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Gigabyte X11 – Hands on with the carbon fibre Ultrabook

World's lightest Ultrabook is built entirely from carbon fibre and weighs a miniscule 970g

Gigabyte hasn’t been particularly prominent in Britain recently, but that looks set to change next month – the company will be launching the X11, the world’s lightest Ultrabook in the UK from September. We got our first look at a hands-on event in London this afternoon.

Gigabyte X11

The 11.6in ultra-portable is built from the ground up out of durable carbon fibre, the black weave-like material now used everywhere from the rear wings of Formula 1 cars to expensive bicycles. It’s incredibly tough and scratch resistant, although during our short time with the unit we couldn’t shake the fact it felt a lot like plastic rather than an expensive super-material. The lacquer coating might protect it from damage, but it also highlights fingerprints. A lot. Even so, it certainly looks the part in two-tone black. 17mm thick at the back and tapering down to just 3mm at the front, it’s a tiny machine that you can carry everyday without a second thought.

With such small dimensions, connectivity is unsurprisingly sparse – two USB3 ports, a Mini DisplayPort video output (no HDMI here, unfortunately), combination audio jack and Micro SD card slot are all you get. The decision to add Micro SD is rather baffling, as few people we know remove the tiny cards from the mobile phones when a USB cable is much more convenient.

Gigabyte X11

Lift the lid and you’ll find a Chiclet-style keyboard, all-in-one touchpad and glossy 1,366×768 display. The keyboard seems comfortable enough, with reasonably bouncy keys given the thickness of the machine. Gigabyte has used 95% keys rather than full-size ones, which could take some getting used to. Although the demo unit had a non-UK keyboard layout, that should change by the time it goes on sale in September.

The touchpad felt like smooth glass, and was incredibly sensitive – in the short time we spent with the X11 we accidentally clicked a lot, as the tiniest bit of pressure will set off a click. We’re sure that with some patience you could adapt to it, or adjust the settings in the driver, but hopefully Gigabyte will sort it all out before the launch.

Gigabyte X11

We only had a brief chance to try out the display, which looks reasonably bright but has the usual viewing angle issues we see on all TN panels. There’s a decent amount of screen tilt, but until we get one into our labs we’ll hold judgement on overall quality.

As you might expect from a premium Ultrabook, the X11 packs in the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. With no room for dedicated graphics, Intel’s HD 4000 integrated GPU takes care of HD video and light gaming, but the choice of an i5 or i7 chip means desktop performance won’t be an issue. We weren’t told what to expect in terms of battery life, but based on the other 11in Ultrabooks we’ve seen (Apple’s MacBook Air and the Asus Zenbook) we are expecting anything from five to seven hours away from the mains.

Gigabyte X11

Gigabyte representatives weren’t forthcoming when we mentioned Windows 8, and the X11 will definitely ship with Windows 7 because it launches before Microsoft’s October release window, but we can assume that there’s something in the works for when the new operating system becomes available to the public.

Gigabyte has suggested a £1,000 price for when the system goes on sale in the UK, although suppliers are free to set their own amount – we expect this may fall relatively quickly as the brand isn’t as well established in the laptop space as many of its competitors, but we’ll have to wait until September to find out.

Based on what we’ve seen, the X11 is a great looking and incredibly portable Ultrabook. We have a few concerns, but hopefully they are just because we were looking at a pre-release unit and they won’t be present on the final model. We’ll know in just under a month, when Gigabyte sets the X11 loose on the UK.

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