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Taiwanese PC hardware manufacturer Gigabyte is best known for motherboards and graphics cards, but also has a stable of notebooks, to which it has recently added an extremely slim and lightweight 11.6-inch ultrabook — the lightest you'll find anywhere at the moment, the company claims.
Clearly the X11's light-but-strong carbon fibre chassis underlies Gigabyte's ability to edge out the 11.6in. competition on weight — just as Lenovo's X1 Carbon does in the 14in. ultrabook market. Like the Macbook Air, the X11 tapers to pointy 3mm at the front, with a maximum thickness of 16.5mm (just inside the Air's 17mm). The X11 certainly feels featherlight in the hand, while the 'woven' finish to the lid looks classy — although the shiny surface does pick up fingerprints. The X11's footprint is roughly A4-size: 29.7cm wide by 19.2cm deep.
Our review unit was a pre-production sample, but it felt well-built, with no undue flex in any of the key areas, a subdued but stylish look and feel, and solid hinges that keep the screen where it's put.
Features Our review unit was powered by a 2GHz third-generation (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core i7-3667U processor supported by 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Storage is provided by a fast 128GB SATA III (6Gbps) solid-state drive. Further capacity can be added via a microSD card slot — an unusual choice on a notebook, but handy for swapping files with a smartphone.
Graphics are handled by the CPU-integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, while the operating system is Windows 7 Home Premium — the Professional version is also available though.
The 11.6in. LED-backlit display has a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels — the same as the MacBook Air. It's quite glossy, which is not to some tastes, but the image quality is good, with rich colours, good contrast and good viewing angles — particularly in the horizontal plane. The screen has a solid alloy hinge that travels back to an angle of about 135 degrees. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera in the usual mid-top-bezel location.
The isolation-style keyboard feels solid, and the keys give decent tactile feedback. The spacebar on our review sample only registered if hit in the centre, but hopefully that's just a pre-production issue. One or two keyboard layout elements take some getting used to: the large Shift key can get pressed when you're looking for the smaller Enter key above it; also, the system's power button is an ordinary-looking key next to Delete, which again could end up being pressed accidentally if you're not careful. Elsewhere, the shiny metal strip running between the screen hinges can prove distracting if you're working with bright overhead lighting. Finally, we'd appreciate a keyboard backlight.
The large buttonless multitouch touchpad, from Sentelic, works well and the driver has plenty of configuration options.
Space for ports and connectors is limited on such a slimline system. The aforementioned microSD slot is on the right-hand side, alongside a microphone/headphone combo jack and a USB 2.0 port. The left-hand side has a Mini-DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port and the power input jack.
Conenctivity is all wireless — 2.4GHz (802.11b/g/n) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 — because, as on most ultrabooks, there's no integrated RJ-45 Ethernet port.
Performance & battery life The Gigabyte X11's Windows Experience Index (WEI) is 5.8 (out of 7.9), this rating being determined by the lowest component score, which is for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). The other component scores range from 5.9 for Memory (RAM) to an unimprovable 7.9 for Primary hard disk (Disk transfer rate):
The weakest link in the X11's armoury is clearly its CPU-integrated Intel graphics. This is borne out by the Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL test, where it scores 15.7 frames per second (fps) compared to 49fps for the Eurocom Monster's powerful Nvidia GeForce GT650M:
The Cinebench CPU test also shows up the difference between the X11's dual-core Core i7-3667U processor and the Eurocom Monster's top-end quad-core Core i7-3920XM Extreme Edition, with respective scores of 2.52 and 6.43. (Note that the Monster is a class-leading 11.6in. performer that costs some £600 [ex. VAT] more than the Gigabyte X11.)
To estimate battery life we measured the X11's power consumption when idling and when loaded (running Passmark Software's Performance Test 7), under the system's High Performance and Power Saver power management schemes. Dividing the wattage (recorded using a Voltcraft VC940 Plus multimeter) into the X11 battery's 35Wh gives an expected battery life figure in hours:
On this basis, you can expect the X11 to last for between 6 hours and 1.5 hours, depending on the workloads you're throwing at it. Clearly, this isn't a notebook that's going to get you through a full working day away from a source of mains power.
Our X11 review unit didn't get unduly warm in use, but the noise from the fan, which has a couple of slim vents at the back, is noticeable when the system is working hard.
Conclusion With a stampede of slimline Windows 8 notebooks on the way, Gigabyte's "lightest ultrabook on Earth" claim may not last very long. Even so, the X11 looks good and performs well for a system with integrated graphics, although battery life is slightly disappointing. It's currently available for preorder on Amazon UK for £1,099 (inc. VAT; £915.83 ex. VAT).