Gigabyte UMPC U60 - Review

Gigabyte UMPC U60 - Review

VIA EstherULV C7-M processor 1.0GHz; 768MB RAM

Gigabyte is well-known as a mainboard manufacturer. So when its first UMPC was released, we were surprised that several innovations not seen on other brand models were included. The initial impression was that it resembled the Sony VAIO U series which also had a slider design, though the Gigabyte U60 has a much larger 6.5-inch screen compared with the 4.8-inch VAIO. Similar to the Roan Digital Everun, the U60 is priced at S$1,549 (US$1,019.08), although it has a faster processor and greater expandability.

Design of the Gigabyte UMPC U60

Despite incorporating a slider design, the Gigabyte U60 manages to remain relatively slim and comparable in thickness to slate UMPCs like the Samsung Q1 and ASUS R2H. Though it does not feel as handy as the Everun, it is a reasonable compromise to accommodate the larger 6.5-inch display. At barely 740g light with a footprint of 190 x 120.8 x 28.3mm, the U60 should have no problems fitting in most bags, though care must be taken to prevent damage to the exposed screen as the bundled slip case is flimsy.

Due to the larger display and increased width, the U60 uses a split keyboard design in order to allow for thumb-typing. Despite this feature, those with small digits will find it hard to reach the keys near the center. The touchpad is also left wanting. We found that the natural action of using the entire pad of the thumb resulted in poor navigation. It was only by using the tips of our finger that we managed to get acceptable accuracy. In this aspect, it was decidedly inferior to the trackstick of the Kohjinsha SA1 and the optical sensor on the Roan Digital Everun. Frankly, we found using the keyboard and touchpad on the U60 rather awkward, especially in the expanded mode due to its top-heavy design. We would recommend using the touchscreen for navigation instead.

There is a whole range of dedicated buttons on this device. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Webcam each has its own keys, and there is little reason to click on the system control panel to activate these functions. There is even a button for turning the expansion port on and off, a feature which comes in handy for saving battery life if the U60 is used with the GPS or TV tuner option.

Features of the Gigabyte UMPC U60

For such a small and portable device, the U60 holds quite an impressive feature set which is further bolstered by a range of accessory options. Though the native resolution is 800 x 480 pixels, we like the fact that the 6.5-inch touchscreen is capable of a 1,024 x 768-pixel resolution which allows wider Web pages to be viewed without having to scroll left and right. The U60 is powered by the little-known VIA chipset and has one of the fastest clockspeeds in the current generation of UMPCs. It is certainly capable of running Windows Vista.

The display of the U60 is powered by a UniChrome Pro II graphics core. Forget about gaming unless you get your high from online Flash titles. The integrated graphics solution is necessary, though, as it sucks up minimal power compared to discrete graphics cards--in short, increasing battery life. Sitting above the LCD is a Webcam which can be used for snapshots or video-conferencing. Though with only VGA resolution, don’t expect professional-level images.

The expansion port is located under the flip stand and accessories like S$129 (US$84.87) GPS and S$109 (US$71.71)TV tuner are available. A slot is located at the bottom for use with the S$109 (US$71.71) docking station. The latter significantly increases the functionality of the U60 by providing a VGA output, 10/100 Ethernet port, three USB 2.0 ports and headphone jack. It even has a spring-loaded stylus holder which contains a spare pen.

On its own, the U60 is no slouch in the connectivity department. It has two USB ports and can hook up with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) networks easily. An SD card reader (which is also SDIO-compatible) is also included for reading memory cards. Unfortunately, there is no Ethernet port onboard and this may be an issue with frequent travelers as some hotels provide only Ethernet broadband.

Performance And Battery Life of the Gigabyte UMPC U60

The S$1,549 (US$1,019.08) U60 holds a 1GHz VIA processor with 768MB of memory. The latter is not upgradeable, hence we do not suggest changing the default Windows XP operating system to Vista as the latter requires 1GB of RAM to run smoothly. Another gripe is the anemic 30GB harddisk which cannot be changed to another higher-capacity 1.8-inch drive without voiding the warranty.

The main purpose of a UMPC is for content consumption. In that respect, the Gigabyte U60 has no problems surfing the Internet and performing basic productivity tasks. We tried sites like YouTube and other video-streaming pages without a hitch, unlike the Everun or Kohjinsha SA1 which resulted in jerky videos.

We tested the battery life by looping a set of DivX and MPEG-1 video files. The Gigabyte gave up the ghost at around 3.5 hours, which was close to the manufacturer's claim of 4 hours of uptime. It may not be a candidate for all-day computing, but as a companion for surfing at Wi-Fi hotspots it is certainly competent. Do note that the unit heats up significantly after about an hour, though it was not too uncomfortable to use.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Gigabyte UMPC U60

Hardware support for the Gigabyte U60 is limited to the local distributor. As such, make sure you get the unit from an authorized dealer to be assured of coverage. The official Gigabyte Web site offers downloads for drivers and user manuals. It even has a small FAQ section for simple questions, though at last count there were only six entries for the U60.