Gateway E-155C Thin and Light Convertible Tablet PC Review

by Reads (43,082)

Gateway calls it "The Thin & Light Convertible", but some users may beg to differ. The new E-155C Tablet PC is Gateway’s smallest Tablet to date, but it’s not that lightweight. It is thin and portable and the fact that it weighs 4.5 pounds didn’t bother me that much, but users who like the under 4lb ultra-portable Tablets may be disappointed. The E-155C does have a solid design and a good array of features for the price, which makes the extra weight easier to accept.

(note to readers: while we refer to this system as the E155C throughout the review, it is the same device as the C120X and S-7125C that are also sold on Gateway.com. The machine is referred to generically as "The Thin and Light Convertible" on Gateway’s site)


Gateway’s E-155C Tablet PC in notebook mode. (view large image)

The Gateway E-155C specs as reviewed (tested price $2,073.99)

CPU Intel Core 2 Duo ULV processor U7500 (1.06GHz)
OS Windows Vista Ultimate
RAM 1GB DDR2
Display 12.1" WXGA TFT Active Matrix
Graphics Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Audio Integrated speakers
Hard Drive 80GB (5400 rpm)
Optical Drive Double Layer Multi-Format DVD Writer
I/O ports
  • 2 x USB
  • 1 x VGA – 15 pin
  • 1 x Microphone-in
  • 1x Headphone 
  • 1 x 6-in-1 Card Reader
Communications
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth
Dimensions/Weight
  • 11.9" (W) x 9.9"(D) x 1.17"(H)
  • 4.5lbs.
Battery/power 4-cell Lithium Ion

 

Design and Build

The E-155C has a nice design, but forgoes being too gawdy or flashy. Gateway didn’t go with a glossy lid or white keyboard with this Tablet, like we saw with the Toshiba R400, instead they went with a classy flat black finish that almost looks grey. Combined with the metallic accents around the hinge area, this Tablet has a professional and sturdy appearance. More importantly the E-155C has a solid build to support that sturdy look. The high-impact magnesium alloy casing and reinforced hinge help to make this a sturdy device, but the screen hinge is a little wobbly. I would have liked a stronger hinge to minimize the screen wobbling, but this is much tougher to implement on tablets than regular notebooks that have the advantage of two hinge points.

The curved off edges and overall clean look are just great, I can’t see anybody disagreeing with the look the E-155C offers.


The E-155C converting to Tablet mode. (view large image)

The E-155C weighs in at around 4.5 pounds and is 1.17" thick. It does have an integrated optical drive, but 4.5 pounds is a little on the heavy side for a 12.1" Tablet. The palm rest has a soft rubber like matting, which is comfortable when typing and prevents any greasy fingerprint issues. It converts to Tablet mode with ease, with the ability to swivel in two directions, and locks into place for stability. Overall the entire design is solid and the chassis is sturdy, so there is no cheap feel to this Tablet.

Display

The display wasn’t anything too impressive. It is in fact one of the more grainy tablet screens out there. Yes, I know Tablet screens are grainy due to the extra screen layering that is necessary, but the E-155C is more grainy than usual. Darker colors appear vibrant enough, but lighter colors appear washed out on this screen. The viewing angles are also narrow, you’ll get a lot of light reflection on the screen when viewing it from the side, thus it’s hard to see what’s on the screen from such viewpoints.

The brightness of the screen is at least easy to adjust using the Fn + Arrow keys. The widescreen aspect ratio is also a plus. The E-155C is Gateway’s smallest Tablet to date and they are proud of its 12.1" screen size — it’s a great size for shoving into a bag and travelling or moving around campus with.


The E-155C 12.1" WXGA screen. (view large image)

Processor and System Performance

Gateway went with a Core 2 Duo 1.06GHz ULV processor, which saves on battery life and heat, but it isn’t the most powerful processor out there. However, I didn’t have any problems with the computer running slowly or lagging. Then again, I didn’t use the E-155C to play games or run multiple applications at a time. So long as you’re not really taxing this system and running ten things at once, you’ll find performance will be just fine, even with the rather demanding Vista. The 1GB of memory helps, 2GB would be better. Graphics are of course integrated (Intel GMA 950) given the size and target market of this device. The hard drive seemed a little slow at times, moreso during bootup, again this is more a Vista issue than the machine itself.

