Continuing in its line of desktop computers with quad-core processors, the Gateway FX7026 offers a loaded computer that can go head-to-head with other high-end gaming and media heavy machines. The $1,099 price tag is more than fair for the amount of high performance features and comparable to a similar DIY setup. If you don't have a lot to spend but still want the benefit of a quad-core system, check out the Gateway GT5674, a basic low-cost desktop with a 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500. But if you're a gamer and you want a system that can play most current titles well, you'll appreciate the Gateway FX7026's increased storage, memory, and processor speed.
|Gateway FX7026||Gateway GT5674|
|CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300||2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500|
|Memory||4GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM||3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||NVIDIA(r) GeForce(r) 8800GT Factory Overclocked||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE|
|Hard Drive||640GB 7,2000rpm||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Optical Drive||18X DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti Drive||16x dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
Design and features
The FX7026 is housed in a sleek, carbon fiber black chassis with matte black and metallic orange highlights. The front portion of the tower has an 18x DVD-RW drive with an extra drive slot and expansion bay below for portable storage. We like that the 15-in-1 media card reader is located at the top of the tower; many modern desktops position them at the bottom, making it difficult to reach when it's sitting on the floor. The media bay also has a convenient "copy" button for quick data transfers.
Gateway includes a basic two-button USB mouse and a full-size PS/2 keyboard with the FX7026, both wired. The keyboard has an integrated faux-leather wrist pad as well as a set of buttons to navigate through digital media. We were disappointed to see that Gateway includes its generic desktop speakers that draw power from USB, producing a disappointingly diluted effect when used to play high-quality MP3s and game sound effects.
You don't need tools to open the tower, just unscrew two large knobs and you'll have full access to the FX7026's guts. Under the hood you'll find the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.5GHz processor, two 320GB SATA II hard drives running at 7,200rpm, and 4GB of SDRAM. The computer also comes with a fairly decent video card and an overclocked NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT 512MB with ports for DVI, VGA, and TV Out that will make it through the majority of today's games.
Hard-core gamers will also be disappointed to hear that the Gateway's motherboard is not SLI compatible, although we're not surprised considering the low overall price. We're also surprised to see that the FX7026 ships with 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, which takes full advantage of the 4GB of RAM included with the system, and also leaves room to upgrade.
In our CNET Labs tests, we don't have many systems in this price range with quad-core processors other than the Gateway GT5674 and the older Acer Aspire M5100. We threw in the $1,500 Maingear Prelude to compare gaming scores, since those other two systems only have integrated graphics.
We're pleasantly surprised by the FX7026's application scores. The Gateway's combination of a fast 2.5GHz CPU and 64-bit Vista putting all 4GB of RAM to work put it on top of even the more expensive Maingear system, and by a large margin. We didn't expect the Gateway to outperform the Maingear and its SLI graphics cards on our gaming tests, but the FX7026 does well enough on Unreal Tournament 3, and it actually edges out the Maingear by a small margin on our low-resolution Crysis. Neither system can really play Crysis at higher settings, so in terms of relevant performance, the Gateway is an outstanding performer for its price.
Service and support
Gateway protects the FX7026 with a limited one0year warranty that covers parts and labor. In addition, troubleshooting and basic support is available through a 24-7 phone line or on Gateway's Web site. Gateway also provides BigFix software on the system itself, to help you troubleshoot problems at home. All of these support features are on a par with those from other desktop vendors.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)