Gateway unwraps ‘sexy’ tablet notebook

The E-155C is Gateway’s nicest convertible tablet notebook yet.

The E-155C is Gateway’s nicest convertible tablet notebook yet.

The small dark unit is stylish, easy-to-use, and sturdily crafted. The price– US$1850 as of August 15, 2007, for our test unit–isn’t bad for this class of portable. But so long as Lenovo continues to make the better-running $2333 ThinkPad X61 Tablet, you’ll have to weigh whether saving a few hundred bucks is worth sacrificing performance and features for.

The E-155C’s look and feel are uncharacteristically sexy for a Gateway notebook, with a stylishly curved rear, an external battery gauge, a spring-loaded stylus, and a carbon fiber-reinforced keyboard.

The laptop’s weight is reasonable at 4.9 pounds including a 12.1-inch screen.

The screen’s metal-alloy uni-hinge makes it easy to swivel, but pushing in the lid latch to lock down the screen is an extra step that other tablets don’t require–though it’s pretty easy to do and takes only a couple of seconds.

Inputting data via the stylus is as smooth as silk; the display doubles as a touch screen, so you can use your finger if you prefer.

The tablet has a somewhat limited palette of features. You get only two USB ports, for instance, and no ExpressCard slot.

The E-155C also lacks the ThinkPad X61 Tablet’s ability to rotate the screen automatically between portrait and landscape orientations as you rotate the notebook.

The E-155C is somewhat sluggish, and its battery runs down much too fast for a note-taking device. Our test unit was equipped with a 1.06-GHz Core 2 Duo U7500 chip and 1GB of RAM, a shortcoming that resulted in a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 45. (You can purchase the E-155C with up to 4GB of RAM.)

Though moving through menus and jotting notes in the input panel seemed quick, the E-155C slows down more than the ThinkPad X61 Tablet when trying to accomplish tasks such as burning DVDs or working in multiple windows. Battery life (2.3 hours on a single charge) was the most disappointing aspect of the unit.

If you need an ultra-portable notebook that can also serve occasionally as a nice tablet, the E-155C is a good choice, assuming that you don’t mind carrying a power adapter. For heavy work or extended periods in the field, however, look for a convertible that offers better battery life.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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