Ergo GoNote GNT10 Android laptop review

Pros

  • Affordable computing platform
  • Tried and trusted Android 4.0 ICS
  • Tiny power supply

Cons

  • Very poor keyboard and mouse
  • Build quality
  • Power button needs to be pressed hard.

At the Ergo GoNote GNT10's UK launch in August 2012, one journalist claimed that it is a product that shouldn’t exist, which might be a tad harsh. It received a similar level of animosity when it landed on my desk recently, courtesy of online retailer Clove Technology. Although since then, there have been supply issues and so availability is already under question.

The negative reaction is partly due to the bad publicity no-name, white-labelled Android products have been getting over the past few years, ever since Chinese manufacturers have been churning out tablets and other devices relentlessly, often poor copies of flagship models. But could the GoNote GNT10 change this perception?

Design and features

The Ergo GoNote GNT10 'was' available in either in black or white, for £149. It reminds me of the Toshiba AC100 or the pink Pegatron-built smartbook which I previewed back in August 2009 - a prototype that shared a lot of similarities with the GoNote. Outwardly, the GNT10 looks like a netbook with its small form factor and screen size. It weighs under 1kg, and its footprint fits easily into the area of an A4 sheet of paper. However, it's as thick as a standard laptop.

In a nutshell, the GoNote is a netbook-type device, which comes with an ARM-based processor, Android-operating system and a resistive touchscreen. In other words, it shares more DNA with a bog-standard tablet than with your average Windows-based, Intel-powered netbook.

This is confirmed by a quick look at the specification sheet. There’s a single-core Rockchip RK2918 system-on-chip clocked at 1.2GHz with an ARM Mali 400 GPU that supports the VP8 video compression format. The rest of the specs comprise: 1GB of DDR3 memory and 8GB of onboard storage (6.5GB usable) and Wi-Fi. On the right, there's a mini HDMI port, two USB ports, a microSD card slot and audio ports, whereas on the left you'll find two USB ports and Ethernet. There's no GPS, embedded 3G or any sensors.

Lift the lid and you're faced with the 10.1in, 1,024 x 600-pixel resistive display and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel webcam. Two speakers sit above the keyboard and the centrally mounted touchpad.

The display is rather disappointing as it's very reflective and the contrast is so low that it makes pictures and movies appear dull, even at high brightness settings. As for the touchpad, it feels too plasticky and although it's quite responsive, it is way too small for comfortable usage, as are the areas either side of it where you would typically rest your palms. True, you could plug in a USB keyboard and mouse but that would defeat the purpose and turn a portable device into an unwieldy one.

The biggest let-down, though, has to be the build quality and more specifically the keyboard which is closer, in construction, to that of a toy laptop than to the real thing. The keys look like small, hard Scrabble tiles and to make matters worse, the engineers saw it fit to position them so close to each other that repetitive typing mistakes are all but unavoidable.

With Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) installed, you have access to the Google Play app store. Ergo Electronics also include a few useful apps including the Box app with 5GB free cloud-based storage as well as an Office application suite called Kingsoft Office, plus a free copy of Norton Mobile Security.

Performance

The Rockchip SoC is based on the Cortex-A8 and proved to be powerful enough to run through most tasks I threw at it. Antutu produced a benchmark score of 2,400, which is roughly similar to the two-year-old Samsung Galaxy Tab. It played a full HD video from YouTube flawlessly although the underside of the device became rather warm.

The CPU's high clock speed certainly gives it an edge 'relatively', and as far as I can remember it's the highest I’ve seen on an A8-based SoC. As a result, the GoNote GNT10 can hold its own when it's compared to many entry-level smartphones and tablets on the market.

The GNT10 is powered by a non-removable 9,000mAh battery with a rated battery life of six hours, which in my experience seemed about right. It comes with a tiny power adaptor, but the cable is a tad too short at a little over 1m - use a low-down wall socket and the cable will struggle to reach the GoNote sitting on your desk.

Verdict

The GoNote GNT10 is cheap. But I think Ergo Electronics has missed a great opportunity to carve a niche for itself. The specs on paper were great and the operating system, Android 4.0 ICS, is a proven one. But the implementation went awfully wrong, only serving to justify its initial negative reception when it landed on these shores.

Fit a better screen plus a decent keyboard and touchpad, and it would have made all the difference, even if it was a little more expensive - something akin to an Android version of the recently-launched Samsung Series 3 Chromebook. So until it does that, it's a lost opportunity for Ergo Electronics to position itself as a serious Android device manufacturer.