Gigabyte N512 Review

The Gigabyte N512 is a very powerful and versatile laptop that should appeal to a large number of people.
The Gigabyte N512 is a very powerful and versatile laptop that should appeal to a large number of people.
The Gigabyte N512 is a very powerful and versatile laptop that should appeal to a large number of people.

Highs

  • Very fast; system memory is upgradeable to 2GB; very reliable

Lows

  • Does not have a widescreen display; DVD writer or Gigabit ethernet is not an option

Summary

The Gigabyte N512 is a very powerful and versatile laptop that should appeal to a large number of people. Gamers will be drawn to this system because of the ATI Radeon 9600 graphics adapter and the 512MB of system memory. Multimedia enthusiasts will be turned on by the plethora of USB and FireWire inputs as well as the media card reader, as long as a widescreen display is not necessary. And of course the everyday user will be happy with the longevity this system should provide them. The Intel processor is fast, the system memory is upgradeable, it has 802.11b/g WiFi capability and the LCD display is easy on the eyes and very vibrant at the same time.

Gigabyte has done a wonderful job giving the user everything they need to get going. They include an attractive laptop bag as well as a small wireless laptop mouse. The instruction manual is easy to read and they provide a warranty that appears to rival the competition, although the tech support phone number is not toll-free. If you are willing to break the mold and try a system from a company not known for its laptops, the N512 is definitely a system worth checking out.

The Gigabyte N512 is not currently available in the U.S. as of today, but you should be able to purchase it by contacting Gigabyte via their website. As soon as we find a retailer that sells this system, we will update our “buy now” link.

Introduction

The notebook market is heating up and it seems like every one wants a piece of the action. Not to be outdone, Taiwan based PC component manufacturer Gigabyte has introduced several new notebooks to their already broad range of products. Today we are reviewing their N512 laptop computer which features a powerful Intel Pentium M 1.7GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics adapter. This is the first Gigabyte laptop we have tested and if the N512 is indicative of the rest of their line then this is a company that deserves your attention.

Features and Design

When Gigabyte first approached us and wanted us to review their new N512 laptop, we were pretty hesitant. With it being the holiday season, our plate was already pretty full with product reviews, and since we have not worked with Gigabyte in the past, we felt an obligation to pass on the opportunity in favor of other products. Thankfully we decided to give in and review the N512, because it has so much to offer on so many different levels.

The pictures of the N512 on Gigabyte’s website do not do it justice; making the system look thicker and blander in appearance than it really is. This just isn’t the case. With the exception to the back of the system where the battery is, the whole system is bathed in a shiny silver paint giving it a very upscale look. And with the system only being about an inch tall it looks like it could be made by Apple from a distance. Of course the Apple PowerBooks come with a real magnesium case and a wide-screen display but Gigabyte does a good job duplicating the styling.

Gigabyte N512
The Gigabyte N512 has a stylish design

Powering the N512 is Intel’s new Dothan based Pentium M CPU running at 1.7GHz and Intel’s Centrino chipset. Our test system came with 512MB of DDR memory but you can choose to upgrade the system for a total of 2GB of RAM – more than most laptops. Gigabyte chose to ditch the Intel integrated graphics chip in favor of ATI’s Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics adapter which we think is a smart decision. The N512 also comes with 4 USB 2.0 ports, 1 FireWire port, a PC Card and MMC/SD media card slot and a DVD/CD-ROM combo drive. Two things we were very happy to see on this system is the gorgeous 15-inch SXGA+ TFT display with a max resolution of 1400×1500, and the integrated 802.11b/g WiFi. We were disappointed to see no DVD writers or gigabit Ethernet as an option though. The N512 comes with only a few software programs which is what we like. Included is Power DVD, Easy CD Creator, Xpress Recovery and Norton Antivirus.

Some of the little touches we like about this system are the laptop bag and wireless mouse that Gigabyte includes. It makes you feel like you have everything covered. Gigabyte gives the N512 a year long warranty which covers everything but the battery which only has a 6 month warranty. Their tech support number is not toll-free so you are footing the bill if you call them.

