Gateway breaks the mold with the introduction of the E-155C Convertible PC by being among the very few companies to offer two distinct Tablet PCs. The CX210 holds the spot of high-powered desktop replacement tablet, while the newly introduced E-155C fills the ultra-portable niche. Read on to see how the Gateway E-155C’s features stack up.
*Editors Note – The E-155C is the business model and the C-120X is the consumer model. The E-155C comes with XP Tablet Edition (instead of Vista), a 60GB hard drive (instead of 80GB), Symantect anti-virus (instead of McAfee) and a 3 year warranty (instead of 1-year). Both are sold directly from their website.
Design and Features
The Gateway E-155C (aka C-120X) serves as both a new laptop series and a fresh new look for the company’s offerings. While the CX210/M285 remains available, many people will be put off by the heavy weight and large size. At the same time, this heavyweight is attractive for those who still want the fastest processors and largest tablet screen available. The E-155C “Thin & Light Convertible” offers an ultra-low voltage processor to reduce battery drain and heat. Many users find their most natural use for a Tablet PC is on-the-go note taking and reference (like a PDA on steroids) and for this type of use, the E-155C fits the bill.
The first thing we noticed when we unpacked our unit was the solid build quality. One thing we always worry about with a PC that will likely be mishandled more often than other PCs, is making sure the system is solid. Out of the box, you get the basics: PC, power cord, battery, stylus, replacement tips, and software CDs. The E-155C offers the usual ports. Along the left side we have the VGA output, dock connector, gigabit Ethernet, PC Card slot, 6-in-1 card reader, and stylus holder. The front surface is home only to the latch release. The right side contains two USB ports, FireWire, CD+/-RW, headphone and microphone ports. Power, modem, and Kensington lock slots are located in the back. The standard battery also features a meter that doesn’t require the laptop to power on in order to check battery life. Around the touch-sensitive screen, you’ll find the power button, lock, screen rotation, Windows Mobility Center (for Vista), wireless on/off, enter, and back buttons, along with the built-in dual mics and fingerprint scanner. The black and silver motif is classy and conservative, accented by a dark brushed metal finish around the keyboard.
Base features include the 12.1” WXGA LCD with sunlight readability filter and ambient light sensor, which was pretty clear during both indoor and outdoor viewing. Outdoor viewing was especially clear for a laptop, though, as expected, colors were significantly washed out. The onboard Intel GMA950 won’t win any F.E.A.R. matches, but then again, this isn’t a gaming machine. The only processor option is the Core 2 Duo ULV U7500, clocked at 1.06GHz. We found the processor to be capable of most applications, though there was some borderline significant lag on OneNote during digitizing. Ram is under-clocked to 533 MHZ to reduce power consumption, and offered at up to 3GB (our model had 1GB). Hard drive offerings max out at 120GB, and there is an option to upgrade the CD-RW drive to a DVD-RW one. Rounding out the configuration is Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11a/b/g. It should be noted that as an option, this system includes Windows XP Tablet Edition, which does not support many of the tablet enhancements available in Vista. We recommend that you stick with Windows Vista. If Bill Gates uses a Tablet PC for his day-to-day computing, you know he added his two bits on what could be improved, and people hopped to it. Overall, the E-155C scored a 3.1 in the Windows Experience Index, which isn’t horrible, but could be improved upon.
The Gateway E155/C-120X
Using the Touch Screen
There are several features worth noting that exhibit Gateway’s mature perspective on the tablet field. First, the screen is both touch-sensitive and can be used with the stylus. This is incredibly convenient when quickly referencing documents. The screen is able to tell the difference between fingers and the stylus and will automatically switch to the correct cursor in response. Touching your finger to the screen results in a translucent image of a mouse appearing, complete with left and right buttons. To click, you can either tap the screen or tap on the image of the left or right buttons for their respective functions. The accuracy of the touch sensitivity is a little rough, and required a little more pressure than we expected. But, we’ve grown up with the manta of “never touch the screen,” so breaking that computing commandment is tough. The Wacom stylus offers pressure sensitivity and a light bodyweight. Our favorite feature, missing from the CX210, is the ability to flip the stylus over to automatically activate the eraser. That’s right, just like a pencil and paper. The fingerprint scanner is tied to a Trusted Platform Module, and the BIOS integrated Computrace anti-theft system.
Using the touch screen with a finger
Gateway ditched the substandard fine point stylus system for the much more mature and functional Wacom system. The screen hinge flips to secure the screen when in portrait mode, which feels very secure and not prone to detaching. Additionally, the screen hinge feels very sturdy and glides in both directions (+/-180 degrees), the smoothest of any tablet we have seen. The speakers are located slightly behind the screen when in landscape (or “laptop”) mode, which prevents them from being covered when the system is flipped into portrait mode. The fingerprint scanner located at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen doubles as a scrolling device. Once logged in, the user can quickly scroll through documents like a scroll wheel mouse. The microphone is also located along the frame of the screen and seems to have improved sound pickup over the CX210. The lack of ports on the front surface is to prevent accidental button pressing and port stress when holding the PC in portrait mode. The stylus is ejected by pressing in the end, and the mechanism feels solid, though a little touchy.
Part of the speakers stick out when the lid is closed
We got about 2-¾ hours out of the system with regular use, and 1-¾ hours with DVD playback. Under high use, with both Wi-Fi on and power-saving features disabled, we got only 1-¼ hours of juice. Buyers should seriously consider the 6-cell battery pack and upgrading the RAM to 2GB, which will prevent memory swapping to the hard drive.
Size and Weight
Many people judge the size of a laptop by the size of the screen, which is generally a good measurement. However, for tablets, there is the added size of the screen frame, which houses several buttons and fingerprint scanner. Add to that the extension of the speakers past the screen, and you have a slightly beefy setup. The optical drive adds to the thickness and probably should have been left out in favor of an external USB option. Weighing in at 4.5 pounds, the E-155C has more the feel of a 13.3” laptop when it comes to comparable non-tablet systems. The increased screen dimensions do give the industrial design guys and gals some space to expand the keyboard, which didn’t feel too cramped. Key responsiveness was good, with adequate tactile feedback and travel distance.
The keyboard is surrounded by a brushed aluminum plate
The E-155C is a great addition to the tablet PC world, and exhibits a solid evolution in Gateway’s approach to tablet design. The machine feels solid, offers many advanced features, and fits the bill for those in need of a second machine. While the price is a little high, the machine is worth it. We should caution that anyone in need of number-crunching power should consider other options, and for those considering the E-155C, be sure to upgrade to Vista in order to take advantage of all the features this laptop has to offer.
• Excellent responsiveness from digitizer
• Touch-sensitive screen
• Solid build quality
• Integrated fingerprint scanner
• Slightly large for an ultra-portable
• Average computing performance