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Windows XP Tablet Notebook Reviews

Gateway M275XL

Posted August 4, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The key words to keep in mind when thinking of the Gateway M275XL convertible tablet are "think big". While other Windows XP Tablets flirt with subnotebook status, the Gateway comes in at 12.6" x 10.8" x 1.1" and weighs 5.7 pounds. This means it has a roomy 14.1" display that's easy on the eyes and an internal optical drive. It also means this is not a model that you'll carry around in tablet mode for an hour on your arm without struggling with its weight and girth. Thus the M275 is a great tablet for those who want a notebook computer first and tablet features second.

Gateway was one of the first manufacturers to offer a Tablet and their Tablet PC, reviewed here, has a slate design. It's actually a re-branded Motion Computing Tablet, while the M275 series is Gateway's own design.

Gateway M275 tablet


Features at a Glance

The M275XL has a 1.8GHz Dothan (Intel® Pentium® M 745) processor, uses Intel Centrino architecture and comes with 512 megs of RAM. It runs the Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition OS and of course, comes with an EMR (electromagnetic resonance) pen. It has a 60 gig hard drive and an Integrated 24x/10x/24x CD-RW and 8x DVD optical drive as well as a 4-in-1 card reader and a PCMCIA slot. For networking it has an integrated modem, 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11b/g WiFi wireless networking. The 14.1" display offers XGA resolution and can drive an external monitor.

Gateway also offers the M275X which has a 1.5GHz Dothan M715 processor, a 40 gig hard drive and 256 megs of RAM. It's otherwise the same as the XL, and sells for a approximately $300 less.

Design and Ergonomics

As you've gathered, the Gateway M275 is large by tablet standards, though it's svelte compared to the relatively large regular notebooks that are popular in the US. It has a full-sized notebook keyboard and a three button trackpad. The tray-loading optical drive bay opens on the front and most ports are located on the left and rear of the unit.



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The Gateway has a fan on the bottom and several vents to keep the notebook cool. The fan is very quiet and shouldn't be a distraction in quiet environments even when plugged in and running at full speed. A rubberized black grip helps you keep the notebook firmly in hand when carrying it around in tablet mode with the screen folded flat against the keyboard.

The pen lives in a silo on the right front edge, and unlike other tablets, you must slide a release tab to remove the pen. Great news for those who worry about the pen falling out when moving the notebook! The modem jack is on the right side, while the power button, card reader slot, PCMCIA slot, audio in/out jacks and 4 pin FireWire port are on the left side.

On the rear you'll find a standard VGA connector, an Ethernet port, docking station connector, two USB ports (one far left, one far right) and the power jack.

Gateway M275XL

Top of the unit with lid closed.

Gateway M275 bottom

Bottom of the Gateway M275. The round vent on the upper left corner covers the fan. The black insert is a rubberized grip area with three ridges. The battery lives under the large door on the lower left.

size comparison

Comparing the size of the M275 and the Toshiba m205 Tablet which is on top.


While the M275 may be a bit heavy to use for an hour as a virtual legal pad on your arm, it's great for those who want a relatively light laptop and will use the tablet when it's resting on a table or lap desk. Like most convertible tablets, the Gateway has a disc-shaped hinge that attaches the center of the display to the notebook's body. It's a sturdy metal hinge that should provide trouble-free service. The latch is rather more interesting, and in the case of our unit, more finicky than standard notebook latch designs. It uses a U-shaped magnetic tongue that lives in the bottom half of the notebook and catches in a slot on the top display bezel in either notebook or slate modes. Our latch didn't always line up and seem sufficiently attracted by the magnet to close securely, but this may just be a problem with our unit.

The front bezel has four buttons and a mic port designed to make your life easier when using the unit in slate mode. You'll find a screen rotation button and lock button (sends a Control-Alt-Del) which is standard on all XP Tablets as well as a screen brightness button and another that brings up the on-screen input panel. Unlike some other tablets, it does not have a directional pad on the front bezel, so you'll use only the pen to navigate on screen when in slate mode.

