Versatile touch portable can switch roles at will

  • iBall's Aer3 Compbook can serve as tablet or laptop—depending on your need

Though all industry watchers regularly polish up their obituaries for laptops, quoting quarter-on-quarter decline in sales, the portable computer refuses to roll over and die. Ask any seasoned professional, especially those who shunt the same machine from office to home to hotel and airport lounge that there is no real substitute for a full fledged laptop computer when it comes to productivity.

But the tablets and its touch-friendly interfaces have spoilt us into demanding more from laptops and notebooks than the old keyboard and touch pad combo. Which is why any machine that combines the best of both worlds—the full fledged computing experience of a laptop and the 'touching' convenience of a tablet—has all the elements to please the demanding professional.

I have not seen many devices in recent months that get the combo as right as the just released CombBookAer3 from iBall. The screen size dictates the keyboard size in laptops and the Aer3 gets it right with a 13.3 inch ( 34 cm) full HD touch screen that allows the form factor to build in a full sized keyboard. I have handled lighter machines with this screen size, but the body here is all-metal which makes the weight 1.48 kg. Any laptop meant for travel needs to be rugged a—so I would any day take a few extra grams of weight, if I know my machine can sustain some rough use on airport security belts and the like.

This is a Windows platform with 4 GM RAM and 64GB internal storage, expandable through micro SD card with another 128 GB. Let me say from bitter personal experience that the expansion slot storage is no substitute for the storage under the hood. And 64 GB is just not enough if you want to install even a basic office and business suite. Fortunately the Aer3 has provision to increase the installed storage with another 128 GB by opening the body and inserting what is known as M2 SSD memory. When I checked, you can get a 128 GB M2 card for Rs 4000. I would encourage every user to install this additional storage straight away—otherwise you will run out of storage as you start installing your favourite software or your company's VPN tools.

Keeping business users in mind, the machine also offers a decent finger print scanner, the faster USB 3.0 ports ( 2 nos) , a HDMI port for full HD peripherals as well as the latest Type C USB port. The battery is good for a working day. I am somewhat disappointed that the camera is just 2MP —these days we can do so much with Skype type video conferencing that a better camera would have been an asset.

However the quad speakers are a bonus and I could listen to most YouTube video, loud and clear, without having to plug in headphones.

For most buyers the most attractive feature would be the 360 degree hinges that allow you to swing keyboard and display to any angle—from upright in classic laptop mode to flat like a tablet and any position in between.

The other surprise is the asking price—around Rs 30,000 depending on where you buy—and great value for a versatile compute platform like this. There are brands that offer similar specs at twice the price.

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