With tablets outselling notebooks, many manufac-turers are looking for fresh ways to combine the former with the latter. While we've seen tablets with keyboard docks and notebooks with screens that pop out to become tablets, some users are still in-terested in convertible laptops that have rotating screens. The Gigabyte T1125N follows this tried-and-true formula, adding a rotating 11.6-inch capacitive touchscreen to a 3.8-pound ultraportable notebook body. With enticing features such as a docking station, USB 3.0, and Nvidia graphics, this notebook targets a premium consumer, but does it offer enough to justify its $1,099 price tag?
At 11.4 x 8.7 x 1.1 inches and 3.8 pounds, the Gi-gabyte T1125N isn't the thinnest or lightest 11.6-inch notebook on the block by any stretch. Acer's TimelineX 1830T comes in at a mere 3 pounds and the similarly priced 11-inch MacBook Air weighs only 2.3 pounds and is just 0.7 inches thick. However, the T1125's hinge and touch display obviously add some weight.
The notebook's design language is functional, but plain. The chrome colored lid and deck are made of finger-print resistant matte plastic that looks like brushed metal. Most of the rest of the chassis is made out of simple black plastic, though the area right below the screen has a brushed black texture underneath the Gigabyte logo.
Because the Gigabyte T1125N is a convertible tablet, there's a single, chrome-colored hinge under the screen that allows you to open and close the clam-shell and rotate the screen 180 degrees to the left to turn the device into tablet mode. In our tests, the hinge felt quite sturdy, which is important for this type of machine.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Gigabyte T1125N's keyboard reminded us of some of the worst netbook keyboards we've tested; it combines cramped keys with mushy tactile feedback. We also noticed some flex when pressing down on the middle of the keyboard. Despite these challenges, we were able to achieve our typical 80 words per minute score on the Ten Thumbs Typing test with a reasonable 2-perent error rate. We were just uncomfortable the whole time.
The 3 x 1.5-inch touchpad has a smooth matte sur-face that provided highly accurate movements as we navigated around the desktop. We were also able to perform multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom with ease. The single touchpad button offered good tactile feedback, though we normally prefer two discrete buttons.
Display and Audio
The glossy 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 screen on the T1125N offers sharp colors and bright images, but mediocre viewing angles. When watching a movie, images started to wash out at 45 degrees to the left or right. Plus, the highly reflective surface became mirror-like when there was a light behind us.
The worst viewing angle of all occurs when the Gi-gabyte T1125N is in tablet mode, sitting flat on a ta-ble. In that position, the entire screen is washed out and colors change unless you are standing directly above it. To view the screen properly in tablet mode, you really need to tilt it forward 45 degrees.
Thanks to its trusty THX TruStudio Pro audio en-hancement software, the T1125N is actually good enough to be used as a mini stereo. When we played a bass-heavy R&B classic ("Forget Me Nots"), a guitar-dominated rock tune ("All Along the Watch Tower"), and a saxophone-centric song ("Shaker Song"), music playback was rich and pleasant. Just don't disable the THX software; with it off, music sounded somewhat distorted.
The Gigabyte T1125N suffers from some noticeable hot spots that could make holding it uncomfortable. The worst of these is the bottom right side of the notebook, which we measured at 100 degrees Fahrenheit after streaming a Hulu video for 15 minutes. However, even when the system was just idling on our desk, that part of the chassis felt un-pleasantly warm, and at one point, we clocked the air coming out of the vent at 104 degrees. Considering that this is a device you are likely to hold in both hands or balance on your lap when in tablet mode, these warm temps could be an issue.
The other areas of the T1125N did not feel too warm. After streaming video for 15 minutes, we measured the touchpad at 92 degrees and the center bottom at 90 degrees. The middle of the keyboard reached 98 degrees, but it didn't actually feel all that warm.
The T1125's capacitive touchscreen proved ex-tremely accurate even when we targeted small but-tons and icons in Windows 7's notoriously touch-unfriendly UI. The screen also showed strong support for two-finger gestures; we were able to draw in two directions at once in Windows Paint and pinch-to-zoom in our web browser.
