Gigabyte G-Max N411 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (10,146)

Gigabyte is probably best known for being a manufacturer of computer motherboards.  An area in which it competes against such companies as Asus and MSI.  Lately though, all three of these major motherboard manufacturers have been getting into the OEM notebook manufacturing market.  Asus was the first to jump into this area and has been active selling its own branded notebooks worldwide for quite some time now.  Gigabyte has now decided to make a major push with a worldwide release of its G-Max N411 14″ screen Centrino notebook.

GigaByte N411 Spec as Received:

  • Intel Pentium M 1.7 GHz w /Intel 855GME/ICH4-M chipset
  • 512MB of DDR 333MHz  memory in one of two memory slots (2GB max)
  • Intel Extreme Graphics 2  DVMT(Dynamic Video Memory Technology) up to 64MB (shared)
  • 14″ WXGA (1280×768) Glare Type Color TFT LCD
  • 9.5mm extra slim DVD-COMBO
  • 60GB 4200rpm hard drive also available in 40GB
  • 56k v.92 Fax/modem
  • Intel 10/100 Mbps Ethernet LAN
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG wireless network card
  • Full-duplex 16-bit stereo speaker w/wavetable support, compatible w/AC97 2.2, built-in speakers.
  • Ports: 1×1394(firewire), 2x USB 2.0,3 in 1 card reader support MS/MMC/SD, VGA out, mono mini microphone jack, stereo mini headphone jack
  • Full-sized 86-key keyboard w/ windows system hot-keys and 3 programmable hot-keys
  • Weight 5.02 lbs with battery
  • Size (WxHxD) 325mm x 244mm x 23~29mm

Full spec sheet can be found at: http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Notebook/Products/Products_N411.htm

Design and Build

The G411 measures in at 12.8″ x 9.6″ x 0.9″~1.1″ (width x depth x thickness) and weighs approximately 5.1 pounds.  So the N411 is not a thin-and-light notebook per se, as the IBM ThinkPad T40 series of 14″ screen notebooks is, but neither is it big enough to qualify as a full-blown desktop replacement style notebook. If pushed on where to classify this notebook, I would say the Gigabyte N411’s design favors those that need a desktop replacement notebook — but still want a bit of mobility and don’t necessarily need all the power the latest desktop computer can provide. The size of the N411 gives it the advantage of being small and light enough to be able to travel from one location to another, but the weight and overall size is a bit limiting if you want to use this notebook during that travel, such as on a flight. In other words, it’s easier to carry around than say a Dell 8600 or Toshiba M45 notebook, but it is not as easy to use as an HP DV1000 or ThinkPad T40 notebook while on the go.

N411 top-view (view larger image)

This notebook is fairly well built, but the case is certainly not the thickest nor most protective stuff in the world as it is simply made of only a thick plastic material.  It’s not on par with a Panasonic ToughBook or IBM ThinkPad in terms of build, those laptops are in a league by themselves when it comes to build quality.  However, the N411 is not as thin and chintzy feeling as some of the budget laptops out there.  I would recommend not giving this laptop a drop test though, I’m not so sure the case would protect a 3-foot + fall.

N411 back-view (view larger image)

N411 right-view (view larger image)

N411 left-view (view larger image)

Visually, I personally don’t find the N411 all that attractive. Not that it is ugly by any means, but the color is an off-white, something I’m not used to in a notebook. The ribbed/ridge like top gives it an interesting look and seperates it from the looks of the rest of the crowd.  It looks more like an Apple notebook than a PC, which may actually appeal to some people I suppose.  There is no latch that locks the notebook lid in a closed position. It has what I would call a latching hinge, when the notebook gets within about inch of being closed the spring tension on the latch increases and closes the lid. I liked the power button as well as the three programmable buttons on the keyboard; they have a nice chrome look and solid feel.

N411 front-view (view larger image)

N411 bottom-view (view larger image)

Keyboard

N411 keyboard (view larger image)

The Keyboard of the N411, in my opinion, is right up there with the IBM ThinkPad that is well renowned for its fantastic keyboard layout and feel. The keys when depressed give a nice quiet key click and the feel is great. One thing I did notice is the keys are semi-transparent so you can see through the keys a little bit. Some people may think this makes the keyboard look cheap, but in my opinion I think this look is kind of cool…and another lesson in not judging a book by its cover (or a notebook by the look of its keys!)

Touchpad

I think Gigabyte could have put more effort into the design of the touchpad.  The touchpad is a little bit small overall, making it particularly hard for those with big fingers to navigate a cursor on the screen using this device.  The buttons below the touchpad are also on the smallish side. The preproduction N411 unit I had suffered from a mild problem with the right touchpad button. I had to use a little more force on the right button than was necessary on the adjacent left mouse button.  Since I use this right mouse button a lot to right click and open the context menu it was a rather bothersome problem for me. I’m sure little bugs like this will be worked out by the time they go to market.

Sound

The sound from the notebook is more than adequate, unless you’re a big gamer and looking for a lot of bass and desire a subwoofer.  As we always say in our reviews, if you want really good sound then buy a set of external speakers.

Display

N411 14-inch screen (view larger image)

The display of the N411 is nice and bright with lots of contrast. Text shows up very crisp on the notebook’s 1280×768 WXGA display. The surface of the display has a high gloss finish that causes some reflections when indoors. Many of you will be familiar with the look of screens from Sony, Toshiba and Fujitsu that have a similar high contrast, bright and glossy finish.  Sony’s XBrite, Toshiba’s TruBrite and HP’s BrightView screen options all sport the same style of screen that this N411 does.  It seems that a majority of people enjoy this extra bright screen look.  Due to its brightness the display works well outdoors and is usable in such light. I didn’t notice any ghosting while watching a DVD movie on this screen, no dead pixels either.  The N411 will serve you well as a portable DVD player as well as notebook.

Battery Performance

The battery life, in my opinion, falls a little short of what I would hope for in a notebook using the Pentium M processor with Centrino technology. I configured the notebook for max battery life (which clocked back the CPU speed a fair amount) as well as turned the display down to about 75% and I was able to get 3 hours of use. This is something they need to work on as a 14-inch screen centrino notebook should be capable of more than 4 hours when using the power saving modes.

Pros

  • Very easy access to memory, hard drive and wireless cards
  • High contrast, display that can even be used outdoors.
  • Very nice keyboard
  • Media slot for most major flash memory card types (except compact flash).
  • Good software bundle
  • Very nice wireless range
  • Firewire/1394 port
  • Runs fairly cool, with little fan use. (in max battery modes)

Cons

  • Does not have a pointing stick/eraser head.
  • High gloss LCD display can be a minus to some.
  • No serial or parallel port
  • No PCMCIA slots
  • No physical latch to hold notebook closed.

Conclusions

I have enjoyed using the N411 notebook over the past few weeks. I’m not counting the sticky touchpad button as a complaint for this notebook because I’m sure most don’t have this defect. What I like most about the N411 is the keyboard, it very much so reminds me of my ThinkPad’s keyboard (which is very good).  To me the keyboard, if you do a lot of typing like I do, is the most important interface on a notebook. The display was very easy on the eyes with its clear crisp text. The one thing I do need to mention is the fact that the N411 does not have any PCMCIA slots. These slots are used by many of us as a way to expand the capabilities of our notebooks, I know I use mine on an almost daily basis to read my compact flash cards with the PCMCIA-compact flash adaptor. Hopefully future notebooks from GigaByte will include PCMCIA slots in them. I think this notebook if priced competitively will do well here in the US as well as world wide

 


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