Gateway M280 / CX Series Convertible Tablet PC Review (pics, specs)

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Name that Tablet


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The Gateway M280 Series Convertible Tablet PC aka Gateway CX210 comes as a refresh the the popular M275 model. The M280 is the “medium to large business version” of the same CX210 that you can find on the Gateway site and various retail stores. There M series although essentially the same as the CX tablets is available in different configurations. Consumers have the option to fully customize a plethora of the usual options on the Gateway website. Our review unit is branded with the “M” on the underside label and was configured with relatively decent specs.


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Specs:

  • Intel Core Duo Processor T2500 (2.0 GHz, 667MHz FSB, 2MB L2 Cache)
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
  • 1024MB 533mhz DDR2 SDRAM (2x512MB Modules)
  • 80GB 5400rpm Serial ATA hard drive
  • 7-in-1 media card reader (Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, xD Picture Card, Mini Secure Digital, RS-MultiMediaCard)
  • Modular 24x/10x/24x CDRW and 8x DVD-ROM combo drive
  • One type II PC card slot
  • (3) USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), VGA
  • 14.0″ WXGA TFT Active Matrix (1280 x 768)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 128MB
  • headphone/speaker jack, and mic jacks
  • Primary 8-cell lithium-ion battery 
  • Integrated V.92 56K modem
  • Integrated Intel 10/100/1000 Ethernet Adapter
  • Integrated Intel 802.11a/b/g wireless networking card
  • TPM – Embedded security chip for user authentication and data protection (version 1.2 ready)
  • Microsoft One Note, Microsoft Experience Pack and Microsoft Education Pack


Build & Design

A first noticeable feature is on the M200 series is the beloved widescreen display. There is much to be said about this feature which is discussed in detail under “display” in this review. The display size and shape dictates the overall appearance and size of the M200. As you would guess it is, well, “wide”. This is not a bad thing, and really rather refreshing in contrast to the usual boring “square” look plaguing 14″ convertibles with standard displays. However the M200 is not sleek or “sexy” as some might call certain devices. The rear side is for the most part unattractive to say the least, but the trade off is the somewhat large battery that makes up this big bottom end. You’ll be paid back in spades for the relatively long battery life that the “big bottom end” is responsible for delivering!



(view large image) Rear: Not much to see here.

In respect the the housing, the majority of the M200 casing is fairly attractive. Silver and black is always a winning combination for looks. Even more impressive though is that this machine is built like a tank. It surely has the strength to hold up to the rigors of  college dorm life or even Mountain Dew spilling office hazards and daily subway commutes. The latch keeps the display locked securely. The swivel hinge is perfectly strong enough to do the job with no noticeable “jiggle” to the display. Also it is fair to note that the display passes our “flex test”. By pushing on the lid delicately, there was no interference or distortion in the picture to note.


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M200/CX Series Tour



(view large image) Right Side: DVD/CD burner, heat vent, Kensington Lock, modem jack



(view large image) Left Side: AC power in, docking port, VGA out, LAN port, 3 USB ports, IEEE 1394, PCMCIA



(view large image) Front: speakers, mic/headphone jacks, card reader slot



(view large image) Underside: Battery Pack, RAM Compartment, modular bay/latch, hard drive access, pen slot/latch


Display


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The Gateway’s screen is where the M200 really shines. It should be noted that this widescreen beauty does in fact have the “glossy” look. Although some users just don’t enjoy this type of screen, the M200 display packs some serious picture punch! The color saturation is outstanding. The brightness easily hurdles over and above displays from many other Tablet PC manufacturers. The exceptional trait in the Gateway display is the offering of a rather “warm” appearance, without any sacrifice for the balance of “whites”. This is not often the case in screens with high color saturation, as there is a fine line between a “white” white vs. a “yellow” white as the trade off for high color saturation. Kudos to Gateway for this display quality.



Speakers

Gateway engineers got off to a good start by choosing to place the speakers along the front edge of the case. Like most Tablet PCs and notebooks, the speaker volume and sound quality is certainly not substantial, however I would dare to say that the M200 speakers are above the average. As in 95% of  Tablet PC/notebook integrated speakers, we recommend a nice set of noise canceling headphones to kick back and watch your Godfather Trilogy DVD set on that next flight to Rome.

Processor and Performance

Our review unit was configured with the Intel Core Duo Processor T2500 (2.0 GHz, 667MHz FSB, 2MB L2 Cache). This CPU combined with 1GB of RAM is enough to satisfy the basic power user. I have to admit that once you go Core Duo, you never want to go back. This configuration not only performs wonderfully for everything from basic word processing to editing large files in Photoshop, but running any virus updates or disk utilities in the background can’t slow this machine down or even make a dent in performance. Multi-taskers rejoice!


Benchmarks

We used SuperPI to calculate the number Pi to 2 Million digits in this raw number crunching benchmark. This open source benchmark application allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated from 16 Thousand to 32 Million. The benchmark, which uses 19 iterations in the test, was set to 2 Million digits.

Comparison of tablet/notebook models using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):



Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Gateway M285/CX210
(2.0GHz Core Duo)
1m 11s
Toshiba Portege M400 (1.83GHz Core Duo) 1m 19s
Toshiba Tecra M4 (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
HP tc4200 (1.73GHz Alviso PM) 1m 51s
Toshiba R15 Tablet PC (1.6GHz Dothan PM) 2m 8s


We used Futuremark’s PCMark ’04 benchmarking software to measure the M285’s performance in various tasks.