Horsepower and What's Inside

The M275 now uses Intel's latest Pentium M processor family, known by the code name Dothan. These new processors offer approximately a 5% speed improvement thanks to a larger cache and they allow processor speeds to go higher than with the original Pentium M used in Centrino machines. Though 1.8GHz doesn't sound fast compared to current desktops and desktop replacement notebooks with Pentium 4 processors, it is indeed fast! What is Centrino? It's Intel's name for their notebook architecture released in 2003 which combines their Pentium M processor, 855 chipset and the Intel PRO/Wireless WiFi 802.11 network interface. Intel's Centrino technology improves speed while keeping power requirements and temperature low. The Pentium M is significantly faster than the mobile Pentium 4 processor, yet it uses very little power. A 1.8GHz Pentium M rivals a 3.3GHz mobile Pentium 4 processor. Most current second generation XP Tablets use Centrino architecture and the Pentium M processor.

So the M275XL won't send you back to your desktop machine when you return from a road trip. It has plenty enough horsepower to handle MS Office, Photoshop, Corel Painter, and development environments. Thankfully, Gateway ships the machine with 512 megs of RAM standard, which is a good amount to keep Windows XP and your apps running well without using too much virtual memory. The machine comes with two 256 meg DDR SODIMMs and has two slots for memory. If you wish to upgrade you'll replace one or more DIMMs, and the M275XL can handle up to 1 gig of RAM.

The unit comes with a 60 gig 4,200 rpm standard notebook hard drive that offers plenty of space by notebook standards and runs quietly. Unlike most tablets, it has an integrated 24x/10x/24x CD-RW and 8x DVD drive that will allow you to watch movies, play games and burn backups or PowerPoint presentations to CD when on the road. Like all notebooks, it has a type II PCMCIA slot for PC Cards and unlike most notebooks, comes with a 4-in-1 card reader slot that can read and write SD, MMC, Smart Media and Memory Stick Pro cards.

Display and Sound

The Gateway has a 14.1" XGA display that's bright and sharp by tablet standards. The LCD offers 1024 x 768 resolution and is capable of displaying 16.7 millions colors. In addition you can plug in an external monitor to the notebooks' standard VGA port. The Gateway uses the Intel 855GM graphics chipset found in most Centrino notebooks, which has 64 megs of shared memory and uses Intel Extreme Graphics 2 software and drivers. Though this isn't a high end graphics card with dedicated memory, it performs well enough with Photoshop and moderately demanding games such as Max Payne, Rise of Nations and more.

While most tablet LCDs have a slightly grainy surface (due to the digitizer protection coating), the Gateway's is smooth and glassy. This gives the unit an advantage in image quality but makes it a bit harder to use the pen. I found that handwriting recognition didn't work as well compared to several other tablets we've reviewed, and I believe this may be due to the slippery screen. While on-screen images and colors look quite good, text shows some aliasing and color shifting, even when using ClearType.

Battery Life and WiFi

The Gateway comes with a 3,600 mAh Lithium Ion battery. That's a large capacity battery and the notebook needs it to power the large display and fast processor. In our tests, with WiFi on and brightness set to 60%, we got about 2.25 hours per charge when using the notebook in a mix of web surfing, document editing and watching a few web-based short videos.

The Intel Pro Wireless B2200BG, which works on both 802.11b and 802.11g networks, is usually a good performer and is found on other recent Centrino notebooks. On the M275XL, it took longer to find and connect to our access point from a cold boot and when resuming from hibernation. In fact, it took close to two minutes while there is virtually no delay on other notebooks we've tested. When the unit is in slate mode, WiFi reception is descreased. We suspect the antenna runs around the back of the LCD frame and is thus against the keyboard when in slate mode, blocking reception.

The Pen and Voice Experience

Since handwriting recognition, digital ink technology, voice dictation and voice command are built into the operating system, don't expect much variation between competing brands and models. Machines with faster processors will translate handwriting into text more quickly, and might also do a better job of voice recognition. Also, a better built-in mic can help improve voice recognition, but you're really going to need a good quality headset mic if you want to successfully use voice dictation. Why? A good headset mic is always going to be of better quality compared to a built-in mic, and you won't have to worry as much about ambient noise.

