In a growing market for Ultra Mobile Personal Computers (UMPC), the trend has always been to provide a functional system with the least amount of bulk possible. To that end, Gigabyte has joined the ranks of Fujitsu and Sony by coming up with their very own UMPC called the Gigabyte U60 that lets consumers take their mobile lifestyle with them wherever they may be.
A Byte of the UMPC
There's virtually no chance of anyone mistaking the Gigabyte U60 as anything other than an UMPC because of all the telling attributes such as styling, dimensions and proportion – though some might think of it as a portable media player at first glance.
Measuring in at 190(W) x 120.8 (D) x 28.3 (H) mm, the Gigabyte U60 fulfills the portability criteria, but it is not as light as we had hoped. At 740g, it is a tad on the weighty side, not to mention that it gets fairly top heavy device when users push the screen up to gain access to the QWERTY keyboard lying underneath. With the QWERTY keyboard exposed, maintaining a firm grip can be a little tricky, especially when the Gigabyte U60 is held with just one hand. In this regard, both the Fujitsu U1010 and VAIO UX series of UMPCs have a definite handling advantage over the Gigabyte U60.
With a screen size of 6.5 inches that has a maximum resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, the Gigabyte U60 is comfortable enough for web applications and light office productivity. Although we found higher resolutions such as 1024 x 600 and 1280 x 768 were supported, fonts were completely illegible. As such, it's advised that you stick with the native WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) resolution. Also not recommended is outdoor use of the Gigabyte U60, as the display was found wanting even under mild sunlight.
Basic navigation on the Gigabyte U60 is done via a four-directional keypad that's escorted by a left and right mouse button. The two mouse buttons work well in tandem with the touchpad, which proved to be a well conceived implementation as we managed to get around without using the keyboard most of the time. Of course, one can also utilize the touch screen interface with the stylus located at the back of the Gigabyte U60. Gaining access to the QWERTY keyboard is an effortless process of simply sliding up the LCD screen that rests on two sliding tracks. However, due to its compact dimensions, the keys had to be built small and as a result, typing is not immediately intuitive. Even though there is a stand at the back of the Gigabyte U60, it doesn't make it any easier to perform character input. It is however, useful in letting users enjoy hands free video content as it lets the Gigabyte U60 sit at a tilted angle with the screen facing users.
Docked and Loaded
It may be a UMPC but the Gigabyte U60 has a good set of connectivity and input/output options to offer. You can expect to find two USB jacks, a SD card slot, built-in microphone, earphone out, and VGA out for external display. Of course, if these aren't enough for you, there's always the option of purchasing an external docking station that adds on four more USB slots, a speaker out and an Ethernet port for high speed network access through wired networks.
Naturally, battery power is more important than absolute computing performance where UMPCs are concerned. This is why you'll find the Gigabyte U60 equipped with a VIA Esther ULC C7-M (1.0Ghz, 400Mhz, 128KB L2) processor. It's certainly not the fastest but with 768MB of DDR2-533 RAM fitted to run the preloaded Windows XP Home Edition, the Gigabyte U60 managed to be pretty responsive. Common applications such as Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player and Office Applications did not take an unusually long time to be fired up.
With its 802.11b+g WLAN connectivity, one can enjoy wireless web browsing, music and movie playback for up to two hours, which is what a UMPC such as the Gigabyte U60 is all about. Unfortunately, there was a rather unsettling issue of heat when the Gigabyte U60 was used for more than an hour. Though there are two ventilation channels located at the bottom, the heat dissipation rate was not efficient enough to cool down the handheld to return a more comfortable usage experience.
Locally, the UMPC market is experiencing a slow growth. It helps that big brands such as Fujitsu and Sony are continuing to push for greater awareness of UMPCs and the mobile lifestyle these handy devices have had to offer, but UMPC is still widely regarded as a niche device. Gigabyte’s track record in the IT industry may just help the U60 gain quick recognition in terms of quality and price, but we reckon more work is required in the design department, not forgetting an improvement to the Gigabyte U60's ventilation system. At a price of S$1549 (~US$1029), you'll find the Gigabyte U60 to be an affordable UMPC with decent computing performance to let you take your Internet lifestyle outdoors – if you can look beyond its uninspiring design.