Technically, Computex doesn't open its show floor until tomorrow, but if you ask Gigabyte, the show has been in full swing since last week. After a little tease, the company announced the X11, an 11-inch laptop that claims to be the world's lightest Ultrabook, at 975 grams, or 2.15 pounds. At the time, we brought you a few hands-on shots from our colleagues at Engadget Chinese, but we couldn't resist getting hands-on ourselves when we found it on display here in Taipei. Follow past the break for detailed impressions from Engadget's resident laptop reviewer or, if you've got a short attention span, check out our hands-on pics and walk-through video.
We're not sure if the X11 really is the world's lightest Ultrabook or how long it will hold that title, but in a way, it doesn't matter. This thing really is featherweight, and is easy to carry across the room in one hand. Does it feel materially different form other 11-inch Ultras like the MacBook Air and new ASUS Zenbook Prime UX21A? You'd have to be a laptop reviewer like moi and have them lined up in a row. Based on muscle memory alone, it's difficult to appreciate the difference between one wispy machine and another.
When Gigabyte first unveiled the X11 last week, we were instantly curious about that carbon fiber build -- not just because it makes for a lighter-weight system, but because it could make even a toilet feel premium. Indeed, the chassis feels smooth and soft under the fingers, but we noticed it's not immune to fingerprints -- everything from the touchpad to the palm rest to the lid showed greasy smudges. All told, it feels nice in hand, though it doesn't nearly match the level of craftsmanship you'll find in the UX21A or the current-gen Air. Here at Computex, Gigabyte is only showing the race car-inspired version, which has a fading "Woven Diamond" pattern, but Gigabyte will eventually offer an all-black version as well.
Keyboard, display and trackpad
Lift the lid and you'll be greeted by a fairly cramped keyboard. That's not surprising -- most 11-inch laptops have at least a few squished keys -- but even so, the UX21A offers a more spacious layout and its keys are made of metal, not plastic. The touchpad, meanwhile, has a nice, smooth surface and responded well to simple taps and basic navigation, but we'll have to hold off on judgment there since we weren't testing final drivers.
Last note before we sign off: the X11, like all 11-inch Ultrabooks, makes some considerable compromises in the way of ports. Starting with the good news, you get two USB 3.0 ports, along with a Mini DisplayPort and audio jack, but it's missing a full-sized SD slot; instead you'll have to settle for a microSD reader. Then again, ASUS' UX21A doesn't have a memory card slot of any kind, so this doesn't necessarily put the X11 far behind the competition where I/O connectivity is concerned.
Specs and pricing
The X11 will go on sale in the US in late July or early August, according to a Gigabyte rep staffing the company's Computex booth. When it does, it'll start at $999 -- pretty typical entry-level pricing for an 11-inch Ultrabook. At that base level, you'll get an Ivy Bridge Core i5 CPU and SSD (again, par for the course), but a Core i7 CPU and larger drive will also be available. In terms of runtime, Gigabyte says it's still testing the X11's locked-in battery, but a rep tentatively said it should be able to last five-plus hours on a charge.
As always, we'll reserve full judgment until we can test a final, production-grade unit; until we do, after all, there's nothing we can say about battery life, speed or even touchpad performance. In the meantime, though, we wonder if the X11's superlatively light weight and carbon fiber construction are enough to make it stand out against more impeccably designed machines from ASUS, Apple and others -- especially if the price and specs are going to be the same.