If you're not patient enough to wait for Windows 8 and the ensuing tablet rush, there are a few options already on the market. One of those that caters to a budget audience is Gigabyte's S1080.
Despite the 1080 moniker, it sports a 1024x600 screen. This isn't a good start, as quite a few interfaces we've seen over the years require a vertical height of at least 768 pixels for all elements to fit on a screen.
It's no surprise that a netbook resolution should come into effect here; the S1080 is effectively a netbook, featuring an Atom N570 and 2GB RAM. Our particular review model came with a 64GB SSD, while a 320GB mechanical hard drive version is available if you require more space.
The screen isn't great: interface elements look slightly blurred and washed out, and vertical viewing angles are small. Thankfully, the capacitive screen was responsive and accurate when it came to touch.
One thing that works surprisingly well given the size, is a dot on the right-hand side of the screen. It's a trackpad, which, when pushed, acts as a left mouse button. On the left side are mechanical buttons, acting as left and right mouse buttons.
There are touch buttons on the left screen bezel, which bring out an on-screen keyboard, allow up/down navigation and supply a back button (and, surprisingly, it doesn't get in the way as you'd think either).
Compared to Android or iOS tablets, the S1080 is connection heavy, with a USB 2.0 port, USB 3.0 port, VGA out, headphone and microphone jacks, gigabit Ethernet and a full-sized SD card reader. There is a SIM slot, but the Australian version of the S1080 doesn't come with any WWAN module, meaning you won't be able to connect to 3G networks natively. There are some available aftermarket, although installation will be a manual affair, either by the user or the reseller. Other wireless capabilities is handled by single channel 802.11n and Bluetooth.
The slate comes with a leather case that can be propped up at three different heights, although don't expect it to be smart like the iPad: if you cover the screen, it's not going to turn off.
A docking station (the D1080) can be bought for around AU$250, which is the largest we've seen to date; although it does factor in a DVD drive. You also get three more USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, VGA out and, if you use an S1081 tablet, you get HDMI — not so much the S1080. There are also larger speakers there and a sub, giving a much superior listening experience to just the tablet.
The dock must be powered from the wall and the tablet plugged in for anything to work — although the power light deceptively turns on when you plug in the tablet, but don't plug the dock into the wall. There's a space behind where the slate sits to insert an extended battery if you please, and it's fitted out with some more impressive speakers than you'll find on the tablet.
Netbook specs means netbook performance; it's not a great multitasker, video capability is limited to DVD resolutions and you really can't use it for too many productive things. Still, we'd imagine it will find a niche somewhere despite its lack of performance chops.
Handbrake encoding test (in seconds)
HP Pavilion dm1 (E-450 @ 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM)
Gigabyte S1080 (Atom N750 @ 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
The S1080 is most definitely a netbook with a touchscreen, as is shown by comparing it with the significantly more powerful, yet cheaper HP Pavilion dm1. Neither could be considered production or content creation devices, but the netbook hardware severely limits the S1080 further.
Battery life (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 5h 57m
- HP Pavilion dm1 (E-450 @ 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM)
- 3h 21m
- Asus ZenBook UX21 (Core i7 2677 @ 1.8GHz, 4GB RAM)
- 3h 19m
- Gigabyte S1080 (Atom N750 @ 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM)
- 3h 2m
- Apple MacBook Air 11 (Core i5 2467M @ 1.6GHz, 4GB RAM)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The S1080 does manage to be competitive with 11-inch ultrabooks in terms of battery life, but since it's sporting netbook hardware, we would have expected a result closer to the five-hour mark for our video test.
The S1080 is hobbled by its netbook origins and low resolution. We have no doubt that someone will find a use for the low Windows-powered tablet — it is, after all, cheaper than its full-powered cousins. But with the onset of Windows 8 and ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge processors, the S1080 isn't as compelling as it once could have been.