Gigabyte’s Ivy Bridge U224 Ultrabook review: first look
Gigabyte’s motherboards are a regular fixture on our A-List. Now the company hopes to break into the vibrant Ultrabook market with the Ivy Bridge-based U224, unveiled for the first time at CeBIT and due to be offered through UK resellers as soon as Ivy Bridge processors are officially released.
At first glance it’s an attractive beast, boasting the familiar MacBook-like design in tasteful silver and grey with black, backlit Scrabble-tile keys. It’s a 14in LED screen with a resolution of 1,600 x 900; demo models at Gigabyte’s CeBIT stand were running Windows 8, but these aren’t touch panels.
At 1.4kg and 21mm thick the U224 is on the chunky side, and nowhere near as slim as a MacBook Air, but it is much better equipped with ports. You get 2 x USB 2, 2 x USB 3, an SD slot, VGA and HDMI outputs and – most interestingly – Thunderbolt, a rare sight on a Windows-based system.
The U224 will come in low-voltage and full-fat variants, using third-generation Core i5 and i7 processors. Since these processors are officially under wraps, we weren’t permitted to carry out any meaningful performance tests, but any of them should be more than equal to typical desktop tasks – and gaming is viable too, thanks to an integrated Nvidia GT6 GPU.
The U224 also features dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, SSD options up to 512GB and a (non-replaceable) battery that’s promised to deliver six hours of light use. This being Ivy Bridge, there’s support for Intel’s Smart Connect mode, which continues to pick up email and sync files even when the system’s mostly powered down.
Unfortunately, the chassis is made of bog-standard moulded plastic, making the U224 feel much cheaper and flimsier than the average Ultrabook. Expected retail prices start at $1,200, which will inevitably translate to £800 or more. If Gigabyte can cram a powerful enough processor and a big enough SSD into that entry-level model it might win us over, but we’ll have to wait for proper prices and benchmark results.
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