The Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X is a portable laptop with a 10.2 inch display and an Intel Atom N280 processor. But if I stopped there, it would sound pretty much like every other netbook on the market, when the truth is that this machine has more goodies packed into it than just about any other netbook available today.
The first thing that strikes you about the T1028X is its 1366 x 768 pixel touchscreen display that can be folded down over the keyboard for use in tablet mode. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The laptop also has an integrated 3G module, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and a 6 cell battery that’s good for around 5 hours of run time. It also has the usual netbook staples including 3 USB ports, mic and headphone jacks, an SD card reader and Ethernet and VGA ports. It ships with 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and Windows XP Home Edition.
But there are a few issues. A few of the keys on the keyboard are smaller than you’d expect, the touchpad buttons are located on the left and right sides instead of below it, and the T1028X costs more than virtually any other netbook, with an MSRP of about $699 in the US. So is it worth it? That depends on how much money you’ve got burning a hole in your pocket. You can certainly find cheaper netbooks, but good luck finding one with all of these features.
Display and Graphics
The defining characteristic of the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X is the high resolution touchscreen display. There’s no other netbook on the market today that has a display that’s both touchscreen and which has a default resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. And for the most part, Gigabyte got the screen right.
The 10.1″ display is incredibly sharp, but still reasonably sensitive. I had no trouble navigating most programs using either the included stylus or a fingernail. If you find it difficult to hit the right spot, there’s a chance that the screen just needs to be re-aligned using the 4-point touchscreen calibration utility.
Gigabyte has also included a handful of software applications, which I’ll go into more detail on below, which makes the touchscreen easy to use even though the netbook ships with Windows XP Home Edition instead of Tablet Edition. There’s an on-screen keyboard and a simulated right-click mouse feature.
The display isn’t the brightest or most vivid I’ve seen on a netbook, and at times it can look a little milky. But for a relatively inexpensive touchscreen, it gets the job done, and the extra high pixel count makes up for any slightly washed-out color look — that is, if a high resolution display is a high priority for you. Because to be honest, I found the high resolution display to be a a bit of a headache… literally.
1366 x 768 is 1,049,088. That’s how many pixels are displayed on this 10.1 inch widescreen display. For comparison’s sake, a typical netbook with a 1024 x 600 pixel display has just 614,400 pixels. In other words, you’re squeezing about 40% more pixels onto a screen that’s the same size.
On the one hand, that means you can fit a whole lot more on the screen, which is great in some situations. For instance, you can see more text on a web page without scrolling, and applications that require a 1024 x 768 pixel or higher resolution display will fit entirely on the screen now without any toolbars or status bars dangling beyond the edges. On the other, you may find yourself squinting to read text on the display. You can try adjusting the font and icon sizes and Windows DPI settings, but this tends to give the user interface a funny and inconsistent look.
Many readers have pointed out that the fault here may be with Windows XP and not the display itself. But the point is moot since the TouchNote T1028X currently ships with Windows XP and software designed to work with that operating system. Some users may choose to change the operating system to Windows 7 or Linux. But it’s likely that most of the people who buy this netbook over the next few months will stick with the software and operating system that comes preloaded.
I found that the longer I used the netbook, the more accustomed I became to its ultra-sharp display. But for the first few days, I definitely risked giving myself a headache if I tried staring at the screen for longer than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
The higher resolution display also poses another problem. While the netbook can handle 720p video in WMV and a handful of other formats without a problem, Flash video is another story. I have yet to find a computer with an Intel Atom N270 or N280 processor that can play standard definition video from Hulu in fullscreen mode on a 1366 x 768 pixel display without stuttering. And the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X is no exception. While Hulu video looks fine in windowed mode, playback is choppy in fullscreen. Flash video from other web sites is hit or miss.
The Intel Atom N280 processor does provide a bit of extra oomph for video playing from the hard drive. I downloaded a sample 1080p video from the Windows HD Content Showcase, and while it occasionally looked more like a slideshow than a video, parts of the video played quite smoothly.
The Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X is a bit on the large and heavy side for a 10 inch netbook. It measures 10.4″ x 7.7″ x 1.5″ and weighs about 3.3 pounds. But it’s still small and light by traditional laptop standards, and Gigabyte packs in a whole lot of features like the swiveling touchscreen display and a high capacity battery.
