Primarily known as a motherboard manufacturer, Gigabyte is determined to own the laptop space. Here at the CeBIT tradeshow, Hannover, the vendor is showing off a series of inexpensive laptops that it thinks will negate the need for Slate PCs such as the upcoming Apple iPad.
When is a Slate PC not a Slate PC? When it's an ultra-connected netbook, or ultraportable PC, with a docking station. At least that's what manufacturer Gigabyte is basing its 'year of notebooks' on.
Gigabyte has a range of products that a spokesman told us combine inexpensive price, 3G connectivity and a bundled docking station. This, Gigabyte says, improves the portable-computing experience beyond recognition.
The aim is to provide a desktop experience at home or in the office, and portability on the road, in some cases putting a second graphics card in the docking station. According to Gigabyte, that means that an inexpensive netbook could be your primary PC.
First, Gigabyte showed us the Gigabyte M1000 netbook. At first glance this is nothing new: a Windows 7-based netbook with a basic Intel Atom spec, 10.1in screen and up to 2GB RAM. 3G and Bluetooth come as standard, and there are a variety of colours and finishes. Input is noticeably impressive: a 90%-sized chiclet qwerty keyboard, and a multitouch track pad. But the M1000 gets interesting only when it is combined with Gigabyte's docking station.
In the case of the Gigabyte M1000, this means multiple monitor output, a battery meter and just about every connectivity port you can think of. The dock also charges the laptop. The whole bundle will cost only £239 inc VAT, and Gigabyte thinks that with full-sized PC peripherals and displays, it will replicate the performance of an entry-level Dell desktop PC.
Further up the scale is the Gigabyte M1305. This 13in thin-and-light laptop is aimed at the MacBook Air market, with an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 chip, and up to 4GB DDR3 RAM taking care of performance, and a 500GB hard drive for storage. There is fingerprint- and facial-recognition security, HDMI, DVI and D-Sub connectivity, and sharp, high-end styling.
In this case the docking station includes a discrete graphics setup: an Nvidia GeForce GT220 chip. This allows users to travel light, enjoying decent portable performance, and then hook up to multiple monitors at home, and play games. We had a go at 3D gaming on the M1305, and were really impressed with the results. The M1305 and docking station will cost from £899 when it becomes available in the UK in April, putting it well within the reach of fans of the MacBook Air: a product it resembles.
Gigabyte makes all these products itself, from Gigabyte-manufactured components, which it says allows it to keep costs down.