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.
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
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.
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 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.
Top of the unit with lid closed.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
10.83" x 1.10". weight 5.7 pounds.
4200 rpm Ultra ATA hard drive, Integrated
24x/10x/24x CD-RW and 8x DVD combo, Integrated
4-in-1 Memory Card Reader.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo
WiFi 802.11b/g. Intel Pro Wireless B2200BG controller.
Intel Pro/100 VE 10/100 Ethernet (RJ45 port), Integrated
V.92 56K modem.
USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), VGA, one PCMCIA
XP Tablet Edition operating system. Microsoft Works