In order to allow the screen to rotate, lid is attached to the base of the computer with a single swivel in in the middle instead of two joints on the left and right side as you would find in most laptops. But the T1028X has one of the sturdiest swivels I’ve seen. When using the netbook in clamshell mode you shake the computer or flick your finger at the lid and it won’t wobble very much at all. Yet it’s still easy to manipulate the screen for use in a variety of configurations.
The lid features a glossy finish which is attractive for the first few minutes, but quickly gets covered in fingerprints. Fortunately the screen bezel, palm wrest area and other portions of the computer feature a matte finish.Tucked away in the top left corner of the lid is a compartment for storing a stylus, and Gigabyte was nice enough to ship the netbook with two styluses in case you’re the sort who constantly misplaces pens and other pen-like objects.
While the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028M, which has a lower resolution display, ships with a choice of a 4 or 6 cell battery, the 6 cell version comes standard with the T1028X. The battery sticks out a bit from the back of the netbook, and adds a little weight to the overall package, but it’s certainly not the ugliest high capacity battery I’ve ever seen on a netbook.
There are three different access panels on the bottom of the netbook, making it easy to upgrade or replace the RAM, hard drive, and wireless module.
Around the sides of the device you have your usual assortment of ports including a VGA port, 3 USB ports, mic and headphone jacks, and an SD card slot. There is also an ExpressCard/34 slot.
On the right side there’s a power switch, and on the left side is a button that serves two different purposes. If you press it when running Windows XP, it will launch the Gigabyte Smart Manager, which you can read more about in the software section below. When the computer is off or in standby, you can press and hold this button in order to check the battery level.
The 5 status LEDs below the right side of the keyboard will act as a battery meter. Normally they show you other information including battery charging status, hard drive activity, and whether the WiFi and Bluetooth are active.
The netbook feels snappy and responsive when performing most light weight tasks. Of course, no netbook with an Intel Atom processor is the ideal choice for heavy duty, CPU-intensive tasks like editing or transcoding videos. But the high resolution display means that you at least have a bit more room on the screen to perform these sorts of tasks if you’re willing to wait for the processor to render your video.
For day to day tasks like surfing the web, listening to music, and watching videos, the computer is up to snuff. I did notice a bit of lag when using Firefox with more than 7 or 8 tabs open, which is a problem I don’t typically have with other Intel Atom powered netbooks. There might be two reasons for this. First, it’s possible that the processor does have to work a bit harder to pump out video to all the pixels on the high resolution display. But it’s also possible that I’m more likely to open more than 7 or 8 browser tabs because of the high resolution screen, which makes it easier to visually manage that kind of information.
The fan is reasonably quiet, but it is certainly audible when it comes on, especially if you’re in a very quit room. Fortunately the fan doesn’t run all the time. It just goes into action when the computer starts to heat up a bit, usually when you’re watching videos or performing other CPU-intensive tasks.
The speakers are located just below the keyboard toward the front of the netbook. It’s nice that they’re not all the way on the bottom, where they would essentially blast audio into a desktop or your lap. But I found them to be pretty quiet, even for netbook speakers. If you plan to listen to a lot of music or watch a lot of video, you might want to use headphones or plug in a set of external speakers.
The 1.3MP webcam is located at the top of the screen and the mic is just below it. The camera isn’t going to win any awards for high quality video, but the image quality is pretty good as netbook webcams go. I made a recent appearance on the TechVi internet talk show using the TouchNote webcam recently. You can check it out to see the camera in action. The lighting isn’t great, and I look a bit like a vampire in the video, but it should give you a basic idea of the camera’s capabilities.
WiFi worked reasonably well, but I did find that it took a few seconds longer for the TouchNote T1028X to connect to wireless networks than other netbooks. I didn’t really get a chance to test the integrated 3G modem because I don’t subscribe to a wireless broadband plan. But I know that this is a must-have feature for some users, and Chippy at UMPC Portal seems quite happy with the 3G performance on his TouchNote T1028M.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The TouchNote has a nice wide keyboard that stretches from one edge of the case to the other. The keys present decent feedback and the layout is pretty good, with a full sized, properly located shift key on the right side of the keyboard. For some baffling reason, though, Gigabyte decided to shrink a few keys that most people use very frequently.
