Gateway made Tablet news recently with the announcement of the Gateway CX200 Convertible Notebook as it is the first Tablet PC with a wide-screen display. A lot of people have been waiting for the new Tablet to appear in the wild because it seems like a very solid notebook computer that is also a Tablet PC. I am evaluating the M280 which is the big brother to the entry level CX200 and I have to tell you that so far I am very surprised. I have been an advocate of smaller and lighter devices for a very long time and while that hasn’t changed I am quite amazed how quickly I am getting attached to the big Tablet.
The M280 I am evaluating has a 2 GHz processor, 1 GB of memory, 80 GB hard drive, dual layer DVD burner, and ATI graphics with 64 MB of VRAM. The M280 has a 14 inch swivel wide-screen LCD that runs at WXGA (1280 x 768) resolution which makes for some awesome web browsing in portrait. The Gateway has the most vivid and bright LCD screen I have seen on any Tablet PC, and it’s a wide angle screen to boot. The digitizer had some issues when I received the unit but reimaging from the recovery partition has made them disappear, with the exception that it’s necessary to press a little harder with the pen than I am used to. Not a deal breaker for me.
Gateway has produced a very good notebook computer in the M280 that is very, very fast. It has a very solid feel and everything is snappy and is fun to use as a laptop. It is worth repeating that the screen is just awesome and I am very happy with the overall performance of the Gateway. I am not a trackpad person but the trackpad on the M280 is outstanding and I find I prefer to use it instead of plugging in a wireless mouse.
I must commend Gateway for not polluting the M280 with all the crapware that other OEMs find necessary to preinstall. The only preload is Norton Anti-virus and while it’s not my favorite program of this type I agree that OEMs almost have to preload an AV solution so owners can get protected from day one. Kudos to Gateway for not going overboard with the M280.
The M280 is a great notebook computer but that’s not why we Tablet heads use convertibles, is it? It’s the slate and ink and the Gateway delivers that and then some due to the large wide-screen. The most used app on my computers is OneNote and taking notes on this Tablet PC in portrait is great. I can see so much of the page and it’s great to work with. The pen on the Gateway has a very good weight and feel and duplicates the pen experience very well. There are no soft buttons on the M280 but there are four buttons and a joypad on the side of the screen. These buttons provide screen rotation, a programmable button that defaults to launch Windows Journal but I have set to open OneNote, a joypad mode toggle button and a button that performs a Ctrl-Alt-Del which is a convenient way to access the Task Manager or shut down the computer. There is even a lock button to prevent accidental button presses while in slate mode.
All in all the M280 is a very solid convertible Tablet PC and is a good fit for those wanting a heavyweight convertible Tablet PC that is a real desktop replacement notebook computer yet is also a Tablet. This device is worth taking a look at if you are one of those users that spends most of the time in notebook mode but needs a Tablet from time to time. The M280 is pretty large and heavy but that’s the price you pay for that sweet giant screen. The Gateway M280 Convertible Notebook will be available soon on the Gateway web site while the CX200 is available now.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the M280 comes with a 12 cell battery that attaches to the back of the notebook and forms a firm grip. I am seeing 4 hours battery life with minimal power management.