Gigabyte M912 Mini-Review
It’s one thing to see a product at a trade show and quite another to get it into your hands and spend some alone time with it. We say this because we’ve been spending the last few days with the Gigabyte M912V, the low-cost tablet/mini-notebook hybrid. Is it attractive? Yes. Is it the first mini-notebook to offer a touchscreen? Yes. Does it fall short of our high expectations? You bet. As you will see from the abridged review below, the $650–$700 (no U.S. price yet) M912 is an interesting mini-tablet, but its slow boot time, poky performance, and hot keyboard left us pretty disappointed. On the other hand, we are impressed with its touchscreen and the entire experience of using a mini-notebook with touch. Below are our initial thoughts on the Gigabyte M912. Snazzy Lid, Ho-Hum Design The first thing we noticed about the Gigabyte M912 is the glossy black lid, complete with a silver square inlay pattern that looks like some kind of sci-fi circuit board. We wish Gigabyte had released the M912 in the Mondrian-like color scheme we saw at Computex. But we hear the system will be available with that design soon. The silver-and-black color scheme is unique in the world of solid-colored netbooks, but the rest of the design is nothing to write home about. Under the lid you’re left with a boring layout. At 3 pounds (3.4 with the included AC adapter) the netbook is a bit chunkier than other 8.9-inchers on the market, but we weren’t really put off by the size. We slid it into a backpack and didn’t even know it was there. The M912 has plenty of ports, including 3 USB, VGA, microphone, headphone, Ethernet, SD Card, and ExpressCard. The ExpressCard slot is great; we had no problem slipping in a Verizon Wireless mobile broadband card. Cramped Keyboard, Smooth Touchpad In a market where ASUS, MSI, HP, and soon Lenovo and Dell make mini-notebooks with touch-typing friendly keyboards, the Gigabyte M912 is a throwback to an earlier generation of netbook. The keyboard has a nearly identical look and feel to that of the original Eee PC or the CloudBook. In other words, don’t expect to do much typing if you have adult-size hands. The touchpad has a metallic surface that matches the M912′s wrist rest and offers a nice textured feel as you navigate around the desktop. Unlike the rock-hard buttons on the Eee PC 1000 and 900, the two mouse buttons on the M912 are easy to click. And unlike the HP Mini-Note and Acer Aspire one, the M912 puts the mouse buttons where they belong: directly below the touchpad. Washed Out Display The M912′s matte, 8.9-inch, 1280 x 768-pixel resolution screen is bright but a bit washed out. (Gigabyte will be offering the M912m with an LED-backlit screen). Like other tablets, the screen is a bit gray. In a side-by-side comparison with the Fujitsu P1620, the P1620′s screen was clearly brighter and offered more contrast. Then again, you’ll pay a $1,600 premium for the Fujitsu. There is also a noticeable glare on the screen when it is tilted back. Horizontal viewing angles are ok, but when we watched a video on YouTube, too much light reflected back at us at a 45-degree angle. The 180-degree rotating hinge that turns the screen into tablet mode felt very sturdy. There is no wobble to the screen in either the normal laptop mode or in the tablet position. Touchscreen Goodness The Gigabyte’s stand-out feature is its resistive touchscreen. A stylus is tucked into the top of the screen, but we found ourselves using our fingers more often than the pen. Because there isn’t an active digitizer in the screen, it doesn’t recognize hovering. We had no problem launching programs by just tapping them with our finger pads. Because the Vista Basic OS is not meant for tablet use, we had to install many of our own freeware programs to take full advantage of the touchscreen. After installing Grab and Drag’s Firefox add-on, we were surfing the Net with just a finger. We swiped down the page to scroll and tapped the back button to navigate. As for pen input, scribbling in Paint didn’t require us to press the pen down too hard. We downloaded ArtRage, a kickass art program. Drawing pictures was easy, but we noticed that our palm was also doing some painting for us. We also installed Ilium InScribe, which is a freeware touch keyboard that let us tap keys on the screen to input a Web address or search in Google. Our biggest peeve is that there is no button on the screen for rotating the orientation. A control in the Gigabyte Menu flips it, but you have to dig a bit to find it.