Gigabyte U2442 Ultrabook £1020

4th Sep 2012 | 16:04

Gigabyte U2442 Ultrabook

A promising 14-inch laptop, with big features

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Discrete graphics; HD+ Screen; No bloatware; Bonus features; Loads of RAM;

Dislike:

Poor keyboard; Only 128GB storage; Average speakers; Thick bezel; Boxy chassis;

Introduction

Gigabyte is a company best known for producing laptop components - until now, that is. The Gigabyte U2442 is a fully-fledged Ultrabook looking to make a splash in the western market. It's a risky move, going up against established products such as the Asus Zenbook Prime, Acer Aspire S5 or the Toshiba Satellite Z930. But believe us when we say this: the Gigabyte U2442 is very, very good.

A rundown of the features immediately marks it out as an Ultrabook: it's light, portable and uncompromising on power. To get more specific, it boasts discrete graphics, an HD+ resolution and 128GB SSD - not to mention the two-year manufacturer's warranty.

Gigabyte U2442 review

Better yet, the Gigabyte U2442 has been supplied to retailers with the suggested price of £1,020 (around $1,615), which isn't bad. But given that Gigabyte is a relatively unknown quantity, we could see some favourable pricing as retailers look to shift units. All of which is good for us.

Before you rush right out and buy one, however, we do have to point out that Gigabyte hasn't got everything right on the first try. The keyboard unfortunately suffers from a woeful lack of travel, and the thick bezel makes the 14-inch screen look smaller than it really should.

Gigabyte U2442 review

The chassis itself might divide opinion, since it's a little boxy and industrial - not a million miles away from the Sony Vaio T3. But, if you'll bear with us, we'll explain why Gigabyte is a company you should pay attention to from here on out.

Specifications

Our Gigabyte U2442 review model arrived sporting an Intel Core i5-3210M processor. We feel this more or less hits the sweet spot between performance and affordability. Particularly because our model also came packing a thumping 8GB RAM. Combine that with the 128GB SSD and you've got a particularly zippy little machine.

Graphics are handled by the Nvidia GeForce GT640M, which adds an extra 2GB of video memory and means you can actually use this Ultrabook for gaming. It'll have a tough time with the likes of Fifa 13, but discrete graphics on an Ultrabook are still something of a rarity.

Gigabyte U2442 review

If you plan to sit down to do a bit of HD video editing, though, you'll appreciate the extra power that comes from the Nvidia GPU.

Editing and watching HD content isn't a problem here either, with the screen supporting an HD+ 1600 x 900 pixel resolution. This keeps videos and games looking good, although the matt screen means the colour depth isn't quite as rich as with a glossy TFT coating.

Gigabyte U2442 review

It would have been nice to see a 1920 x 1080 resolution - which would really encroach on Asus Zenbook Prime territory - but this would raise the price noticeably. For the vast majority of us, the lack of a Full HD screen isn't something to worry too much about.

What is a bit more irritating is the chunky bezel around the edge of the screen. We know bezels can be thin - HP has shown us that - so if there is ever a follow-up to the U2442, Gigabyte might want to look into reducing it.

Gigabyte U2442 review

If you're of the mind to start adding peripherals and accessories, then you'll find the ports on the Gigabyte U2442 very much to your liking. Two of the four USB ports are USB 3.0 format, and you've also got both HDMI and VGA connections for adding extra monitors.

The Gigabit Ethernet and SD card slot round out the connectivity, and there's also a Kensington lock slot for keeping this Ultrabook safely stashed away when not in use.

When we put the Gigabyte U2442 through our benchmarks, it scored particularly well - easily challenging the top tier of Ultrabooks on results alone. Any ambiguity we felt with this machine certainly wasn't down to specifications.

Performance

Dealing with the negatives first, the keyboard on the Gigabyte U2442 really isn't very comfortable. The isolation-style keys are well-sized (ie big) but there's nothing by way of travel. We know the size of the chassis prevents deep keys, but other Ultrabooks have managed to make typing more comfortable than it is here.

