Gateway P-172X FX review: Gateway P-172X FX

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.7
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 6.0
  • Service and support: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Excellent performance; includes HDMI and eSATA ports.

The Bad Not configurable, misplaced control key.

The Bottom Line Gateway's new P-172X FX offers high-end perks in a midpriced laptop, making it a reasonable choice for gamers who fall just short of hardcore.

Editors' Top Picks

Gateway's current laptop line offers something for gamers with widely varying budgets, without sacrificing too much in terms of components or features. We were previously very impressed with the high-end $3,000 P-171XL-FX and the low-end $1,249 P-6831FX. Both include Nvidia's GeForce 8800 graphics card, making the P-6831FX the best gaming laptop bargain we've seen.

Between those two extremes, Gateway offers the new $1,999 P-172X FX. It keeps the high-end graphics and 1,900x1,200 resolution of the $3,000 system, while dropping the CPU down to a still-impressive Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 and ditching the now-worthless HD DVD drive. Both Dell and Alienware offer 17-inch gaming rigs that can cost more and offer a few more bells and whistles (especially if you're fond of strobe lights), but Gateway's FX gaming laptop lineup does a great job of covering the low, middle, and high end of the market.

Price as reviewed $1,999
Processor 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme T8300
Memory 4GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 7,200rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS
Operating system Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 15.75x12.2x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 9.3/10.1 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

Physically identical to the Gateway P-171XL FX and P-6831FX models we recently tested, the P-172 has the same subdued black finish that won't look out of place in your den or living room--no illuminated alien heads here. The back of the lid has the system's most obvious branding, with a big FX logo splayed across it, similar to the one across the front of the desktop FX models.

The keyboard and separate number pad have roomy, comfortable keys--but the dark red used on the number keys, combined with the glossy finish of the keys themselves, made them hard to read (the other keys have standard white lettering). Another nitpick: the left control and function keys have somehow swapped places from where we usually find them on keyboards. In this case, the control key is no longer the leftmost key on the bottom row, making it hard to hit without looking at the keyboard. This is a shame because many games--to say nothing of applications such as Photoshop and Word--make ample use of the control key.

Above the keyboard are a row of media controls, with buttons cut right into the brushed metal border. These backlit buttons look cool, but it's sometimes hard to tell if you've pressed them hard enough. A touch-sensitive volume slider sits to the right, and was responsive and easy to use.

The 17.1-inch display has a native resolution of 1,920x1,280, which is great for high-end gaming. The screen was clear and bright, and we liked the finish, which was somewhere between the high-gloss finish found on most consumer notebooks (too much glare) and the matte finish found on business systems (too muted). We'd love to see more laptop makers pick up on this.

  Gateway P-172X FX Average for category (desktop replacement)
Video VGA, HDMI VGA-out, S-Video, DVI or HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data Three USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader, eSATA Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion ExpressCard PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner HD DVD or Blu-Ray

All the current 17-inch Gateway FX laptops include not only an HDMI output (quickly becoming standard equipment in high-end systems) but also an eSATA port, good for hooking up external SATA hard drives. And unlike the otherwise-excellent P-171XL FX, this model is not saddled with a now-obsolete HD DVD drive.

With a 2.4GHz Penryn Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 CPU, the P-172X FX was a speedy performer, and much faster than Gateway's cheaper version, the P-6831 FX, which has an older 2.0 GHz T5750 processor. (That particular model is a Best Buy retail exclusive, but Gateway offers the substantially similar P-172S FX for around the same price--$600 less than the P-172X FX we tested).

But if gaming is your main concern, trading down to one of those cheaper options may not be a bad idea, thanks to the 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 graphics card all the Gateway FX laptops share. The P-172X FX got only five more frames per second in Unreal Tournament III, and both systems easily topped 60fps, even at the 1,440x900 resolution. In additional anecdotal gaming tests, we were able to crank the resolution all the way up to 1,920x1,280 in both UT3 and Quake Wars, and still got very playable frame rates.

Editors' Top Picks

 

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Where to Buy

Gateway P-172X FX

Part Number: P-172XFX Released: Apr. 10, 2008

Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Apr. 10, 2008
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color Copper core accent
  • Weight 9.3 lbs
  • Hard Drive 160 GB HDD / 7200 rpm
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM - fixed
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS - 512 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
About The Author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.