Gateway EC1803h: Netbook or Ultra-portable?

Complete|Mobile Systems
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Display

The EC1803h has a nice, bright screen — at 70% brightness it is approximately equivalent to the 1005HA at maximum brightness. The colors don't pop quite as much, but the extra luminosity is appreciated. The amount of reflection produced depends on the ambient lighting conditions. For the most part unless you have direct lighting behind you, the reflections are only noticeable if the screen is displaying mainly dark colors.

The vertical viewing angles are a poor. At 40% brightness with the screen at eye level, a grey haze begins to permeate when the screen is pushed downward past 70 degrees. When pushed outward, the screen begins to darken at 105 degrees. When viewed from the sides, the lighting varies much less dramatically and the entire display remains visible even from extreme angles.

The webcam integrated above the LCD is an afterthought, a low-end grainy model with a maximum 640x480 resolution.

Keyboard

The bilingual keyboard can cause some difficulty for users used to US English layouts. The Enter key is tall rather than long, and the Enter and left Shift are split to accommodate two extra keys. Fortunately, with remapping software such as KeyTweak, one can easily give the extra keys their English functions; however, some time is required to acclimate to the physical gap between the keys. On the downside, there is no way to remap the backslash key to its properly place underneath the backspace. A different, rarely used key such as the Caps Lock or Insert key could be remapped to take its place. Users in the US will never have this problem if/when the EC1803h begins to show up south of the border.


We recommend remapping the extra keys to their previous functions.

The layout aside, the keyboard is quite comfortable to use with just the right amount of key resistance. Like the palm rest, the build quality of the keyboard feels solid — it won't bend unless that is your intention. However, the gaps between the keys are too small to truly benefit from a chiclet style design. It feels like one large, flat surface, and as a result, the hands of a touch-typist may accidentally slide off to one side resulting in the typing of complete gibberish, rather than simple typos. We would have preferred keys that slope downward at their edges so our fingers could receive better tactile feedback with regard to where one key ends and where the next one begins.

Touchpad

The touchpad is fairly unremarkable. It's smooth but gets a little sticky after some use. The left and right buttons have a moderate amount of resistance, but pressing them at their very edges requires more force than at the center. Tapping the pad is much easier.


Multi-gesture instructional video.

The touchpad offers multi-gesture functionality, but the only useful gestures we found were the "pinch" to zoom in/out of images and the "flick" which lets you quickly flip to the next image/item with a swipe of two fingers.

Sound

Compared to the Asus Eee 1005HA, the speakers had a higher maximum volume, better range, and sounded less tinny overall. They're not as good as the quality of typical notebook speakers, though. Using headphones or a proper set of speakers, we encountered very little interference/noise from the rest of the components.

Included with the EC1803h is Dolby Sound Room, which can increase the amount of bass as well as mimic surround sound when using stereo headphones. Unfortunately we found that Sound Room caused high CPU utilization when playing anything with audio, even simple video files. We recommend disabling Sound Room enhancements altogether, at least until they fix the problem.



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