After a brief retail hiatus following the company's closure of its Gateway Country Stores earlier this year, the Gateway brand has returned to store shelves. You'll find Gateway-branded PCs in national retail chains next to systems from eMachines, which Gateway acquired last March, and the other big retail brands such as HP and Sony. There's more to Gateway's first retail-only system, however, than how and where the company is selling it. The $1,199 Gateway 700GR is the first system to use Intel's next-generation BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) motherboard architecture.
Upside: The chief advantage of BTX motherboards, which replace the current ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) form factor, has to do with cooling. Today's processors and graphics cards are running hotter than ever, which means system manufacturers have to go to greater lengths (and louder fans) to keep PC parts from overheating. The BTX motherboard is designed to improve airflow through the case while keeping fan noise to a minimum. Intel's own Pentium 4 chips, such as the Pentium 4 550 found on the Gateway 700GR, are among the worst offenders for generating unwanted heat. Other pluses include the PCI Express (PCIe) interface for expansion cards; a full 1GB of memory; a roomy 250GB Serial ATA hard drive; and a multiformat, double-layer DVD burner.
Downside: The Gateway 700GR's graphics card is a PCIe card, but it's only a budget card--somewhat of a disappointment for Gateway's new high-end series. We expected to see at least a midrange card, such as ATI's 256MB Radeon X600, instead of the system's 128MB Radeon X300. And because it's an in-store, retail-only model, you cannot customize the 700GR prior to purchase. Also note that the $1,199 price does not include a monitor, although you do get a two-piece speaker set plus a keyboard and a mouse.
Outlook: We're excited to see our first BTX desktop. If Gateway's demo of the 700GR this summer is any indication, the motherboard's layout and the quiet system operation will be a boon to home offices and living rooms alike. As Intel releases faster--and hotter--processors later this year and next, BTX-based systems will soon become the standard. The Gateway 700GR is in Best Buy stores right now, so you can see for yourself. Look for our review of the Gateway 700GR or its soon-to-be-released direct-sale equivalent soon.