Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Gateway continues to offer some of the best bang-for-your-buck retail laptops. The NV7802u is a fine example: it's a 17-inch wide-screen model with a well rounded port assortment and decent horsepower supplied by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of DDR memory. You also get a larger than usual 500GB hard drive for storage. Even its battery life is respectable, considering the size of the system. Other than some niggling design issues and a couple of features we wished it had, the NV7802u is a sound pick for everyday home and office computing.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$649.99|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||16.2x11 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.8/7.6 pounds|
The lid is glossy black--NightSky Black to be specific--with a subtle honeycomb pattern and a small, silver Gateway logo. It's an attractive look that's understated enough for use in home and office environments. A large, round silver hinge opens wide to reveal the black interior, and opens smoothly. The laptop is big, certainly, but we're happy that it's not grossly heavy, too.
Surrounded by a shiny black bezel is the 17.3-inch 16:9 aspect glossy LED-backlit screen, which is comfortably large for both work and entertainment--even simultaneously. The NV7802u's screen has a native resolution of 1,600x900 pixels, which has become the standard for a budget notebook with a screen this size. In an anecdotal test where we watched streaming video, the picture was very good, but not the brightest or crispest that we've seen. Also, the laptop display's off-center viewing is fairly poor with loss of contrast and saturation to the sides, top, and bottom. If you're watching something with another person you'll probably need to huddle together to enjoy it. The Gateway NV7802u boasts Dolby sound processing, but the built-in speakers don't seem to benefit from it. They sound OK for low-volume use, which is good since they don't get loud at all. (A jack on the left side is available for connecting external speakers.) Above the screen is a serviceable Webcam and mic that performed well in our informal Skype tests.
The matte-black keyboard is wide and flat; it's OK, a little soft, but it has good key travel. It has a full number pad on its right side, which forces the touch pad off center of the screen and the entire keyboard (as typical, it's centered on the main keys). But because of the size of the chassis, there's plenty of room to rest your palms on both sides of large touch pad. One thing we're not a fan of is the touch-pad button. Instead of two separate buttons, Gateway used a single thin bar for left and right clicking. Larger hands will miss the bar entirely, leading to wasted presses on the chassis below the bar. Plus, all the keyboard keys are nearly flush with each other, so sloppy typists might be in for a lot of backspacing and deleting. Since this is a retail system, we strongly recommend trying it before you buy it.
However, one of the NV7802u's nicer features is the row of touch-sensitive keys above the keyboard. It includes standard buttons such as volume controls, turning on and off wireless, and locking the touch pad, and a programmable launch key for opening a file, folder, Web site, or application, and another button that launches software for backing up files.
|Gateway NV7802u||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA-out and HDMI||VGA-out and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Gateway seems to have built the NV7802u to satisfy a large user group; and its ports, I/O jacks, and networking options back that up. At this price, it's very nice to see things like a full four USB ports split between the left and right sides, 802.11n wireless, and VGA and HDMI outputs. About the only features missing are Bluetooth and an ExpressCard slot.
Since the NV7802u is a retail system, it's not configurable at time of purchase. It's also currently the only 17-inch model in Gateway's NV-series lineup. If you don't like what you see here, you'll have to move onto another vendor or opt for a smaller 15.6-inch version.
The Core 2 Duo processor backed by its 4GB of DDR3 memory performed very well, keeping pace with similarly configured laptops. It's an able multitasker, handling basic office tasks, photo editing, Web browsing, and running e-mail and IM clients, all simultaneously. That's not to say you can't overtax the system (we wouldn't try anything more than casual gaming, for example), but it shouldn't have a problem keeping up with most essential home and office use.
|Gateway NV7802u||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.64|
|Sleep (10 percent)||0.7|
|Idle (25 percent)||7.79|
|Load (05 percent)||43.6|
|Raw kWh Number||40.13|
|Annual energy cost||$4.56|
The NV7802u's battery lasted for 3 hours and 6 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. Considering how demanding our test is, you can expect slightly longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. With some power management, our informal testing results yielded a little more time away from an outlet, but not much. Considering the screen size and components, the results are very good
The system includes an industry-standard, one-year warranty, with parts-and-labor coverage and return-to-depot service. Gateway offers a 24-7, toll-free, technical-support phone line, and the Web site has the usual driver downloads and FAQs, plus options for e-mailing or online chatting with technicians. While retail shops are happy to sell you an in-store extended warranty, they are often expensive and hard to use, so we don't recommend them.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)