Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X review

tilted 1The 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.

tablet 3

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.

tilted 2

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.

Left: Samsung Go / Right: Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X

Left: Samsung Go / Right: Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X

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.

tablet 4

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.

Design

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.

tilted 1

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.

topThe 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.

right

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.

left

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.

status LEDs

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.

Performance

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.

right side

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.

keyboard

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.

Battery

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%.

battery

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.

Software

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.

smart manager

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?

Touchscreen overview

Gesture Support

Verdict

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.
  • V

    Did you spend any time using your fingers instead of the stylus when working with the touch screen? Also, have you heard any word on the M1028P?

  • V

    Did you spend any time using your fingers instead of the stylus when working with the touch screen? Also, have you heard any word on the M1028P?

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  • markntravis

    What are the DC Voltage and amperage requirements?

    Thanks.

  • nigelsenior

    Hi – good review but there is a feature I would love to know about – inking – that is could i use this to take hand written notes etc during meetings. Normally the OS would do this but i understand the touchscreen is an important part. And hence would this feature (inking) be a lot better under windows 7 and so i should wait.

    cheers

    Nigel

  • markntravis

    I believe the touchscreen is resistive and will not do inking.

  • Cato

    How's the stylus for handwriting, OneNote type apps, and handwriting recognition?
    If it's any good at that, give it a Pineview and a pointing stick (why hasn't anybody other than Sony done this for a netbook yet?) and I'd buy it.

    Oh, and I don't think the webcam is the reason you look like a vampire in the video. Luckily you can't suck my blood through my computer because I coated all my network cables with garlic powder.

  • ethibault

    +1 for an inking test

    It may not do inking well but I'd like to see how (bad ?) it is really.

    on gottabemobile.com they made an inking test of the asus T91 which should not be better than the gigabyte at it

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  • Brad Gater

    This review appears to indicate there is a 3G modem included with the T1028X model sold on Amazon — but I have been assuming that the X model is only 3G-modem-ready and that the module must be purchased aftermarket. I believe the G model will have the module included — but that is not yet for sale in US.

  • Vulc

    Any word on the T1028P?

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Well, WWAN is listed in the Smart Manager, and you can turn the
    service on and off. I haven't tested the 3G because I don't have a
    data plan, but it certainly appears to be 3G-capable.

  • oran

    +2 for an inking test

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    In a nutshell, there's no handwriting recognition software included, but more importantly, there's no palm rejection software. You *can* certainly write or draw on the screen. But I wouldn't recommend it.

  • andrewcc

    I've had the 1028X for about a six weeks. I had long wanted to buy an e-book reader but these aren't exactly cheap – and all you can do is read books. And I really needed to update my Toshiba 486SX66 (8 Mb Ram!) which I had been using as portable computing (albeit not for the Web or E-mail). Seriously. And if you think I am out of my mind, I might point out that in my day to day job, I typically work with a stack of 128 2.4 gHz chips for simulation modelling – the sharp end of sheer number crunching.

    So, much as I agree about the price of this device – and it is not cheap – if you want both an e-book reader and a useable computer, this is a truly excellent compromise.

    E-book readers tend to be designed for mobile devices (Palms, Blackberries, etc.) and assume some functioning keys which of course you don't have when you fold out the 1028X screen. And the alternatives are much more oriented at getting you into an e-book “walled garden”, which, frankly, I find insulting. I finally went for “BookReader” from Rudenko Software (Freeware version is a book reader, the paid version will read books to you out loud. Really. Must try it out sometime…) This works well as you can page down and navigate with a small fingernail. Nice simple interface, without the idiocy of, say, Adobe's complex offering (another walled garden).

    I agree with the author about the screen resolution. I put up wth the oddities of font sizes and slightly squashed views and use the full resolution. However, there really is some messing around to do before you get this machine set up to your own full satisfaction. But worth doing.

    Lastly, the combination of a Wacom Bamboo plus the touch screen is a phenomenal advance over a mouse. I only use the built in stylus when I am travelling. Anyone with mouse fatigue or pains in the arm and wrist from too much mouse work should try this combination.

    Overall, if you can afford it, this is a superb device, espcially if you work it properly as an e-reader as well as a computer. And it knocks the socks off IT-savvy 13 yr old sons…

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    I didn't find the touchscreen all that useful, but you might want to check
    with Chippy at UMPC Portal… he loves his T1028 and he's more of a tablet
    guy than I am,

  • jacor4

    Brad, I was looking at this particular netbook for portability and to capture handwriting i.e. i do a lot of brainstorming sessions and want to project the screen whilst capturing notes/brainstorming. I dont particular need handwriting recognition software but just want to capture notes. My iPAC seems to be able to this but is too small and cant project. You recommend against writing on the screen. Should I abandon my idea of buying the T1028X for my intended purpose?

  • anon

    so how does it compare to the m912x that is old as the world now, but matches this newcomer in resolution, disk, ram, and gpu?

    is the 60mhz more on the cpu noticeable? is the multitouch touchpad enough progress for anyone, or are you just like me angered that they are using it as a distraction and an excuse to delay multitouch screens for so long now?

  • dy

    how well does this play movies? not streamed. am very into movies and travel a lot

  • Loic

    Its very good for movies, I play mostly AVI files, haven’t tried any HD fair. No noticeable stuttering. The speakers are produce a rich full sound that may lack in the bass a bit, not the most powerful either.

    Battery life is another issue, I have Win7 pro tablet ed and it will last me most of a flight to france, maybe 6 hours solid video watching.

    btw, streaming is excellent! HD has occasional stutter, but I tend to keep a tab heavy browser open….

  • Loic

    Its very good for movies, I play mostly AVI files, haven't tried any HD fair. No noticeable stuttering. The speakers are produce a rich full sound that may lack in the bass a bit, not the most powerful either.

    Battery life is another issue, I have Win7 pro tablet ed and it will last me most of a flight to france, maybe 6 hours solid video watching.

    btw, streaming is excellent! HD has occasional stutter, but I tend to keep a tab heavy browser open….

  • T1028

    Never seen a computer that had to replace the keyboard TWO TIMES what Rip Off other than its heavy weight and just a rating at an ATOM of Windows 2.2 and pricey it is OK. But cant connect a WD MyPassport Utra to it to backup it even.