Benchmarks

As you can see the E-155C did about average on the PCMark test considering it has a ULV processor. In fact it beat the costly Toshiba R400, which also has a ULV processor and costs almost twice as much:

PCMark05 measures the systems performance as a whole:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Gateway E-155C (Intel Core 2 Duo ULV 1.06GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics) 2,205 PCMarks
LG C1 (Intel Core Duo 1.2GHz, Nvidia Go 7300) 2,568 PCMarks
Toshiba R400 (Intel Core Duo ULV 1.2GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics) 2,187 PCMarks
HP tx1000 (AMD Turion X2 2.0GHz, Nvidia Go 6150) 3,052 PCMarks
Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950 graphics) 2,724 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo) 2,860 PCMarks
Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
Asus R2H (900MHz Celeron M) 845 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950) 2,732 PCMarks

 

Super Pi:

In the below results of Super Pi, where the processor is timed in calculating Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy, the E-155C did fine relative to its peers in the ultraportable category:

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Gateway E-155C (1.06GHz ULV Core 2 Duo) 1m 58s
LG C1 (1.2GHz Intel Core Duo) 1m 49s
Toshiba R400 (1.2GHz ULV Core Duo) 2m 10s
Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 20s
Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo) 1m 24s
IBM ThinkPad X41t (1.5GHz LV Pentium M) 2m 02s
HP TC4400 Tablet PC (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 13s
Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 40s
Dell Latitude D420 (1.06GHz Core Solo ULV) 2m 11s
Toshiba Portege M400 (1.83GHz Core Duo ) 1m 19s

 

Comparison Results for 3Dmark05

3DMark05 tests the overall graphic capabilities of a notebook, below is how the E-155C did compared to other notebooks:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Gateway E-155C (1.06GHz ULV Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950) 500 3DMarks
LG C1 (1.2GHz Intel Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7300) 1,392 3DMarks
PortableOne UX (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950) 590 3DMarks
Toshiba Satellite A135 (1.73GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950) 519 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

These are the low-end results you’d expect from integrated graphics. While they seem poor, trust me, it’s better to have integrated graphics with a lower power consumption than a power hungry heat generating dedicated graphics card in this sized notebook!

 

Keyboard/Touchpad/Pen

The keyboard does flex a little when typing, especially in the upper left hand area — it’s more solid to the right. The keys are responsive, but springy, so if you are a fast typer beware. I think this has to do with the fact that the keys have a flat design. I do like that the letters on the keys are centered and larger than on most other Tablet keyboards like on my Asus R1. This is especially nice for those users who have vision problems — though big clear font letters are appreciated by everyone. The keyboard is easy enough to use and little sacrifice has been made due the ultraportable size of the E-155C, none of the keys are shortened, but the page up and page down arrows are in a different place than you’d typically find. No big deal though, still easy to use.


The E-155C keyboard. (view large image)

The touchpad was nice to use, it didn’t feel cheap and the buttons were very responsive just like an external mouse. I like that the buttons on the touchpad were raised and not sunken into the palm rest. The touchpad does have a rough plastic feel, so your finger doesn’t just slide right off it. I love the soft rubberized palm rest area too, which is great for long periods of typing due to the comfort it provides.


The E-155C touchpad and soft palm rest. (view large image)

The pen is lightweight, easy to write with and works flawlessly on the screen. It comes in handy when taking notes or browsing through multiple applications. It even has an eraser in case you make a mistake. It is made of plastic, but it feels more solid than other pens I have used. It is hard to get out of the silo though since it is spring-loaded and tends to get stuck sometimes.

Tablet PC Features

The E-155C is pleasant to work with in Tablet mode, the active Wacom enabled pen works very well, on par with the much touted Lenovo X60 tablet PC. Writing feels really quite natural, close to the true paper and pen experience. One dissapointment is that the screen doesn’t automatically orientate itself with the user when rotated into tablet mode, this has to be done using the screen rotate button that’s on the screen. This falls far short of the X60 Tablet PC that has a built-in accelerometer to detect the orientation of the device and rotate to face the "right way up" based on how the user is holding it. The E-155C runs Vista Ultimate in which the Tablet PC features are built-into the OS — it’s a nicer Tablet PC OS implementation than XP was.