The period, comma, and question mark buttons are a little smaller than other letter and punctuation keys, and for the first day or two that I used the keyboard I found myself regularly hitting the wrong punctuation mark. If you use the TouchNote as your primary computer, you’ll probably get used to the size and placement of these keys pretty quickly. But if you regularly switch between this keyboard and one with larger punctuation keys, you’ll likely go through a brief re-training period every time you sit down to use the TouchNote again.
That said, I found that I could regularly type 85 words per minute or faster on the netbook, which is about the same as what I scored on other laptop and netbook keyboards.
The touchpad is nice and wide, but narrow. Since there’s not a lot of room for a larger touchpad below the keyboard, Gigabyte resorted to placing the buttons to the left and right side of the touchpad instead of below it. This means you’ll often end up needing to use two hands in order to perform some actions.
On the bright side, the touchpad supports multitouch gestures such as three-finger clicking to emulate a right-click, and scrolling up and down, left and right by placing two fingers on the touchpad.
The Gigabyte TouchNote T1028M ships with a choice of a 4 or 6 cell battery, but the T1028X ships standard with the 6 cell battery. It’s a 7650mAh, 56.61Wh battery that provides around 5 hours of run time under real world conditions, with WiFi on and the screen brightness set around 60%.
Just to be thorough, I ran the same Battery Eater Pro test on the netbook that I’ve used on every laptop I’ve reviewed so far. The netbook ran for about 4 hours and 2 minutes. Bear in mind, the test is designed to put constant strain on the CPU, which means the battery typically runs down faster in this test than it would in real life.
Unlike some netbook makers, Gigabyte doesn’t throw in a lot of extra software. The TouchNote does ship with Norton Internet Security and a few utilities, but you won’t find any Microsoft Office free trials or custom program launchers here. But there are a few utilities that make the touchscreen easier to use and which help manage your settings.
There’s a button on the left side of the netbook. When the computer is powered down or in sleep mode, pressing and holding this button will let you see how much battery power you have left by turning the status LEDs into a battery meter.
If you press the button when Windows XP is running, the Gigabyte Smart Manager will load. From this application, you can adjust the volume and brightness, enable or disable the camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, or 3G, and other hardware, or rotate or calibrate the touchscreen. You can also adjust your power schemes and pull up an on-screen keyboard.
While the Smart Manager is the most noticeable application, there’s another utility that’s just as important, if not more so. The eGalaxTouch utility lets you simulate a right-click on the screen using only your stylus, which makes Windows much easier to navigate when you’re using the T1028X in tablet mode. You can also use enable gesture support, which allows you to launch applications or perform actions by moving your finger or stylus across the screen in a certain way. For example, you can show the desktop, launch the default web browser or another application, or trigger a hotkey combination. But a video is worth a thousand words, so rather than trying to describe the touchscreen features, why don’t I just show you a few videos?
The Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X is probably one of the best netbooks I’ve ever used in terms of build quality and performance. It’s a bit heavy, but the touchscreen works exactly as it should, making the netbook useful in both clamshell and tablet mode. The integrated 3G is also going to be a major selling point for some users.
But here’s the catch: At nearly $700, this is one of the most expensive netbooks on the market. In fact, in the strictest sense, it might not be fair to call the TouchNote T1028X a netbook at all, because I think in order to fit into that category a device needs to be both small and cheap. This computer is small, and shares a lot of characteristics with your average netbook including the processor, RAM, operating system, and hard drive capacity. But it ain’t exactly cheap.
My guess is I’m not the only person who could live without the integrated 3G module. This is a feature that other netbook makers often charge $100 or more for. If Gigabyte made the 3G module an option and sold a version of this netbook without it for around $550, I think the company would have a real winner on its hands. As things stand, you can pick up a touchscreen tablet with an 8.9 inch screen from Asus or CTL for $499 or less. And while I don’t think those machines offer as compelling a user experience as the TouchNote T1028X, the high price tag could put some people off from this otherwise excellent computer.
- You can read more about the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X in the Liliputing Product Database.
- The computer is available from Amazon for $679.