Performance

The N512 is a very fast system, probably one of the fastest laptops we have seen to date. It is also a very quiet system especially for how much hardware is under the hood. This is no doubt due to the low voltage Pentium M processor and Centrino chipset. If you do decide to charge the laptop while it’s sitting on your laptop, you will notice an increase in the amount of heat that is put off though. In all of our benchmarking tests the N512 outperformed similarly equipped systems from Sony and Gateway. This includes a Mobile Mark performance rating of 161 and a 32-bit 3dMark 2001 score of 10,280 points far exceeding the Sony A160 system we reviewed earlier in the year. Battery life was admirable on the N512 as the system was able to squeeze out over 4 hours of juice (257 minutes) before running out. We had the screen brightness at the halfway point during the battery test to emulate the laptop/portable power settings.

System Configurations:

Gigabyte N512
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M (Dothan); 512MB DDR SDRAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 Graphics; 30GB HDD

Gateway M320XL
Windows XP Home; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR; Integrated Intel graphics with 32MB UMA memory technology ; 80GB 4200rpm Ultra ATA hard drive

Sony VAIO VGN-A160
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 64MB;  80GB Hard Drive

Setup and Testing

Our test system came with Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 installed. During your setup process you should only have to deal with the questions Windows will ask you during your first boot up. These include questions about your network, internet connection and users that will be on the system. We were happy to see that Gigabyte did not put a ton of trial software on the system, they give you a few necessities and leave it at that. Norton Antivirus is a great program to help keep virus’s off your system, PowerDVD will allow you to watch DVD movies on the system and Roxio’s Easy CD Creator will let you rip and burn audio CD’s on the N512. For regular music playback we recommend you just upgrade Windows Media Player to version 10 from the Windows Update site and use that program.

Argumentatively one of the most important aspects of a laptop is the LCD screen and one of the first things we look at when we turn on the system. The LCD display on the N512 is not as good looking as the Xbrite displays used on the Sony systems, but it is better than most systems we have seen. Our N512 test system came with the resolution set at 1400×1500 which is pretty amazing for a laptop. Most systems we have seen come with a 1024×768 or 1280×1024 max resolution. Hardcore users will love the amount of desktop space you can get at 1400×1500, but others may want to turn the resolution down. Backlighting of the LCD display is pretty much even from all sides, with a slighter brightness on the bottom which is only noticeable from certain angles.

The touchpad and scroll buttons work very well and we did not have any issues with how they performed. The keyboard layout and key size is also pretty nice, not too large or small and the keys give a nice click feel when they are being used which is similar to the way an IBM ThinkPad keyboard feels. There are only two hot buttons on the system with one going to the default e-mail program and the other to the help section of Windows. Some cool little things we found are audio controls as the secondary function on the F keys.

The N512 is a very fast system, probably one of the fastest laptops we have seen to date. It is also a very quiet system especially for how much hardware is under the hood. This is no doubt due to the low voltage Pentium M processor and Centrino chipset. If you do decide to charge the laptop while it’s sitting on your laptop, you will notice an increase in the amount of heat that is put off though. In all of our benchmarking tests the N512 outperformed similarly equipped systems from Sony and Gateway. This includes a Mobile Mark performance rating of 161 and a 32-bit 3dMark 2001 score of 10,280 points far exceeding the Sony A160 system we reviewed earlier in the year. Battery life was admirable on the N512 as the system was able to squeeze out over 4 hours of juice (257 minutes) before running out. We had the screen brightness at the halfway point during the battery test to emulate the laptop/portable power settings.

Conclusion

The Gigabyte N512 is a very powerful and versatile laptop that should appeal to a large number of people. Gamers will be drawn to this system because of the ATI Radeon 9600 graphics adapter and the 512MB of system memory. Multimedia enthusiasts will be turned on by the plethora of USB and FireWire inputs as well as the media card reader, as long as a widescreen display is not necessary. And of course the everyday user will be happy with the longevity this system should provide them. The Intel processor is fast, the system memory is upgradeable, it has 802.11b/g WiFi capability and the LCD display is easy on the eyes and very vibrant at the same time.

Gigabyte has done a wonderful job giving the user everything they need to get going. They include an attractive laptop bag as well as a small wireless laptop mouse. The instruction manual is easy to read and they provide a warranty that appears to rival the competition, although the tech support phone number is not toll-free. If you are willing to break the mold and try a system from a company not known for its laptops, the N512 is definitely a system worth checking out.

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