By September 4, 2008

Gigabyte M912 review

It seems that not a day passes by without yet another sub-notebook PC appearing on the scene. For years the laptop/notebook market has been fairly stagnant. The arrival of the Asus Eee PC changed all that. Suddenly light, cheap and low-powered was in. A year on and we have a rapidly expanding choice. So, where does that leave the new M912 from Gigabyte?

m912_angled

The Gigabyte M912 (click to enlarge)

Introduction

People are beginning to wake up to the fact that for general all-round everyday computing tasks a hugely powerful, thirsty and expensive computer just isn’t required and, what use is a computer if it’s tethered to a desk back at home or in the office? 17” laptops are all very well, but if you have to carry one for any distance then the attraction soon pales and by default they almost become irrelevant. In steps the sub-notebook with its small form factor, adequate power for mail/web/media etc and a decent battery life. The Asus Eee PC started the current trend off, but in fact Psion were probably the first back in 2000 with their lovely little Netbook running their own superb O/S.

The M912 is one of the latest of the breed and at first glance would appear to be almost the ideal portable computer.

 

What’s in the box?

  1. The Gigabyte M912.
  2. Plug in wall charger.
  3. Drivers/utilities CD.
  4. Stylus
  5. Carry case.
  6. Quick-start guide

General

Gigabyte are perhaps better known for their motherboards, but they have actually been manufacturing laptops for quite some time now – they just aren’t one of the more well-known brands.

The form factor of the M912 is what we’ve come to expect: a sub notebook of Eee PC size with an 8.9” TFT screen. It’s conventional in all senses in terms of appearance, but literally with a slight twist on things – it has a swivel screen that allows it to transform into a tablet PC using a touch-screen interface (more of this later).

 

Control and ports:

On the front face: two speakers and the LCD touch screen.

m912_angled_left

Gigabyte M912 screen

On the left: Ethernet port, USB2.0 port, memory car slot, PC Express card slot.

m912_left

Gigabyte M912 left side

On the right: power jack, VGA out, headphone socket, microphone socket, 2x USB2.0 ports, On/Off switch.

m912_right

Gigabyte M912 right side

On the back: access to the battery

 

Gigabyte M912 Specification:

  • CPU Intel ® Atom 1.6GHz
  • Operating System : Genuine Microsoft Windows VISTA®Home Basic
  • Chipset Intel ® 945GSE
  • System Configuration Memory : 1GB, HDD 160GB
  • LCD 8.9”LCD panel/WXGA 1280×768, w/Touch screen, LED Backlight, as 180° rotation angle
  • HDD 2.5", 9.5mm S-ATA HDD
  • Keyboard 80 key keyboard/Touch Pad
  • I/O Port USB X 3,Mic in, Earphone out, D-SUB RJ45, Express card, SD/MMC/MS
  • Audio Speaker 1.5 watt x 2
  • Bluetooth 2.0 built-in
  • Web Camera 1.3M pixel web camera
  • Wireless LAN 802.11b/g by mini-card
  • Protection Kensington lock
  • Battery Li-ion 4500mAh, Battery life 3.5 hrs (claimed)
  • Dimensions: 235 x 180 x 28~42mm
  • Weight 1.3kg (include 2.5"HDD)

Highlights:

  • Speedy performance.
  • Lightweight.
  • Ample connectivity.
  • Good hardware specification.
  • Fully featured powerful operating system.

Lowlights:

  • Feels a little bit delicate.
  • Screen is not one of the brightest and has a gritty appearance.
  • On/Off button is small and placed in an unconventional position.
  • Battery life is on the low side.

Review

The 912 uses Microsoft Vista Home Basic. Obviously it is a fully-featured operating system and once all of Vista’s eye candy was turned off, in use it felt responsive enough with applications launching quickly. Occasionally there was some lag with menus appearing, but I think this is probably more of a Vista quirk than anything thing else. The 1 gig of RAM in theory is to close to the minimum requirement for Vista, however, in practice coupled with the 1.6Ghz Intel Atom cpu the 912 proved to be more than ample for most general computing tasks. The machine never felt like it was short of horsepower and, as a result, it felt like a proper computer capable of handling most normal tasks thrown at it – only smaller. Perhaps the only limitations to this machine’s ability would be video editing.