Interestingly, though, the trackpad is well above average. The textured surface is different from the smooth brushed metal palm rest, and the single click bar wasn't stiff or unresponsive. It's a decent size, too, and Gigabyte has built in a neat feature whereby an extended press on the right click-button will give you an update on the battery status via the LED lights beneath the touchpad.

Gigabyte U2442 review

Look closely and you'll see a few of these little features sprinkled over the Gigabyte U2442. For example, next to the power button is a small settings hot key. Press it and the Gigabyte Smart Manager dashboard appears, enabling you to quickly adjust basic settings such as brightness, keyboard backlight or Wi-Fi.

Above the keyboard is the speaker grill, which puts out a reasonable, if not spectacular, level of sound. The RealTek High Definition audio technology is standard fare for laptops, and won't cause you any problems if you want to kick back with an album or three. Don't expect to fill the living room with your favourite party tracks, but playing music while you work isn't a problem at all.

Gigabyte U2442 review

The relatively small storage space means it might be worth investing in cloud storage or an external HDD, because although the flash-based SSD is quick, there's only so much you can do with 128GB.

Portability is one of the key areas of Ultrabook marketing, but unfortunately the Gigabyte U2442 only managed to last 161 minutes on its battery when we tested it. Other Ultrabooks usually score around the 200 minute mark, and we would have expected more here.

Gigabyte U2442 review

The chassis itself is well suited to being carried around for extended periods, thanks to the slim 20mm thickness and a bicep-friendly 1.7kg (3.75lbs) weight. The brushed metal "champagne gold" finish is attractive, although the criticism of being a bit on the boxy side could well be levelled at this machine.

An important caveat to buying this machine is that it arrives loaded with Windows 7. Given that Windows 8 is launching in October, you'd be forgiven for wanting to hold off for a couple of months. Options to upgrade will no doubt become available, but it's something to bear in mind if you're considering a purchase.

Gigabyte U2442 review

The good news is that the Gigabyte U2442 comes with absolutely minimal bloatware - it's about as native Windows as you can get.

Day-to-day this is an extremely accomplished Ultrabook, and just because it doesn't have one of the big names stamped across the front, doesn't mean it isn't worth a closer inspection.

Benchmarks
Cinebench 10: 10,880
3D Mark '06: 11,585
Battery Eater '05: 161 minutes

Verdict

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No-one ever gets it completely right first time, but the Gigabyte U2442 comes awfully close to delivering exactly what we're looking for in a contemporary Ultrabook. Adding the power through boosted RAM and extra graphics while keeping the chassis down to a slim and portable size is what this Ultrabook is about.

There are some nit-picks, mostly to do with the usability of the machine, but on the strength of this showing, Gigabyte has what it takes to run with the big boys.

We liked

This Ultrabook hits an excellent balance between power and affordability. The inclusion of discrete graphics and a load of RAM means performance is exceptional, while clever additions to the OS make day-to-day performance easy - even if you're new to computing.

The screen also deserves a mention for being well suited to both entertainment and work. During our time with the Gigabyte U2442, we were able to push it hard without it heating up or becoming noisy, and whether it was for light gaming or office work, this Ultrabook handled all our tasks.

We disliked

Certain aspects of the usability precluded this from being a solid gold classic. The keyboard benefits from a backlight but isn't as robust or comfortable as it could have been. And the screen suffers from an ugly-looking bezel.

If we had to fault the Gigabyte U2442 on entertainment credentials, it would be the integrated speakers. We don't place this too highly on our wish-list but it's an important feature that deserves a mention. Not only that, but the wisdom of spending £1,020 (around $1,615) on a new Ultrabook running Windows 7 right around the corner from a major update is questionable.

Final verdict

A very strong showing out of the blocks from Gigabyte, the Gigabyte U2442 Ultrabook has a lot to recommend it. Gamers and power users will appreciate the Nvidia graphics and 8GB RAM, while everyday users will respond well to the lack of bloatware and clever features such as Smart Manager.

It's true that both usability and style have been done better elsewhere on the Ultrabook scene. But the Gigabyte U2442 remains a powerful, portable Ultrabook that would do more than satisfy anyone who purchases it.

Gigabyte Ultrabooks TRBCExtra TRBCHardware TRBC
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