Gigabyte M912 Mini-Review
Slow Boot, Poky Performance While Windows Vista can run reasonably well on Atom-based systems (for example, on the Eee PC 1000H), we spent far too much time waiting for things to load. We haven’t whipped out the stopwatch yet for all of our favorite apps, but we noted that Vista Basic took a glacial 1 minute and 31 seconds to start when it was running the preloaded Norton AntiVirus. When we removed the tool, boot time was down to about 55 seconds—still a great deal longer than XP-based netbooks such as the Eee PC 1000H and MSI WInd, which boot in around 40 seconds or Linux-based Eee PCs, which start in under 30.
When we decided to open GIMP to save a screen shot of our desktop, we had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for the open-source image editor to start. Other than that, multitasking works. We had no problem working in Firefox while editing some pictures in GIMP and listening to a song in Windows Media Player. The M912′s hard drive is probably not behind the slowness, because the 160GB 5,400 rpm Fujitsu MHZ2160BH returned respectable read rates of 54.2 and 46.7MBps in HDTach and Sisoft Sandra, while maintaining an 18ms seek time in both benchmarks. These numbers are totally acceptable if not superior to many other 5,400 rpm drives. We’ll have to try upgrading the RAM or switching to Windows XP to see what else we can do to speed the system. Too Hot to Handle? When the notebook was in regular laptop mode, we noticed that the keyboard felt like it had a fever. We whipped out our laser thermometer, and lo and behold, the temperature between the G and H keys was an unpleasant 96.5 degrees. The bottom of the system and the touchpad were a little cooler, returning 92 degrees for both. When we rotated the screen to tablet mode, things really started cooking. Placing the back of the lid against the keyboard increased the temperature between the G and H keys to a whopping 106 degrees. In other words, if you have the system in tablet mode and decide to switch back to laptop mode, we recommend you wait a couple of minutes before you start typing. Bundled Apps? What Bundled Apps? On the bright side, our system came with only one piece of crapware preinstalled, a 90-day trial of Norton Security Suite. On the dim side, the M912 comes with absolutely nothing to help you take advantage of its touchscreen. The instruction manual told us to launch the “main manu software” to help us take full advantage of the M912′s features, but our system, which came with a Chinese-language install of Vista Basic that we later swapped out for an English version, didn’t even have the Gigabyte M912 menu software preinstalled. Fortunately, after searching in vain on the bundled driver disc, we downloaded the main menu program (shown at right) from Gigabyte’s site. The menu is straightforward and provides large button shortcuts that you can access with your finger. Early Verdict Is the Gigabyte M912M the best netbook with a touchscreen on the market? Absolutely (of course, there isn’t another to choose from). If you are looking for a mini-notebook that you can use your finger to control, the Gigabyte M912 is a solid choice for its approximately $700 price point. On a final note, beware when you aren’t using touch; the keyboard is cramped. Stay tuned for our full review that will include battery life and benchmark scores.