The E-155C in Tablet mode with pen. (view large image)

Besides having the Wacom digitizer, the E-155C also offers a touchscreen. Now users have the best of both worlds — the option of either using a finger or the pen as an input method. Considering the E-155C uses Wacom technology the pen strokes are a more accurate method of input, specifically suited to handwriting or drawing, and I know hard-core Tablet users will love this. That was one of the problems with HP’s tx1000, it had a touchscreen, but no active pen input (which granted, did keep the price of the tx1000z down). Gateway did a great job of outfitting the E-155C with both though. Being able to use the pen, in my opinion is the main point of a Tablet, and it’s handy to have the touchscreen for those times you want to poke the screen to move windows around or quickly open a menu.

Ports

The E-155C has your basic array of ports. There are two USB ports on the right hand side, one VGA – 15 pin, one microphone-in, one headphone, a 6-in-1 card reader, an SD card slot and an Ethernet port. Nothing to major for this Tablet, but it does have the basics, which get the job done for most users.


Front view of the E-155C. (view large image)


Right side view of the ports. (view large image)


Left side view of the ports. (view large image)


Back view of the E-155C. (view large image)


Under side view of the E-155C. (view large image)

Battery

The 4-cell battery I received had normal battery life. It lasted about three hours with screen brightness set to half and on-and-off usage, which is average for a Tablet of this size. I do like the power indicator on the battery because it is helpful to know how much battery life is left. Simply push on the battery where you see the LED light meter, and it will light up to indicate its level of charge. This works whether the E-155C is booted up or not. Gateway does offer a 6-cell and starting in June an 8-cell battery though, for those users who need more battery life. Even though the optional batteries cost more money and will add weight, it is nice to know you can get one if you need one.

Heat and Noise

During normal operations, such as surfing the Web, the E-155C didn’t get hot and it wasn’t noisy. Credit goes to the ULV processor for this. When I started running my benchmark tests the E-155C did get warm and the fan noise was definitely noticeable. It was working hard and you knew it. From time to time I also noticed that the fan would kick on when the computer was idling, but it was never annoyingly loud.

Speakers

The speakers on the E-155C were impressive. They are not what comes standard on your top of the line multimedia notebook, but they do put out good sound, certainly better than almost any other notebook in the ultraportable category. There are two little speakers, one on each side under the screen. After testing them out with some Jazz, Rock and Pop music I got a feel for what they could do. The sound quality was good and clear, but it didn’t like bass too much. I wasn’t expecting them to though.


Top view of the E-155C and its speakers. (view large image)

Software

The E-155C came with Windows Vista Ultimate edition already installed. It also came with Microsoft Works and some other standard Microsoft programs. There was no bloatware though, which made me happy. You do get the ubiquitous McAfee security protection, which has those annoying pop-ups, but that can be turned off. Overall the amount of bloatware was minimal, and certainly less than average.

Wireless

The E-155C has 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth. Both worked as expected. I connected to my office’s wireless with no problems. In fact the Intel PRO wireless was fast and responsive. I also connected to the wireless at my house with no problems. The Bluetooth comes in handy for those users who may want to use a wireless mouse or any other wireless device.

Conclusion

The E-155C is a solid Tablet. The chassis and overall build is sturdy, the appearance is nice and you don’t have to worry about those dirty fingerprints so much since there’s no glossy finish treatment. I wish the hinge was a little stronger, so the screen wouldn’t wobble as much when in notebook mode, but in Tablet mode it is fine because the screen locks into place tightly. It’s easy to take notes with since it has active pen input technology and the touchscreen is a nice bonus for use when browsing around using quick screen pokes with a finger. I enjoyed listening to music on the E-155C as well. It isn’t an entertainment Tablet of course, but it is definitely good for jamming out at your desk. The E-155C has a good array of features for the price, with some room for improvement in certain areas, but overall I would consider this Tablet a solid entry into the portable convertible notebook market by Gateway.

Pros

  • Has Wacom digitizer and touchscreen
  • Soft palm rest
  • Responsive keyboard and touchpad
  • Battery power indicator light
  • Screen able to rotate either direction into tablet mode
  • Overall quiet and cool running
  • Very nice design, professional and sturdy looking/feeling

Cons

  • Spring-loaded pen gets stuck in silo
  • Screen wobbles some because hinge isn’t secure enough
  • Screen is grainy and washed out due to extra layers used for touchscreen and active input
  • Screen does not orientate itself to user perspective when rotated
  • Some keyboard flex in upper left area
  • On the heavy side at 4.5lbs for a thin and "light" 12.1" screen device

 

Pricing and Availability

Visit Gateway.com to see the latest pricing and availability for the Thin and Light Convertible (it is sold as the E155C, C120X or S-7125C depending on what channel you buy it through)


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