Performance Benchmarks for the Gateway M285 (2.0GHz Core Duo) compared to the Toshiba Portege M400 (1.83GHz) simulating multiple computing tasks:

Futuremark PCMark04 Scores Gateway M285/CX210
(2.0GHz Core Duo)

Toshiba Portege M400
(1.83GHz Core Duo)
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 6.89 MB/s 6.25 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 56.54 MB/s 53.28 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 52.43 MB/s 47.61 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 23.72 MPixels/s 21.66 MPixels/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 4669.51 MB/s 4637.05 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 5.04 KB/s 4.61 KB/s
File Decryption 59.62 MB/s 54.58 MB/s
Audio Conversion 3067.98 KB/s 2832.21 KB/s
Web Page Rendering 6.33 Pages/s 5.98 Pages/s
DivX Video Compression 77.45 FPS 69.46 FPS
Physics Calculation and 3D 188.23 FPS 100.21 FPS
Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 1624.14 FPS (dedicated GPU)
481.44 (integrated GPU)
3DMark ’03 Score Not Tested
N/A

The Gateway M285 with its 2.0GHz Core Duo CPU and dedicated ATI GPU kicked the 1.83GHz Toshiba M400 around a bit. The boost in processor speed is certainly evident in the test results. The ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 128MB is clearly superior to the Intel integrated GPU found in the Toshiba M400.


Our review unit has a 80GB 5400 RPM hard drive. Below are the results for the HD Tune performance benchmarks.



Battery Life – Heat and Noise

Gateway has done a great job of balancing heat, fan noise and battery life. For some strange reason we could not get Battery Eater Pro to run a full cycle on our review unit. After several attempts we decided to can the test. However, the “real world” battery life (with Wi-Fi turned on and various multitasking taking place), was impressive at about 3+ hours of use – even considering the rather large and bright display. We did indeed keep the display set at a rather high brightness during use. It was hard to ignore the opportunity to enjoy the rather exceptional output on this screen in all its glory.

While this machine has a tendency to warm up during heavy use, it never reached any point of physical discomfort on the lap. The fan runs reasonably quietly. There is not whining pitch or annoying output from the fan to mention.



(Input) Keyboard, Touchpad, Pen


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While the keyboard itself provides excellent response and feel in the keys, there is a somewhat “odd” feel to the palm rest areas on the M285. Admittedly this would be considered a personal preference, but in my own opinion, the feeling is just a bit uncomfortable. It is as if my wrists rest along a thin bar, rather than a wide enough surface to provide complete support. The touchpad in contrast is as good as it gets. The sensitivity of the pad for navigation and scrolling functionality is great. I had no issues with the mouse pointer settings as the settings felt perfect “right out of the box”.

Writing on the somewhat “glossy” surface of the M285 display is in itself a unique animal. Some users might prefer to add a screen overlay with a textured surface. While the pen and digitizer offer general performance is fine, there is an issue of which certain users should be aware. It is no secret that Gateway Tablet PCs incorporate the lesser known FinePoint branded pen and digitizer rather than the industry preferred Wacom “Penabled” technology. FinePoint Innovations has there own fancy interchangeable jargon to swap for Wacom’s “Penabled” designation. FinePoint’s is called “CST” or Continuous Sensing Technology. How does this CST rate? Well the tracking and calibration of  FinePoint’s pen and digitizer solution work perfectly fine on the surface (no pun intended). However, it is important for potential consumers to realize that advanced driver support for special applications like Adobe Photoshop and Corel products is not currently available for FinePoint branded hardware. In contrast, Wacom offers an excellent driver package for users who need to utilize their Tablet PC for drawing, illustration work and the targeted accuracy required for specialized applications.


Operating System and Software

This Gateway model comes preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. Included in the box are recovery and driver CDs. There is also a recovery partition on the hard drive to automatically restore the machine to its factory image. Also included is Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0, Symantec Client Security 3.0 (90-day subscription), Microsoft One Note, Microsoft Experience Pack and Microsoft Education Pack.



Security


Although the M285 does not have a biometric fingerprint reader, it does incorporate a TPM embedded security chip for user authentication and data protection. To read more about the TPM or “Trusted Platform Module”, visit the Intel white paper.



Final Thoughts

The Gateway M280 Series / Gateway CX210 convertible Tablet PC is a great choice for value-minded students and business users alike. The power and features are enough to make a model from this series a good “only” computer option. Users who prefer a large widescreen display and very good multimedia functionality should take a close look at Gateway’s convertible Tablet PC offerings. Commercial artists and illustrators may need to get educated on the limitations of the FinePoint digitizer, however the majority of users should be pleased with “the other brand” digitizer and pen. All in all, in consideration of the features, sturdy build and fantastic display, the Gateway M200CX series are an outstanding value.


Pros

  • Sturdy build quality
  • Beautiful widescreen display
  • Good battery life
  • Dedicated graphics

Cons

  • FinePoint digitizer and pen may limit specialized use.
  • Odd feeling palm rests may bother some users.

Barry J. Doyle
TabletPCReviewSpot | Editor in Chief




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