considering the lack of storage space. Buyers should have absolutely no problem getting started with using this laptop as soon as it’s unpacked.

iBall Compbook Marvel 6 performance

Over the span of our week-long review period, we found using this laptop quite pleasant. It obviously isn’t meant to be a powerhouse, but most of our work happens within an internet browser, and also we had the ability to load up Office 365 programs and use them even with a dozen or so other tabs open. It frequently took a couple of moments for files to open and programs to load.

The keyboard flex will be a problem for hefty typers, however on the other hand, the wrist rest does not get warm in any way. The display is incredibly reflective and it can be hard to find a position that works well because of this issue on top of the poor viewing angles. We found that we had the ability to play with 1080p videos without any trouble, and they were pleasurable as long as we were facing the screen dead-centre. The speakers are also very loud, although not all that apparent. The webcam has been practically useless even in broad daylight.

Very few of the standard tests were able to run with this feeble chip. CineBench R15 gave us single-core and multi-core scores of 43 and 80 respectively – we are used to seeing figures in the high hundreds with today’s mainstream PCs. POVRay took 19 minutes, 44 seconds to complete its benchmark run, and again, we generally see less than five minutes. However, for reference, the past year’s Compbook Exemplaire failed to run Cinebench, also took 33 minutes, 38 seconds in POVRay.

Graphics evaluations including 3DMark and Unigine Valley either failed to run or gave us less than 5fps on average, which is as fantastic as failing. Since our regular game evaluations were from the question, we tried a relatively light mobile game, Age of Empires: Castle Siege from the Windows Store. While it was able to run fullscreen, controls were sluggish and motion did stutter. This hardware really isn’t intended for games at all.

To ourzsurprise, PCMark was able to finish all its own tests, and we logged 1,535, 1,633, and 1,928 respectively in the Home, Creative, and Function suites. We also logged 76.94 in Basemark Internet 3.0 and 157 in WebXprt. Copying files from your USB 3.0 SSD to the internal storage appeared very quick, and we were able to log 239.22MBps random reads and 90.8MBps arbitrary writes with SiSoft SANDRA which are pretty good scores.

The final thing we have to test is battery life, and we were beyond pleased to remember that the Compbook Marvel 6 was able to endure for 5 hours, 38 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Pro test where several mainstream models barely survive 3 hours. Obviously, you can not do anything that actually strains the battery, but it’s good to know that you can leave home without the charger without having an issue for 2 days.

Verdict

If you need a PC and really can’t manage anything more than Rs. 15,000, the iBall Compbook Marvel 6 will not disappoint you. It’s a fully functional computer and can run a Web browser and office programs without any problems. It’s absolutely fine for audio and video playback, and its battery life is outstanding. It could easily work for students, entry-level office function, and anyone who desires basic connectivity while outdoors for extended periods of time. It’s a great enough starter PC for people who can’t afford anything else, and is significantly better for productivity than any pill or smartphone could ever be.

The biggest bucks would be the large display, usable keyboard, very low weight, multimedia capabilities, a full-featured version of Windows 10, and battery life. In general, there’s a significant improvement in comparison to previous year’s model. We aren’t sure how long this device will last out in the real world, both in terms of performance and physical wear and tear, but given its price, you could update as frequently as you alter your smartphone.

We think you get excellent value for money with all the Combook Marvel 6, and hope that more companies start paying attention to this price range at ₹14,299

Advantages:

  • Extremely Inexpensive
  • Superb battery life
  • Low weight
  • Large monitor and keyboard

Disadvantages:

  • Inferior performance
  • Low storage
  • Body and trackpad aren’t sturdy
  • Design: 3
  • Display: 3
  • Performance: 3
  • Software: 4.5
  • Battery life: 4.5
  • Value for Money: 5
  • Overall: 3.5