Seeking to provide serious multimedia chops in a thin and light laptop, the Gigabyte M2432 has a sleek, attention-grabbing design. And this notebook backs up those good looks with Core i5 power and an optional extended battery that you can swap for the optical drive when you need more juice. But is that enough for this $1,049 system to compete against the bigger brands?
Editor's Note: While the overseas version of the Gigabyte M2432 has an optional docking station that adds discrete Nvidia graphics, the company has decided not to make that accessory available in the U.S.
We were immediately taken with M2432's bright red brushed aluminum lid. It's a welcome departure from the blacks, whites and various shades of gray and silver proliferating the market. The notebook is also available in midnight blue for users looking for a bit more subtlety. The Gigabyte logo has raised silver lettering that adds a nice touch of contrast. The lip of the lid is made of a hard plastic that extends into a small, unnecessary lip.
The M2432's interior is a bit more traditional, a silver deck surrounding a black matte keyboard deck.
A large black speaker grille sits above the keyboard and houses the Power and SmartSwitch buttons. Our favorite part of the deck is how it gently slopes toward the notebook's rear, making way for the hinges. A docking connector can be found at the bottom of the Gigabyte in the right rear corner.
At 12.9 by 9.1 inches, the 4-pound M2432 has a smaller footprint than both the 4.4-pound, 13.2-by-9.2-inch Dell XPS 14z and the 4-pound, 13.1-by- 9-inch Samsung Series 5. However, at 1 inch thick, the M2432 is a hair thicker than both units. The M2432 also picks up an additional 0.2 pounds when you swap the optical drive for the extended battery.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Despite its fairly large deck, we found the M2432's keyboard to be somewhat cramped. That's because there's 0.75 inches of wasted space on either side of the keyboard. As a result, all the keys are a little undersized, especially the right Shift key. However, they provided a decent amount of feedback as we typed.
We took more issue with the relatively small 2.8-by- 1.6-inch Synaptics touchpad, which isn't centered under the G and H keys and instead is off to the right. While we liked how the dimpled touchpad felt under our fingers, multitouch gestures were hit or miss. Two-finger scroll consistently delivered fast, smooth motion as did three-finger press, which launched our designated shortcut.
Oddly, instead of including a pinch-to-zoom gesture for scaling images up and down, we had to rely on a two-finger scroll up to zoom in. This was not only awkward, but erratic.
We also weren't fond of the single mouse bar, but it was snappy and responsive.
Display and Audio
The Gigabyte M2432's 14-inch 1366 x 768 LED backlit display delivered rich colors with just a hint of graininess. Its measured brightness of 200 lux was comfortably above the thin-and-light average (169 lux), as well as other entertainment-focused notebooks as the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition (177 lux).
When we watched the 1080p YouTube trailer of "The Hunger Games," we saw rich green foliage along with vibrant magentas and brilliant reds. Katniss Everdeen's blue eyes consistently popped against the backdrop. However, there was a pervasive graininess that took away from some of the color and detail. The viewing angles were a bit limited, so images washed out if we weren't directly in front of the display.
For a notebook billed as a multimedia system, audio on the M2432 isn't the loudest. At full volume, the sound was barely able to fill a small room. However, we did hear crystal-clear piano chords and crisp per-cussion on Floetry's "Say Yes." Marsha Ambrosius' honeyed alto meshed perfectly with the sultry track without any distortion. Turning on the THX TruStudio Pro software resulted in richer, warmer sound.
After streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured a pleasant 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys and the underside of the notebook measured a comfortable 85 and 86 degrees respectively. We consider anything about 95 degrees uncomfortable, so the Gigabye M2432 is relatively cool.
Ports and Webcam
The right side of the M2432 houses two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0/eSATA port, HDMI, VGA and a 4-in-1 card reader. A tray-loading DVD player sits on the left side along with a headphone jack, microphone jack, Kensington lock and the power jack. The optical drive can be swapped out for an extended battery.
The M2432's 1.3 megapixel camera can capture stills and video in 1280 x 1024 using the AmCap software. During a Skype call, our caller said we appeared dull and washed out. While we heard clear audio without any lag, our caller said we sounded hollow.
Users will have no problem performing everyday tasks with the Gigabyte M2432's 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-2520M processor and 4GB of RAM. The notebook scored 2,223 on PCMark 07, 181 points above the 2,081 thin-and-light average. The Dell XPS 14z and its 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-2640M CPU with 8GB of RAM notched 2,329. The Core i5 processor in the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition delivered an even higher 3,827.
During the File Transfer Test, the M2432's 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive duplicated 4.97GB of mixed media files in 2 minutes and 54 seconds, a transfer rate of 29.2MBps. That's slightly faster than the category average. The XPS 14z, which has a 750GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, maintained its lead with a blazing 38.6 MBps.
The M2432 took 68 seconds to boot the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, 5 seconds longer than the category average. The XPS 14z was slightly faster at 60 seconds.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Test, the M2432 took 5 minutes and 5 seconds to match 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses. That's 59 seconds faster than the 6:04 category average.
The Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU inside the Gigabyte M2432 has enough power to run casual games and play high-def video, but the competition is faster. In the 3DMark06 benchmark, which measures overall graphics performance, the M2432 notched 3,377. The HP dm4 Beats Edition (which also has integrated graphics) notched 4,627, and the XPS 14z and its switchable graphics (Intel HD 3000 Graphics, Nvidia GeForce GT 520M) posted an impressive score of 5,461.
When we ran the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the Gigabyte M2432 delivered a frame rate of 24 fps at 1366 x 768 on autodetect. That's less than half the 66 fps thin and light average. The HP dm4 notched a smoother 32 fps.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the Gigabyte M2432 lasted 4 hours and 16 minutes. That's 1 hour and 50 minutes short of the 6:06 thin-and-light notebook average. However, with the $79 extended battery, the M2432 lasted an epic 8 hours. The Dell XPS 14z lasted 5:23, while the HP dm4's runtime was 5:48.
Software and Warranty
Gigabyte doesn't overload the M2432 with a ton of preloaded software. There's Gigabyte SmartManager control panel, which provided quick access to all of the system settings, including display brightness and enabling/disabling the touchpad.
Gigabyte Smart Switch was one of the more interesting utilities, allowing us to quickly switch between the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows.
Third-party applications include Microsoft Office Starter, Windows Live and Adobe Reader 9. Surprisingly, Gigabyte didn't package the M2432 with any antivirus software, but at least you don't get any annoying pop-ups out of the box.
The Gigabyte M2432 comes with a two-year warranty.
In the $1,049 Gigabyte M2432, consumers get solid overall performance in a stylish package. Those on the go will definitely want to pick up the $79 extended battery. Once you get in that ballpark though, we prefer the $1,199 Dell XPS 14z, which offers better audio and discrete graphics in a thinner package. Those looking to save a few bucks should check out the $899 HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition, which offers a 1600 x 900 display and great speakers, too. While the M2432 is one of the better looking portable multimedia notebooks, its shiny red lid takes it only so far.