Keyboard and Trackpad
Speaking of typing, the U2442V keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any Ultrabook. The feedback is excellent and it’s easy to tell when you’ve pressed a key far enough for proper input. At the same time the keyboard is not too loud which I always appreciate when I have to work near other people. The keyboard is backlit and you can set the U2442V to automatically turn it on when it gets dark; this seems to work fine although it would be nice if the light faded-in/out instead of turned on/off suddenly.
The keyboard is great but has a bothersome software-based issue; the trackpad is disabled for almost a full second when you press any key on the keyboard. This is a feature from the ELAN trackpad software that is installed. The feature is called TP and is designed to prevent your palm from hitting the trackpad accidentally while you type (which, to be fair, would be more annoying). TP works for that purpose but ends up being rather annoying (especially when you are trying to quickly fill out a form) so I decided to turn it off. Unfortunately disabling the TP feature through ELAN’s software doesn’t seem to work. Once or twice the TP feature also seems to have gone awry and caused the trackpad to freeze for several seconds at a time.
Caps lock also seems to have some intermittent issues. For some time the keyboard would freeze for a second or two after turning caps lock on or off. I can’t seem to recreate it now but it may be related to the TP/ELAN issue.
Fortunately both of these issues are caused by software and can be fixed with the right download which Gigabyte will hopefully provide soon.
The trackpad itself is textured and has a single mouse button beneath it which clicks as a left mouse button on the left and a right button on the other side. The middle of the button the button doesn’t click even though there is no line to separate the two buttons . This is rather annoying because, whether you are right or left handed, you’ll have to position your thumb somewhat awkwardly to hit the button where it can be most effectively pressed. Using the trackpad-as-a-button approach or splitting the dual button into two full buttons would have prevented that issue.
There’s a nice bonus feature found on the trackpad. Pressing the right mouse button while the computer is turned off will light up the indicator LEDs to show you how much battery remains in the computer. This isn’t a unique feature among laptops but most are shown on the side or on the battery itself. Seeing the remaining charge without flipping the unit or leaning to the side to find a small button will likely result in more use.
The Gigabyte U2442V screen is matte which actually looks quite beautiful next to so many other devices equipped with glossy displays. The bezel on the left and right of the screen is quite trim while the top and bottom are a bit wider and will get on the nerves of some of our bezel-width-weary readers. I find no issue with the bezel width myself and the screen feels quite at home flanked by it.
At 1600×900, the U2442V screen is higher resolution than most Ultrabooks but it isn’t the highest (there are a few 1920×1080 Ultrabooks out there). Contrast is quite good with brighter hues, but very dark tones tend to blend together unless you turn the brightness way up. The U2442V’s screen gets bright enough for outdoor readability. Inside in a lit room it feels fine at 50% brightness. Gamma is set too high out of the box and you’ll definitely want to play with Windows’ calibration tool (Start -> calibrate display color). I made some changes to the gamma and took a bit of blue out of the greys which made things more pleasing.
Despite poor performance in darker scenes (and in the deep dark caves of Minecraft), the display looks pretty good thanks to the higher-than-average resolution and the matte finish.
The speakers are hardly passable as far as I’m concerned. They don’t get loud enough for my taste and, like most laptop speakers, they are entirely devoid of bass. The treble that does remain is tinny and lacks any sort of punch to it. Gigabyte tried to make up for this by including a tiny utility from THX which applies some software tuning to the sound. To my surprise this actually manages to pull a bit more out of the tiny speakers, but only at the cost of frequent distortion. From a practical standpoint the THX adjustments change nothing — the speakers are still bad. Not a deal-breaker for me though as I almost always prefer to use speakers or headphones.
Fans / Noise
There are two sizable heat vents in the back of the U2442V (one for the GPU and one for the CPU). The unit seems to have good thermal design as the fans are often turned completely off or are running at a low hum. They do get going as the processing becomes heavier but I never once heard them ramp up to unacceptable levels.