Handwriting Recognition and Digital Ink

Handwriting recognition works fairly well, though ours didn't fare as well as the Toshiba M205 and some other competitors, possibly due to the slick LCD. We installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 beta (aka Tablet Edition 2005) and it worked fine (You can read more about 2005 in our mini-review posted here). You can use handwriting recognition (HWR) with most any application. It's built into the OS, as is the on-demand on screen keyboard and voice command/voice dictation app. You can write in either print or cursive, and specify the delay before your writing is translated. If you're a Pocket PC user, you can also use the same character recognizer found on Pocket PCs. As noted with other tablets reviewed here, cursive and print writing using the standard input mode worked as well as character recognizer. Cursive writing in standard mode should be more demanding than character recognizer, but somehow they're equally accurate. Windows Journal, included with Windows XP Tablet Edition, allows you to doodle, draw, write free-form and later select handwriting to be translated into text. It is a very useful and neat app which has many templates including lined paper, graph paper, sheet music and outline format! Windows Journal allows you to write in ink notes to your heart's content, and later translate your handwriting into text if you so desire. This is very handy if you want to take meeting notes at the same speed you can write on paper, and later turn it into text for printing, emailing and etcetera. You can also do some nifty things like write notes on a web page and email it to someone else. Even if they don't have a tablet, they will see your ink annotations on the emailed page.

Voice Recognition

Windows XP Tablets don't have the greatest voice recognition capabilities. Before you use speech, you must spend approximately 10 minutes doing an initial voice training exercise with the machine. After that, you can choose to read aloud excerpts from classic works to put in more training time, which is supposed to improve accuracy. As with other XP Tablets, I did 3 training sessions, since the initial one yielded poor results. Additional training didn't improve recognition, but just as with other tablets we've tested, it did generate some really humorous sentences.


If you're looking for a compact notebook first and a tablet second, then the Gateway M275XL is a good choice. Since it's a larger notebook by tablet standards it has an internal CDRW/DVD drive, which you won't find on other tablets with the exception of the also large Acer C300. The 14.1" XGA screen is easy on the eyes and the full sized notebook keyboard requires no adjustments.

Pro: Integrated CDRW/DVD drive, fast performance, comes with ample RAM and is easily expandable. Nice looking screen. Full set of ports for expansion and has a 4-in-1 card reader.

Con: Large and heavy for a tablet: it's best for those who plan to use it on a desk. Handwriting recognition not quite as good as competing models. Battery life is decent, but not as impressive as some other Centrino-based tablets, though you do get a large display and fast processor in trade. Text has some color shifting and aliasing with and without ClearType.

Web site:, list price $2,099
3 Year Warranty



Display: 14.1" XGA active matrix color LCD, 64K colors. Resolution: 1024 x 768. 24 bit color capable of displaying 16.7 million colors. Intel 855GM integrated graphics chipset, Intel Extreme Graphics 2 driver software.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. 3600 mA.

Performance: 1.8GHz Intel® Pentium® M Processor 745 (Dothan). 512 megs of DDR RAM (comes with two 256 meg DIMMs). Two 200 pin SODIMM sockets on motherboard. The Gateway M275X has a 1.5GHz Dothan 715 processor and 256 megs of RAM.

Size: 12.60" x 10.83" x 1.10". weight 5.7 pounds.

Drives: 60GB 4200 rpm Ultra ATA hard drive, Integrated 24x/10x/24x CD-RW and 8x DVD combo, Integrated 4-in-1 Memory Card Reader.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g. Intel Pro Wireless B2200BG controller. Intel Pro/100 VE 10/100 Ethernet (RJ45 port), Integrated V.92 56K modem.

Ports: Two USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), VGA, one PCMCIA slot.

Software: Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system. Microsoft Works 7.0.


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