The Ultrabook has been such a successful concept that pretty much every manufacturer has been trying to get in on the act – and Gigabyte has recently extended its range in this arena with the U2442F. At around £900, this is a premium option, but it also offers features we would expect in more expensive Ultrabooks. In particular, the F model in Gigabyte's U2442 range includes discrete graphics.
The U2442F is available with a few subtly different specifications, but ours was based around the Intel Core i7 3517U. This is an Ivy Bridge ultra-low voltage processor, which runs nominally at 1.9GHz, but offers Turbo Boost modes that allow a single core to run at up to 3GHz. There are two physical cores, but the usual Intel Hyper-Threading means that the operating system detects four virtual cores instead, for greater multi-tasking and multi-threaded performance.
The processor has been partnered with 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory as standard, which should be ample for the lifetime of the notebook, although the system supports up to 16GB, and the two SODIMM slots are user accessible so you can upgrade in the future if you want.
Although the U2442F's Ivy Bridge Core i7 comes with the much more capable Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, the key differentiation for this model is its discrete graphics. This comes in the shape of Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M, which sits somewhere in the middle of the current GeForce mobile range, and sports a pretty healthy 384 CUDA cores, plus 2GB of dedicated memory. Although Intel's HD 4000 can manage undemanding 3D games, the GeForce should provide serious entertainment potential on the move. However, the system supports Nvidia Optimus, so the GeForce can be turned off and on dynamically without the system needing a reboot. This means that the Intel graphics will be used when the heavyweight 3D power isn’t required, extending battery life.
Our U2442F came with the most basic of the storage options. This is a 128GB mSATA solid state disk, although you can also specify 750GB or 1TB 5,400rpm conventional hard disks on top of this, or a 256GB 2.5in solid state disk. Being an Ultrabook, the U2442F has no optical drive, so USB memory keys, the SD card slot, or network drives are your only options for removable or external storage and backup.
The U2442F is not a gob-smackingly beautiful Ultrabook like Samsung's Series 9, but its brushed metal chassis has a decently classy look. At 21mm thick, it is slightly chunky by Ultrabook standards, and the weight of 1.59kg is also higher than many. However, this is still very much a notebook you could sling in a bag that you carry with you all day, which is the primary aim of this class of portable, so it fits the genre well enough.
The matt finish anti-glare LCD screen has adequate if not outstanding horizontal viewing angles, and vertical viewing angles are par for the course for this type of display. However, Gigabyte has made use of the 14in screen's extra size over the more common 13in variety, and offers a 1,600 x 900 resolution here, so detail is pin sharp, although the matt finish means that colours are somewhat more muted than notebooks equipped with a glossy display. As is pretty much universal for Ultrabooks, the speakers are decidedly weedy, so headphones will be required for situations where you care about audio quality.
The Chiclet-style keyboard, on the other hand, is extremely comfortable. The key action is a little light, but it's still very easy to touch type as the key size and spacing is perfect for the average-sized hand. Subtle backlighting keeps the keys visible in the dark. The touchpad is relatively large, with a single discrete button at the bottom which has distinct left and right clicks and no overlap in the middle. Best of all, it is located slightly off centre, directly beneath the spacebar, reducing the chance of accidental brushing with the heel of your hand, a problem that so many notebooks suffer from now touchpads have ballooned in size.
This notebook offers a decent range of ports, with a full-sized HDMI port, alongside two USB 3 ports and the SD card reader on the right. The left side is home to an Ethernet port, VGA, two USB 2 ports, plus separate minijacks for microphone and headphones.
The U2442F promises good all-round performance given its decently clocked processor and discrete graphics. The score of 2.31 in Maxon Cinebench R11.5's render test shows an adequate if not outstanding amount of general processing grunt, but the OpenGL result of 27.04 is much more in line with desktop replacement notebooks. This is mirrored in the Futuremark 3DMark11 score of 2,130, which is actually one of the best we have seen from any notebook, let alone an Ultrabook, although we don't tend to focus on the entertainment-oriented models here.
Battery life is okay, but nothing special. In our 100 per cent processor and graphics test, which stresses both to the maximum until the battery gives out, the U2442F only lasted 133 minutes. So under less strenuous circumstances, you could expect around five hours of usage, depending on your activities and how much you use the Nvidia graphics. This is a reasonable duration, and a decent compromise for an all-rounder such as this, but it won't allow for an entire working day away from the power socket.
The Gigabyte U2442F may not be an Ultrabook that will induce envy by its mere appearance, but it does include quite a few features you would only expect to see in a more expensive notebook. The discrete Nvidia graphics and 14in 1,600 x 900 display will make it more flexible than a super-slim 13in model, and the option to upgrade the already generous 8GB memory to 16GB further enhances this.
Although we would have liked an hour or two more of battery endurance, this is still a very capable all-rounder. If a regular 13in Ultrabook is too limiting, and too expensive, and you would like to play a few games without compromising too much on portability, the Gigabyte U2442F is a lot of Ultrabook for the money.
Manufacturer and Model
1.9GHz Intel Core i7 3517U
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Nvidia GeForce GT 650M
128GB mSATA solid state disk
14in LED backlit TFT with 1,600 x 900 resolution
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4
2 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, headphone, microphone, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
339 x 233 x 21mm
1 year collect and return