The 160GB 2.5” SATA hdd was speedy enough and it’s inconceivable to me that this would be insufficient for all but the most hungry of power users. No doubt this could probably be upgraded to something larger again if you felt the need.

With built-in 802.11/g wi-fi, Bluetooth and an Ethernet port there is ample connectivity. Bluetooth is a real boon from my point of view as it allowed easy tethering of my mobile phone and PDA. Well done Gigabyte.

The power supply did not come with a UK plug and lead – I suspect that this would be because I was using a review unit. The battery is a 4500mAh item that proved sufficient for about 2hrs of use – somewhat less than claimed. This lower than claimed life was probably due to me using the screen almost always on maximum brightness and no doubt more could be eeked from it with careful adjustment of the power-savings functions. This sort of life a little bit on the low side when compared to the latest sub-notebooks, particularly the Asus EEPC 901 which has a battery life in excess of 5 hours. However, it is unlikely anyone would want to use one of these machines for such extended periods due to their small form factor.

There is a webcam placed centrally above the screen so, video conferencing is entirely possible using something like Skype or MSN Messenger. Personally, I am happy for my contacts not to see my ugly face, but if you’re a teenager then it will certainly appeal!

The mouse glidepad was adequate and featured a scroll area that allowed pages to be scrolled up and down. The left-right buttons mouse buttons had a slightly stiff action, but at least they were positive and caused no problems.

The keyboard was easy to use once I had got used to the physically smaller layout. I wouldn’t want to spend hours writing a lengthy dissertation on it, but it is fine for most uses. It was firm and tactile with good feedback – I’ve used worse on many much larger laptops. Those of you with big hands might struggle, but I was happy with it. There’s number of function keys on it to allow quick access to wi-fi, speaker mute, screen brightness and lock controls – pretty much as one would expect of any other laptop.

m912_keyboard

Gigabyte M912 keyboard & Touch pad

The screen is a 1280×768 affair capable of displaying more than enough information. However, it’s somewhat disappointing in that it’s not very bright and it has a gritty appearance. I found I had to keep the backlighting on maximum at all times and it’s nowhere near as good as many pdas, mobile phones or other sub-notebooks. Clearly some compromises have had to be made to keep the cost down and it does spoil the experience somewhat because in all other ways the 912 a fine portable computer.

m912_hinge_detail

Gigabyte M912 hinge detail

The screen is swivel-screen that allows the 912 to function as a tablet computer and in this mode it is fine is all respects. The hinge doesn’t feel like it’s particularly robust and if I owned one of these I would be taking great care of it as it’s easy to try to twist and rotate the screen in the wrong direction – this is potential for disaster as this would most likely render the machine uneconomic to repair. Most curiously, there was no receptacle for the stylus. I am not convinced that Vista is a good o/s for this sort of use, but that’s a different discussion altogether and not really any fault of the machine’s design. Personally, I can see no use for tablet pcs and I much prefer to use the 912 as a conventional highly portable computer.

MP3 playback through headphones was good enough and I noticed no skips or pauses. The speakers were lightweight of course. Video performance was good with some of my own Windows Media Video files filmed from my motorcycle, the only limitation being the screen. Watching a DivX movie is a realistic proposition.

Software

As already mentioned this machine comes with Windows Vista. You either like it or you don’t. There is nothing extra in terms of software it’s very basic – there’s no office suite for example. Again this is probably a cost-cutting measure, but installing something like Open Office is easy enough and the machine will run it without effort.

m912_angled_right

Conclusion

So how does the M912 fare? As a portable pc it succeeds very well. It’s small, light, reasonably powerful and well-connected. It’s a proper computer in a small box and it coped with everything I threw at it without breaking into a sweat. For someone who travels a lot like myself it’s almost perfect. The price of £440 inclusive of VAT puts it very much at the higher end of the market and well into the budget “full-size” laptop zone where it compares unfavourably against dual-core machines in terms of performance. However, portability always has come with a higher price tag.

I think I would have preferred it to have been equipped with a lightweight flavour of Linux that would allow all sorts of software expansion at no extra cost and which would have probably boosted performance to very pleasing levels. This would also have had the advantage of reducing the cost of the device which, I feel is on for the high side of acceptable. However, if you’re in the market for an accomplished portable computer then the 912 is a good choice and I would be happy to own one.

 

Review by: Nigel

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Post a Comment

https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/surgical-face-masks