Gateway bowed two new gaming desktops at the show today, the high-end FX540, and the more modest FX7020. The former is an update to Gateway's year-old customizable, semi-high-end Intel-based PCs. The FX7020 packages a quad-core AMD Phenom chip in to a relatively affordable $1,099 package.
Gateway's FX7020 represents the type of PC we expect to see a lot of in 2008: the $1,000 to $1,500 gamer that finally has the graphics horsepower to handle the newest 3D PC games. Dell, HP, Velocity Micro and others will all compete hard in this space this year, but Gateway's FX7020 represents the opening shot. Its AMD Phenom quad core CPU isn't the fastest CPU around, although it is quick enough. But the real horsepower lies in its GeForce 8800 GT graphics card. Until now, few PCs in this price range have been able to handle the likes of Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3 and other new PC games with any kind of decent image quality. This PC, and forthcoming systems like it, should finally deliver the promise of next-gen PC gaming to a wider audience.
As for the FX540, it's not quite the bleeding-edge performance behemoth you see from Falcon Northwest and Alienware. We're glad that Gateway has finally seen the light and moved to an SLI-capable motherboard (which can use two Nvidia graphics cards, rather than two slower ATI cards, like the older FX530), but despite claims of "no-compromise" hardware, the NForce 680i SLI board can't accept Intel's latest Core 2 Extreme quad-core chip, the QX9650. Instead, you're limited to the Core 2 Extreme QX6850, which, while still plenty quick, is a generation old. That doesn't mean you should write the FX540 off. As long as Gateway keeps pricing of this customizable system reasonable, as it has in the past, this system could still offer some decent bang-for-the-buck