The volume buyer outfitting a whole company with desktop computers has one major guideline: no surprises. Slick new designs, the most fashionable features, or the latest (and possibly undertested) technology are frills that impede the computing needs and the budgetary concerns of IT managers. The $1,487 E-4500D from Gateway offers a stable hardware platform and warranty options tailor-made for volume buyers who expect easy deployment and a long life cycle.
With these aesthetics--a matte-black case with negligible ornaments--the E-4500D won't exactly drive the design department wild. But pop open the easy-release latch in back and take a look inside. The BTX case design allows the system to deal with heat more efficiently, and with less noise. And unlike its big brother, the , this system is also available in a smaller, slim desktop configuration.
The midtower case we reviewed offers a decent amount of room for expansion, including two free PCI slots; three free DIMMs, depending on your choice of RAM; and two free drive bays. There are six drive bays in all: two 5.25-inch, two external 3.5-inch, and two internal 3.5-inch bays. (The E-6500D is slightly larger and offers on additional hard drive bay.) Unfortunately, the internal cables aren't routed very well, blocking easy access to some components.
Externally, the Gateway E-4500D provides just what you'd expect from a business PC: dual USB 2.0 ports and mic and headphone jacks up front, with four additional USB 2.0 ports around back. You have to opt for an optional $15 PCI card or upgrade to a third-party sound card to get FireWire ports. Moreover, Gateway does not offer a flash-card reader as an option, which is not a must-have business accessory but might be useful for some.
Our test system came with dual 160GB SATA hard drives (RAID configuration isn't an option here as it is on the E-6500D). You can get a single drive with up to 250GB of space and add up to 400GB in the second drive bay. Gateway offers a variety of optical drive options for one or both optical drive slots, including a double-layer DVD burner. Our test system included only the default DVD/CD-RW drive. The E-4500D comes standard with 512MB of RAM in the form of two 256MB DIMMS, and you can go as high as 4GB, although it'll cost you an additional $560.
The E-series systems are easy to configure via Gateway's Web site, and the options at the processor level are impressive. You can choose from among several of Intel's 500- or 600-series Pentium 4 processors or the dual-core Pentium D 800 series. Our system included the dual-core 2.8GHz Pentium D 820 CPU, and the top upgrade, a 3.2GHz Pentium D 840, is available for an additional $310.
The next step up in Gateway's E series is the Gateway E-6500D; we tested a configuration with a more powerful 3.0GHz Pentium D 830, which led to a score 11 percent faster in CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 tests. Another recent business system, theuses a single-core but faster-clocked 3.6GHz P4 660 to beat the E-4500D by 9 percent on the same test. Since faster single-core CPUs are available for the E-4500D, that might be the way to go for users who need more raw processing power.
With integrated graphics, serious 3D work isn't an option, but beyond the basic 945G chipset, you have a few video card options. They start with the Radeon X300 SE for an additional $70, and they top out at the midrange 256MB GeForce 6600 for $160. Our system included only a $20 DVI-out card that offers a digital hookup for an LCD monitor.