Slim, light and surprisingly powerful, but ergonomic problems and heat issues put paid to the X11’s aspirations.
The usual suspects have unveiled dozens of Ultrabooks since Intel debuted the brand last year, but Gigabyte has launched the lightest Ultrabook we’ve come across. It’s the 11.6in X11, and it weighs only 984g.
It’s also one of the slimmest. The front edge tapers to a wafer-thin 3mm at its thinnest point, and it’s a mere 16.5mm thick when closed – half a millimetre thinner than even Apple’s MacBook Air 11in.
Gigabyte has managed to keep the weight down by constructing the X11 almost entirely from sheets of carbon fibre. This lends it a fetching look, with the weave reminiscent of a sports car.
It isn’t all good news, though. Gigabyte’s quest to make the world’s thinnest and lightest Ultrabook has seen build quality fall by the wayside. There’s a lot of flex in the 4mm-thin lid, and the base is similarly malleable, twisting all too easily. It’s no match for the MacBook Air’s chassis, or any of the metal-clad Ultrabooks we’ve seen.
The X11 also suffers from poor ergonomics. The small cursor keys and single-height Enter key mean the layout is fiddly. The spacebar often failed to recognise our presses, and the typing action across the rest of the keyboard is imprecise and uncomfortable. The trackpad is no better. It has integrated buttons, which have a positive click, but the rest of its surface provided inconsistent cursor control and occasionally failed to respond.
We have no complaints about what’s inside the X11. The 2GHz Core i7-3667U is Intel’s top-end low-voltage Core i7 chip, and it flexed its might in our benchmarks, scoring 0.76 – enough to outpace both the 0.70 scored by the Sony VAIO Duo 11 and the 0.68 of the Apple MacBook Air 11in. If there’s a downside to the nippy Core i7, it’s battery life: it lasted for only six hours in our light-use benchmark.
The presence of Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 4000 GPU means this machine isn’t suitable for games – it scored only 40fps in our Low quality Crysis test. However, there’s little wrong with the rest of the specification. There’s 4GB of DDR3 RAM, single-band 802.11n wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, a mini-DisplayPort output, and a pair of USB ports – one USB 3, one USB 2.
Storage is provided by Adata’s XM11 128GB SSD. In our tests, its disappointing sequential write speed of 141MB/sec was buoyed by a far speedier read result of 481MB/sec. This isn’t as quick as some SSDs, but it’s fast enough to keep the X11 feeling spritely, with the system booting in 14 seconds.
The Gigabyte’s display is a great all-rounder. A measured maximum brightness of 378cd/m2 is bright enough for most conditions, and the contrast ratio of 640:1 is excellent. Colour accuracy could be better, with the panel incapable of reproducing the most vibrant blue and red hues, but by Ultrabook standards it’s very good.
This laptop’s biggest problem stems from poor thermal design. The chassis is so small and cramped that it struggles to dissipate the heat generated by the CPU: it hit a worrying 91°C in our stress tests. To make matters worse, the fan intake and outlets at the rear of the machine are obstructed when the screen is tilted back, with an irritating whirr from the cooling fan the result.
Squeezing so much into a sub-1kg chassis is impressive, but Gigabyte has made too many compromises. The noisy fan and high temperatures are due to a chassis pushed to the limits of its thermal capabilities, and poor build and ergonomics undermine its appeal. It’s light and powerful, but the X11 is too rough around the edges.