We have to give Gateway credit for its attempt at a high-end gaming PC. With the Gateway FX510XL, Gateway does what large desktop companies do well: it uses its market muscle to offer a competitive price. For $3,600, our review unit is a good example. You get a powerful desktop, an outstanding 21-inch wide-screen LCD monitor, and a decent set of 5.1 speakers. What you don't get is the handcrafted touch typical of systems from the smaller PC shops. We can live without the automotive paint jobs, but a tidy interior is worth paying for, and it's missing here. You may also miss the wide variety of customization options, but if you're willing to accept what Gateway's offering here, you'll at least know you're getting a good deal.
Gateway hedges its bets in its marketing materials by targeting the FX510XL at gamers and digital enthusiasts. That definitely makes more sense than going strictly after brand-conscious gamers. With its bleeding-edge dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM (Gateway offers up to 4GB on this model), and 1TB (that's terabyte, folks, get used to it) of hard drive space in a RAID 0 array, the FX510XL is clearly outfitted to handle processor-intensive applications such as games and digital media-editing apps, as well as being able to store lots and lots of data. It also comes with and a TV tuner card, so watching live TV, burning DVDs, and handling tons of digital photos--the domains of the multimedia enthusiast--are no problem for this behemoth.
Performance numbers bear this out. On our SysMark 2004 test suite, the FX510XL turned in a blistering overall score of 265, with scores of 328 and 214 on the Internet-content-creation and office-productivity component tests, respectively. These numbers are nearly identical to those of the we covered earlier this year--a system based on the same Intel 955 Extreme Edition processor. While each of these Intel Extreme Edition systems are both fast, a handful of more expensive systems powered by AMD's Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU outperform the FX510XL by a wide margin. Another system from Polywell, the makes a good comparison here. It's a $4,700 PC, so it's definitely a more costly computer than the FX510XL, but its SysMark overall score beats the Gateway's by more than 30 points.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
The situation gets a bit more complicated when we look at the FX510XL's 3D performance. Our review unit came with a single 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card. It's fast, as its 100.4 frames per second on our Doom 3 test will attest, but you can configure an FX510XL that's even faster. For an additional $829, you can swap an ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire configuration, which should more than double your 3D-gaming capabilities. The catch is that the Nvidia card in this configuration is also dual-card capable, thanks to Nvidia's SLI technology, but because Gateway's motherboard doesn't support SLI, it's CrossFire or nothing for dual-card configs. That's pretty much the case with any dual card-capable PC; you have to choose either SLI or CrossFire. We just wonder why Gateway sells the Nvidia card with this system at all (as opposed to a comparable single card from ATI), considering that the motherboard limits its potential.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Doom 3 1,024x768 4XAA 8XAF|
But as we said earlier, the FX510XL is not merely a gaming PC. It comes jam-packed with an assortment of other goodies that should make the system cost about $500 more than it does. All in all, the FX510XL is a great deal.
Here's why. First of all, check out the monitor. For this price, Gateway includes its deluxe 21-inch wide-screen LCD, an excellent model with great performance and tons of features. The display sits on a telescoping stand that easily adjusts for height and also rotates, so you can work in portrait mode (very handy for document designers). The onscreen menu provides lots of granular control, while the monitor itself provides an four-port USB 2.0 hub, as well as DVI, composite, and S-Video inputs. Picture-in-picture, an HDCP content-decryption chip, and DCDi video-smoothing technologies are all included. This monitor delivers excellent image quality now and has features that will stand you in good stead in the future.
Gateway includes the typical accoutrement of high-end PCs. A fast DVD drive and a 16X double-layer DVD burner, along with a floppy drive and 9-in-1 flash media reader set you up for maximum digital media storage and transport. Inside you'll find a Creative SoundBlaster Audigy X-Fi audio card, an ATI Theater 550 Pro TV tuner (although you have to sacrifice one of these if you opt for the CrossFire graphics cards), and a 600-watt power supply (for CrossFire, Gateway upgrades to a 700-watt PSU). Despite these fancy features, you'll be disappointed to find cables snaking this way and that inside the FX510XL's junky interior, blocking access to most components and making future upgrades a major pain.
This sloppy assembly is our biggest disappointment with this system. Larger companies like Gateway and Dell have a hard time with the handcrafted touches of the Falcon Northwests and the Velocity Micros of the world due to their rigid assembly-line processes. But the fact is that customers can get that kind of loving care from the other vendors. True, the larger companies can often beat the smaller shops on price, but we submit that it's worth paying a little extra when the build quality is at its highest.
Still, the FX510XL remains a comparatively good deal. Capping it off, you'll find a wireless keyboard and mouse, Microsoft Works 2005 software, a Media Center remote control and receiver, and the passable . We cranked up DVD movies and audio CDs to deafening levels in our Labs, only to find the speakers handling highs and lows crisply and with convincing quality.
Gateway backs the FX510XL with a range of support options. The default plan provides the industry average one year of parts-and-labor coverage along with 24/7 toll-free phone support. Other plans let you extend the basic coverage and add onsite service, with the most expensive addition for $270. Gateway's rich online resources give you plenty of ways to diagnose and fix problems yourself, with configuration-specific documentation and software lists, driver downloads, and online tech chat.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell XPS 400 (Viiv)
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 940; Intel 945P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 (PCIe); (2) Maxtor, 250GB, 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel (RAID 1)
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.46GHz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955; Intel 975X chipset; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (PCIe); (2) Hitachi, 500GB, 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801GR/GH Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
HP Media Center m7360n
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 920; Intel 945G chipset; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6200SE (PCIe); Maxtor, 300GB, 7,200rpm, Serial ATA
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.46GHz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955; Intel 975X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GT (PCIe); (2) WDC WD740GD-00FLC0, 74GB, 10,000rpm, SATA, (2) Maxtor 7Y250M0, 250GB, 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; Integrated Silicon SiL3114 SoftRAID5 (RAID 0)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvida Nforce4 SLI X16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (SLI); two Western Digital WD946D 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA, one Western Digital WDC2500KS-00MJB0 250GB Serial ATA II; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)