The biggest flaw in the Gigabyte T1125N's touch experience is the lack of an easy or automatic way to change from landscape to portrait mode. While most modern tablets use an accelerometer to detect movement and adjust their screen orientation ac-cordingly, the T1125N has no such ability.
In order to rotate the desktop, users need to open the Gigabyte SmartManager control panel, tap the screen rotation icon, and then tap the icon for 90-degree rotation. That's three taps to do something many other tablets do automatically. If you decide to change the screen orientation while in notebook mode, you can use Windows 7's keyboard shortcut (CTRL + ALT + Arrow key) to save a few clicks.
Ports and Webcam
The Gigabyte T1125N packs plenty of ports into its ultraportable frame. On the right side is an SD Card reader, a USB 3.0 port, a standard USB 2.0 port, HDMI out, and a Kensington lock slot. On the right is the Ethernet port, docking station connector, VGA out, and an eSATA/USB port, for a total of three USB connections. On the front lip sit the audio in/out jacks.
The 1.3-megapixel webcam provided reasonably sharp and colorful images in low-light settings. Even in our dimly-lit living room lines in our face and the color of our skin were visible on a Skype call. When we moved closer to a light source, the image quality improved.
One of the reasons why the Gigabyte T1125N costs over a grand is its bundled docking station, which turns this convertible into a desktop. On its site, Gigabyte describes the T1125 as a "Majestic Trio of Notebook, Tablet, and Desktop PC." We wouldn't call it majestic.
To connect the T1125N to the dock, the notebook must be in tablet mode and you'll need to hold it in portrait orientation with the docking port facing downward. Then you can pop the notebook into its dock where it remains standing vertically while you can connect it to peripherals such as a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. A removable DVD drive sits in another slot on the dock, allowing you to read and write discs while connected.
The T1125N can also charge through the dock, which comes with its own AC adapter. A separate power button allows you to turn on the notebook when docked and a battery capacity button on the docking station even uses the T1125N's status lights to show you how much charge it has. An arm on the docking station also allows you to rotate it in place, though we found the main benefit of extending the arm is making the dock stand a bit more firmly on a table.
The docking station has a wide variety of ports, in-cluding HDMI out, VGA, Ethernet, audio in/out, two USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 2.0 connectors. The dock doesn't support eSATA, but chances are you won't need it. And while the base doesn't have its own memory card reader, the T1125N's built-in card reader appears on its top side when docked.
Ultimately, the dock doesn't add much functionality, but it does provide a convenient way to quickly attach your T1125N to an external monitor / keyboard / mouse set on your desk.
Performance and Graphics
Equipped with a 1.3-GHz Intel Core i3 U380 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics, but just 2GB of RAM, the Gigabyte T1125N offers solid performance that's good enough for full HD media playback and some gaming. On PCMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall speed, the T1125N scored 3,889, on a par with the ultraportable category average (3,837) and last year's HP TouchSmart tm2t, though well behind the Core i7-powered Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet (5,445). Among non-convertible 11-inch notebooks, the 11-inch MacBook Air (4,553), and Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T (4,717) were significantly faster.
The Gigabyte T1125N's 320GB 5,400-rpm Toshiba hard drive took a modest 57 seconds to boot into Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), slightly less than the 61 second category average. The drive took 3 minutes and 41 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 23 MBps, significantly slower than the 31.1 MBps category average, but on a par with the HP TouchSmart tm2t (22.6 MBps).
The Gigabyte T1125N was able to convert a 114MB MP4 to AVI format in just 1 minute and 21 seconds using Oxelon Media Encoder. That time is signifi-cantly faster than the 1:54 category average, the 2:00 time offered by the HP TouchSmart tm2t, or the 1:47 it took the 11-inch MacBook Air. However, the Acer Aspire TimeLineX 1830T managed a stronger time of 1:04.
An Nvidia GeForce 310M GPU gives the T1125 strong graphics performance for a system this size. On 3DMark06, the T1125N scored a strong 3,667, more than double the ultraportable category average of 1,611 and integrated graphics powered systems such as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T (1,290). It was even a bit faster than the HP TouchSmart tm2t (2,882), though the 11-inch MacBook Air's Nvidia GeForce 320M GPU (4,290) was stronger.
