When we reviewed the Gateway M250E a year ago, we liked everything about the laptop, save its lackluster application performance. We feel roughly the same about the Gateway M255-E, which features a handful of minor design improvements, a Core 2 Duo processor, and less-than-stellar benchmark results. It will ably handle the rigors of business-class computing, but it failed to set the world on fire on CNET Labs' new benchmarks. With integrated graphics and no option for upgrading to a dedicated graphics card, the Gateway M255-E's performance potential is limited; your best bet for improving performance is adding more memory. Alternatively, if you are comfortable choosing an off-brand, the $1,499 PC Club Enpower ENP680 provides more features and better performance for less dough.
The M255-E is sold via Gateway's small-business site; the consumer equivalent is the NX260X, which lacks a TPM security chip but provides a consumer diagnostic tool called BigFix, which Gateway inherited from eMachines. The system features Gateway's tried-and-true silver-and-black color scheme but measures slightly wider and thicker than the previous M250E at 13.3 inches wide, 9.7 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick. It weighs a hefty 6.2 pounds--heavier than the older M250E. The small, two-prong power adapter adds 0.8 pound to your travel bag. On the whole, its design is superior to that of the PC Club Enpower ENP680; not only does the Gateway present a more polished, professional appearance, but it also feels sturdier and more solidly built.
The 14.1-inch screen features a 1,280x800 native resolution. Business users will appreciate the absence of the Utlrabright glossy coating; while it makes movies and photos stand out--particularly in a dark room or an airplane cabin--the coating causes glare and reflection problems under normal working conditions. The keyboard retains the same, comfortable design of the M250E, and the touch pad is wider and deeper. The mouse keys have been improved; they are larger and easier to use than the M250E's narrow, firm keys. Other features we wish we saw on last year's models have been added, including Bluetooth, an S-Video port, and the TPM chip. One feature we are sad to see go is the old unit's volume dial on the front edge; you'll need to use function keys to adjust the volume on the M255-E.
The front edge supplies a multiformat media card reader and headphone and microphone jacks. The system features four USB ports, conveniently split between the left and right sides. A four-pin FireWire port and a modem jack flank the USB ports on the right edge, while S-Video and VGA connectors do the same on the left. An 8X double-layer DVD burner hides along the left side, as well. An Ethernet port is the only connection on the back edge other than the power. The integrated wireless chip supports 802.11 a/b/g networking.
Our review unit came equipped with a Core 2 Duo T5600 processor. It's the second-lowest chip in the line with a clock speed of 1.83GHz and 2MB of L2 cache. Rounding out the specs are 1GB of fast 667MHz DDR2 memory, an 80GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive, and integrated Intel 945GM graphics. The PC Club Enpower ENP680 trumps these specs by including a faster Core 2 Duo processor (with double the L2 cache), twice the memory, and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 GS graphics card that supplies 256MB of dedicated video RAM.
We weren't surprised to see the PC Club Enpower ENP680 top the Gateway M255-E on CNET Labs' new benchmarks; it bested the Gateway on our Multitasking, Photoshop, and iTunes tests. More surprising was the fact that the M255-E lost badly to two previous-generation Core Duo-based laptops from Dell and HP on the Photoshop test. The scores make sense when you consider that our Photoshop test is memory intensive and that the Gateway M255-E supplies only half the memory of the Dell Inspiron E1505 and the HP Pavilion dv2000t, which the Gateway system then must also share with the graphics. We suspect the M255-E would fare better if it enjoyed the use of 2GB of memory. The iTunes scores for all four laptops were close; the Gateway's latest-generation CPU is offset by its slower clock speed.
On MobileMark, the Gateway M255-E enjoyed a 16 percent advantage over the older M250E but, frankly, we expected more. The Fujitsu LifeBook E8210 was 12 percent faster than the M255-E, and it uses an older Core Duo processor also clocked at 1.83GHz (it does, however, use an ATI graphics card with 256MB of video RAM).
The Gateway M255-E's 12-cell battery ran for 6 hours, 33 minutes, impressive until you realize that last year's M250E, also equipped with a 12-cell battery, lasted 21 minutes longer. Based on these two Gateway laptops, an admittedly small sample, Core 2 Duo does nothing to improve battery life.
The Gateway M255-E includes Windows XP Professional and comes with the pared-down Microsoft Works 8.5 productivity suite, CyberLink's PowerDVD for DVD playback and Power2Go for disc burning.
The price of our M255-E review unit includes Gateway's standard three-year business-class warranty, which includes toll-free technical support but not onsite. There is a long list of warranty options available; we recommend at least a three-year plan for business users. Adding onsite service to the plan that came with our review unit adds a reasonable $60. If depot service is required, Gateway pays shipping costs only one way. Gateway's Web site is well stocked with documentation, drivers, and a wide-ranging FAQs section; it also provides e-mail access to technicians. The included printed manuals provide a good overview on getting started, managing Wi-Fi, and troubleshooting