One of the axioms of tablet computing is: good things come in small packages.
This may have not gone unnoticed by Gateway, which just introduced a new convertible notebook called the E-155C.
There’s a lot I like about the E-155C beginning with its size, which is quite alot smaller than the company’s previous line of convertibles,--notab;y the M210 which were based on a larger (14-inch screen) and heavier hull.
This is a very functional notebook with an above average feature set and a design that should satisfy tablet purists. At less than two inches deep and weighing only 4.5 pounds, it nests quite comfortably in your hand if you’re accustomed to using a tablet computer like a paper notebook.
I like the digitizer on the E-155C, which is versatile enough to accept finger-based input. The 12.1-inch wide view screen is bright enough to be used in dimly lit lecture halls without undue eye strain. I also liked the responsiveness of this convertible’s screen which I believe to be above average.
Gateway supplied me with a preproduction Vista-based machine. It was equipped with 2MB of system memory (the minimum required for an experience that’s optimized for Vista’s Aero interface), A 1.06 GHz low power Intel Core2 Duo processor and Intel 945 chipset. An 80 GB hard disk drive was included in the system I tested, which costs $2,073. Larger hard disks drives are available with the E-155C.
Like most of today’s tablets, the E-155C has three USB ports (two USB1.0 and one smaller, USB 2.0 female recepticles. Other external connections include a local area network port, external video, and audio jacks. An optical CDRW/DVD drive is included with the 155C. So is a 6-in-one card reader and an open Type II PCMCIA slot. It also ships standard with a finger print reader.
I put the E-155C through its paces over a five-day period that included two four-hour sessions in college classes. One of my classrooms has a well-deserved reputation of being a ”wireless vampire” (because of all the steel rebar contained in its walls and because the wireless access point aren’t strategically located). Having said that, I had no difficult y finding, attaching and staying connected to the network from a seat about 150 feet away from the access point. I was also able to connect to the campus WiFi network from my favorite bench underneath a California live oak, near the student cafeteria. Indoors and outdoors, the E-155C worked flawlessly and it’s wide screen, 12-inch panel has the power and contrast to make help this convertible earn the sobriquet of a “use anywhere anytime” notebook.
I also think the fit, finish and construction of Gateway’s newest convertible contrtibute to this sobriquet.
It’s single screen hinge has the stiffness and durability I think is required in a convertible notebook. It’s solid enough to keep users focused on lectures and keep them from fiddling with its screen position. Once I adjusted the screen –in keyboard or tablet mode--or while watching videos, it never strayed from that position. No hinge creep whatsoever.
Overall, I was impressed with the E-155c’s throughput, the responsiveness of its screen and it’s solid basic feature set and it’s price.
There are a couple noteworthy points I need to bring up in my review of the E-155C. First, battery life could be better. The four-cell battery pack only gave me 2.5 hours of power when optimized for power conservation. Also, I think the keyboard used on this notebook feels, “soft,” although I don’t mind pounding on it hour after hour. The upside of the keyboard is a soft vinyl palm rest and the position of its trackpad, (offset enough to avoid accidentally sending the cursor to places unknown by carelessly positioning a thumb when you’re typing on its keyboard. Finally, the internal speakers and audio volume leave something to be desired (although the headphones and small external speakers I carry in my back pack solved that problem and it passed my “Freebird” subjective audio test quite handily).
Except for the three minor noted points the E-155C is robust enough for just about anything I could throw at it. Based on my experience, I recommend buying the optional six-cell lithium battery pack with this system, which adds $40 to the price. An additional $59.00 gets you an extended service plan, which should calm any Nervous Nellies.
As convertible user, accustomed to near continuous connectivity, I used Google spreadsheet and docs, as well as I-lighter as my primary applications on this machine. As long as I could make t an Internet connection, I was able to access my apps and drive-in-the sky data. This strategy saves me money, and although it’s dependent on connectivity, it works very well for me, even on slow speed dial-up. My experience with the E-155C succeeded here.
With a travel weight of just over five pounds, and rock solid construction, The Gateway E-155C is a great yeoman’s convertible notebook. It’s light enough to be toted in a backpack on or off campus and versatile and inexpensive enough to meet the requirements of students, teachers or anyone who needs the functionality of a tablet computer that can be used for keyboard or pen input and may be on a budget. The company that made cow patterned shipping boxes popular has come through again.—Jim Forbes, 04/30/2007
Photo courtesy of gateway