The M520 series comes in a variety of configurations. The lowest-end of them, the M520CS, starts at $699 after rebates (as of November 2004). The high-end M520X Plus, which we tested, starts at $1,299 and features a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor 532, 512MB of 333MHz SDRAM, and a whopping but somewhat slow 100GB, 4,200rpm hard drive. The M520X Plus also features the ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card with 64MB of video memory, as well as a 15.4-inch wide-screen display with a 1,280x768 native resolution. The M520X Plus's full-size keyboard is comfortable to use, and we found the touch pad perfectly tuned. The unit's front-mounted stereo speakers sounded clear, though lacking in bass response--a nearly ubiquitous notebook affliction. All in all, the Gateway M520X Plus provides a very decent set of features for the price.
Though it doesn't include a parallel or serial port, the M520X Plus offers good connectivity, including a VGA output, four USB 2.0 ports, audio-in and audio-out jacks, modem and Ethernet connectors, a mini-FireWire port, an integrated six-in-one memory card reader, and a Type II PC Card slot. You also get an integrated 802.11b/g wireless radio. Just about the only things missing are advanced multimedia features such as S-Video inputs and outputs, which are often found on more expensive desktop-replacement systems. The M520X Plus comes with Microsoft Windows XP Home, but you can upgrade to XP Pro for an additional $79. Also included is CyberLink Power DVD, for watching movies on the built-in multiformat DVD drive. Sadly, you won't catch a break on an upscale office suite--Gateway throws in Microsoft's bare-bones Works 8.0.
With its 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of 333MHz SDRAM, and a 100GB, 4,200rpm hard drive, the Gateway M520X Plus performed well in CNET Labs' tests. It slightly outperformed the more expensive and better-equipped Acer Aspire 1710 and fairly dusted the much pricier Fujitsu LifeBook N5010. CNET no longer officially tests the battery life of desktop-replacement laptops, but in our informal tests, the M520X Plus's standard 65WHr battery lasted just over an hour with a DVD playing. Stay close to a socket.
Gateway's standard warranty plan varies by model, starting with a lame 90-day version for cheaper models and a more standard one-year deal for the more expensive variations of the M520. Optional plans top out with a four-year, onsite service deal for $289, with accidental damage protection adding another hundred or so bucks to the tab. Gateway offers 24/7, toll-free technical support for the length of the warranty, but you shouldn't need it very often, thanks to the concise, informative, model-specific printed user guide. Also included is a colorful setup sheet for those who like to get hands-on as fast as possible.
Online support for most of Gateway's products is excellent; however, at the time of this writing, M520-specific links hadn't all been set up. A quick search revealed a number of M520-related documents, and our test call to tech support was answered intelligently after a reasonable five-minute wait, which included about two minutes of wading through phone menus and entering the serial number via the keypad.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet content creation||SysMark 2004 office productivity|