Due to its Nvidia graphics, the T1125N was able to achieve a strong frame rate of 53 fps in World of Warcraft at default settings, which is quite a bit better than the 41 fps category average. But don't consider this system if gaming is a high priority. The World of Warcraft frame rate dropped to 25 fps when we turned up the special effects, which is better than the category average of 12 fps but slower than the 35 fps provided by the 11-inch Macbook Air and HP TouchSmart tm2t.
Battery Life and Wireless
The Gigabyte T1125N lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That time is nearly an hour and a half less than the 5:32 category average and way behind the HP TouchSmart tm2t (5:41), the Lenovo ThinkPad X201Tablet (5:10), the 11-inch MacBook Air (5:13), and the Acer Aspire TimelineX 18130T (6:05).
The T1125N's Atheros AR9285 802.11n Wi-Fi card returned a solid transfer rate of 34 Mbps at a dis-tance of 15 feet from our router, which is on a par with the 31 Mbps category average. However, that rate dropped to 14.1 Mbps at a distance of 50 feet, which is well below the 19.6 Mbps category average.
Though you cannot configure the T1125N on Giga-byte's site, the company does have a couple of dif-ferent versions available in the U.S. market. Our re-view configuration, the T1125N-CF1, comes with a 1.3-GHz Intel Core i3 U380 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics, a 320GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM. The $1,249 T1125-CF2 has a 1.3-GHz Intel Core i5 U470 CPU, Nvidia 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.
Dual Windows Installation
One of the most unique--and baffling--features of the Gigabyte T1125N is its ability to switch between 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium. Gigabyte says it offers this feature for backwards compatibility, but we think it's unnecessary. Not only is switching back and forth between Windows installations a huge hassle, compatibility issues are minimal. It's also a waste of hard drive space; the 32-bit version of Windows takes up 44GB.
A Gigabyte program called Smart Switch puts a widget with a picture of a lever with the numbers 32 and 64 on either side of it on your desktop. Double-clicking this widget forces your system to reboot into the other version of Windows, which has its own set of programs, settings, and icons. So if you install a program in 64-bit Windows, you'll need to install it again if you want it available in 32-bit Windows. We just don't get it.
Software and Warranty
Where other vendors who sell Windows tablets preload lots of different apps to improve the operating system's touch experience, Gigabyte has only one: Touch AppPark, a very scaled down app launcher that gives users large, finger-friendly shortcuts to some of their favorite programs.
After starting AppPark, which itself must be opened by tapping or clicking its shortcut on the desktop, users get a colorful interface with five different cat-egories of apps (Work, Community, Play, Media, Other). When you select a category, a row of large shortcut icons to its apps appears at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, we could not find a way to add our own shortcuts or groups to the AppPark menus and the list of app shortcuts is limited. For example, the Media category has only Windows Media Player, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery. You're better off just using the start menu.
In addition to AppPark, Gigabyte includes AMCap, a simple application for shooting video with the webcam and SmartManager, a Gigabyte control panel that lets you adjust settings such as the brightness, Wi-Fi, and power settings.
Gigabyte backs the T1125N with a global two-year warranty on parts and labor.
While it's clear that Gigabyte intends the T1125N to be a premium product by including a docking station, discrete graphics, and USB 3.0, it's hard to justify the current starting price of $1,099. With its cramped keyboard, inability to auto rotate the screen, and paucity of touch-friendly software, this notebook is difficult to recommend at any price.
Those looking for a consumer Windows convertible should consider HP's TouchSmart tm2t. It doesn't include an optical drive, dock, or discrete graphics, but the tm2t which weighs just a little bit more (4.2 pounds vs 3.8 pounds), has more robust TouchSmart software, and starts at a much more reasonable $799. Business users should check out the Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet or, its upcoming successor, the X220 Tablet. Gigabyte has some interesting ideas here, but the T1125N just isn't worth the premium.