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Gigabyte T1028 Mini Review.

For the honeymoon I was faced with a rather difficult choice. The first was to lash out now and get the Macbook I alluded to in another post now instead of later. This would put us in a difficult situation financially as whilst I can write off the majority of the cost I’d still be out of pocket for $3500 until work got around to doing the paper work, something which I couldn’t quite afford with the wedding on the horizon. I therefore relegated myself to finding a cheap netbook that would serve as our journey book for the trip. I then discovered a couple things.

The first was that I was hoping to get one with a discrete graphics chip. Now I wasn’t looking for anything too fancy, just something other than an Intel GMA as they’re not the best for anything but 2D work. I’m not planning to play the latest games on netbook, but it would be nice if I could burl up Warcraft 3 on it for a little DOTA action on the couch. It seems this was not meant to be as the few I could find with such a feature weren’t available in Australia, and I didn’t have 2~3 weeks to wait for one to arrive from overseas.

I then thought to myself how useful a tablet PC would be, as I could use that for various other things once it had served its purpose as a travel journal. Additionally Rebecca had always wanted one so there was definitely some common ground covered by getting a tablet. My search then tracked down two suitable candidates, the Gigabyte T1028 and the EEE T91. A quick comparison shows the T1028 coming out ahead in all aspects (including price, $799 to the EEE $737 according to staticice at time of writing) so the obvious choice was the T1028. I’d had experience with a housemate’s EEE before and couldn’t stand the tiny keyboard and the promise of a 92% of full sized keyboard on the T1028 made it sound usable. I ordered myself one with express posting and recieved it not 2 days later:

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The model I got was the T1028X which apart from a few small things isn’t too much different from the rest of the range. The packaging it comes in is quite attractive and gives the user a hint at what’s to come when you open the box up:

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Included in the box are the standard accessories: power cables, manuals, driver CD, extra stylus and a neoprene carry case. The case is actually quite nice especially if you’re someone like me who hasn’t actually owned any of the laptops he had previously (they were all work ones) and don’t have a hand me down case you can use with it. The X model which I got has the 6 cell battery included which is supposed to give up to 6.5 hours of battery life. I haven’t yet given it a full drain test but general usage doesn’t seem to hit the battery too hard, although it does ruin the lines on it slightly.

The standard installation of Windows XP is included with this laptop however I blew that away to put Windows 7 on it. Since there’s no optical drive you’ll have to install it via a flash drive, easily done by following the instructions here. There was a small problem with my initial attempt as the disc I used must have had some corrupted files as the install would crash halfway through. After retrieving a new copy I managed to get it on there with no hassles at all.

This is where Windows 7 really starts to shine, as every device on the laptop (webcam, multi-touch pad, touchscreen, sound, bluetooth, wireless network) all installed without a wiff of a driver CD, and all function perfectly. I was surprised when the multi-touch gestures just worked without any cajoling at all, as this is usually something you have to wrestle with. The one grievance I have yet to resolve is the fact that the “flicks” feature that was made available to me doesn’t seem to recognise the touch screen correctly, as it the screen has been installed as a generic HID device (mouse). I’m pretty sure this would work fine if I wrangled with the XP drivers, but I just haven’t had the time yet.

The biggest grievance I have with the laptop is the same with most laptops these days: the glossy screen. It seems no matter what kind of laptop you get these days they’ll shine that screen up to make it look more expensive and whatnot. This is especially dumb with things like tablets which are going to have hands and fingers all over them and will display those fingerprints proudly. We have HP tablets at work that don’t have a glossy screen and they’re much more usable in this regard. However they do attract a much higher price tag.

Overall I’m very happy with this tablet. The overall build is solid and the seamless experience in upgrading to Windows 7 combine to make a very usable little netbook. For under $1000 this makes the perfect little travel companion with that little something extra that will make it useful when its travelling days are over. Overall I’d give it a 8.5/10.

4 Comments

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  1. Do you use it for handwriting? I am especially interested in OneNote. I understand you can’t rest your palm on the screen. Do you find that awkward or tiring?

  2. I’ve installed a copy of OneNote on it but really haven’t given it much of a go. Since the main screen is resistive you’re right in saying that you can’t rest your hand on it, but for what it’s worth the touchscreen does work quite well as a mouse. If you were going to get one for handwriting I’d probably recommend one of the HP tablets as the stylus that comes with them has the ability to move the mouse even when its not touching the screen (great if you’re using the stylus as a mouse replacement).

  3. Thanks! I want a smaller and lighter machine than my current 6 pounder, so anything like the HPs with active digitizers are unfortunately out (too expensive for now also).

    I probably won’t know until I try it if it’s suitable for extended handwriting – resting the palm on the bezel for extended periods while writing is OK for some people, others find it really painful and tiring. I want something I can take to meetings and take notes on, without having a screen between me and other people. From what I have heard, nothing much better for that purpose will be coming out this year, so I might as well get the T1028 as the price goes down before the T1000 comes out. If the price goes down! The are sold now on eBay and you can make an offer at less than the going retail price.

  4. The T1028 is about 3 pounds so it will be quite light compared to what you’re currently using. I agree the HPs are expensive as I haven’t seen them much outside the corporate environments I’ve worked in.

    One of the differences I noted between the T1028 and other tables was that most had little feet on the bottom to angle the screen towards to a bit, probably to make it a bit easier to write on. The T1028 on the other hand lies completely flat which, depending on your writing style, might make it a bit more or less tiresome to use.

    For the price and feature set it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the Gigabyte. Whilst I might not be using it as a tablet right now it does make a very good netbook in its own right.

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