Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Gigabyte U2442F Extreme notebook
Gigabyte has designed an Ultrabook that allows you to do a lot more than just browse the Web and compose emails
- Excellent configuration
- Matte screen
- Backlit keyboard
- Screen's build quality could be better
- Keyboard isn't great
Gigabyte's interpretation of what an Ultrabook should be is a good one and the company has created a computer that's not only light and highly mobile, but also very fast. There are some aspects of the build quality that could be better, but for the configuration and asking price, it's well worth considering.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Gigabyte, a company better known for its motherboards and graphics cards, has created an Ultrabook that aims to be more than just slim and light. The company's U2442F 14in Ultrabook is slim, light, and also powerful. Specifically, it comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce 650M graphics adapter. It should appeal to those of you who like the idea of a highly mobile machine that can capably run many modern games.
Specs and performance
The 'Extreme' in the name of this 14in Ultrabook refers primarily to its configuration, which is faster than the other Ultrabooks that are available on the Australian market. It includes an Intel Core i7-3517U CPU, 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics adapter, and storage that's comprised of a 128GB solid state drive (mSATA based) for the system, and a 750GB hard drive for heavy-duty storage. This configuration is killer for many tasks other than mundane office work. In particular, it makes the U2442F a great little unit for gaming, and even for things such as video encoding and basic editing. It's not simply a machine for Web browsing and composing emails.
In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the U2442F recorded times of 41sec and 45sec, respectively. These are excellent times for an Ultrabook and are faster than what we've seen from the likes of Samsung's Series 9 notebook, for example (that one got 42sec and 50sec in the same tests with the same Intel CPU). The Gigabyte also showed it can perform multimedia tasks at a slightly faster clip, taking 17min 54sec to convert a DVD file to an MP4 using Handbrake.
The storage configuration proved to be very zippy as well. Using CrystalDiskMark, the Gigabyte's solid state system drive (SSD) recorded a read rate of 481 megabytes per second (MBps) and a write rate of 198MBps. In our file duplication tests, the drive averaged 132.5MBps, which is also very good. Perhaps the best part about the SSD is that it contributes towards a very quick overall boot time. From a cold boot, the notebook took only 9sec to get to the Windows 8 login screen. Resume time from sleep was around 3sec.
Fast graphics performance is what makes this notebook stand out from others in its class, though, and its GeForce GT 650M graphics adapter can be used to play most of the latest games quite capably. The only thing you'll need to be aware of is that some games will only run smoothly if you use a low resolution (the native resolution of the screen is 1600x900) and low-to-medium graphics details.
In 3DMark06, the notebook recorded 12111, which is 2.5 times better than a typical Ultabook with integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. In the latest 3DMark, a score of 6426 was recorded in the mid-range Cloud Gate test, which is about double what a typical Ultrabook with Intel HD 4000 graphics can get in this test. The tough test in the latest 3DMark is Fire Strike, and in this test the Gigabyte got 1212, which is excellent for a small laptop.
In our battery tests, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the laptop ran for 3hr 25min. We think this is good considering the screen is 14 inches and that the configuration of the laptop is so good. It will run a little longer if you lower the screen brightness and set up a sensible power management plan for idle times.
With such a potent configuration, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this model should have a price north of $1800, but it's actually quite well priced. We found plenty of stores online that sell it from between $1400 and $1500, which we think is very competitive for such a capable machine. It's worth nothing, though, that it's not exactly a premium machine. Its build quality is solid for the most part, and it looks stylish, but it doesn't do enough in these areas to warrant a premium tag.
Physically, the chassis is sturdy and it doesn't bend or creak. It's a notebook that's a pleasure to hold and it feels good against the skin when typing, but it's not refined. There is a dummy port located on the right side, which doesn't look good, while the left side has a cable lock facility located too far forward for our liking. The screen has a black frame stuck to it, which came apart a little on the right side and at the bottom. It's a very thin frame and we think Gigabyte has used it to help reduce the weight of the system — it's only 1.7kg, and it feels well balanced.
The keyboard is a bit of a rattler. In fact, the keyboard's home row, as well as a few other keys (backslash and Fn), stopped working shortly after we began testing it. Gigabyte told us to remove the keyboard tray, disconnect and reconnect its cables and try it again. That worked and we were able to type on the laptop without problems for the duration of our tests. We didn't mind the keyboard too much, but it could definitely stand to have keys that feel more solid, and a little smoother when pressed. They are backlit keys, which we love, and the light can be enabled by pressed the Fn key in combination with the space bar.
A touchpad that's 96x52mm is situated almost in the centre of the palm rest, and it's a touchpad that has a slightly rough texture. Some people who played with it were put off by the texture, but we didn't have a problem using it throughout our test period. The touchpad turned out to be very responsive and accurate, and the rough texture didn't really tickle our fingers too much. The touchpad supports Windows 8 swipe-in gestures, which were a little easy to activate inadvertently, but it's something we've seen on other laptops, too, not just this one.
One of the good things about this notebook's design is the screen, which has a matte finish rather than a glossy one. It's not prone to reflecting room light in an office or at home, but depending on your environment, you may still get a little glare that can be tempered by adjusting the screen's angle. Its brightness level is high enough to make it a decent screen for Web browsing and looking at photos. It's not a great quality screen, though, especially because its vertical viewing angles are narrow. We still had to adjust its tilt angle regularly depending on how we were sitting.
The chassis houses four USB ports (two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0), HDMI, separate microphone and headphone ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and there is even a VGA port for those of you who might want to use an older display device with it. It also has an SD card slot, in which SD cards stick halfway out.
Because of the way the chassis is designed, the battery is not easily replaceable — you have to pull the notebook apart to get to it. The only thing that's user serviceable is the RAM, for which an access panel can be removed to allow you to access two SO-DIMM slots. Our notebook had both slots occupied with 4GB modules.
There are a couple of fans located within the chassis to help keep the notebook cool, and they extract warm air through two vents at the rear. We found the notebook to run very cool overall, even after it had been used to crunch 3D graphics, although we don't recommend using it on your lap for prolonged periods if you are doing any 3D processing on it. For typical Web browsing, YouTube watching and typing, it was fine. The fans didn't make annoyingly loud noises, even under heavy processing loads, but they were audible even when the system was being used for Web browsing.
This notebook also comes with Bluetooth, single-band Wi-Fi, a webcam and there are a couple of speakers located just above the keyboard. The speakers are weak and only useful for basic listening (such as when someone sends you a link to a YouTube clip).
Gigabyte's U2442F is a very good notebook overall, and except for a couple of issues with its build quality, we think it's well worth considering. Its configuration is the stand-out feature and it's an Ultrabook that will leave many similar-sized competitors in the dust, especially when it comes to gaming. Indeed, if you're looking for a gaming machine that's an Ultrabook, or if you're just looking for a powerful Ultrabook in general, you should go for it. Just don't expect it to feel like a premium notebook. It is competitively priced, after all.
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