So, Gateway, question for you. Have you seen what Apple's doing with all-in-one desktops these days? The revolutionary iMac, around for almost a year now, is the picture of space savings, ergonomics, and plain old aesthetic beauty. Meanwhile the new Profile 6SB is, well, no beauty. At $1,519, the Profile 6SB reviewed here costs roughly $200 less than the more capable and more attractive 20-inch iMac Core Duo. But if you're looking for an all-in-one, you're better off spending a little more on an Apple.
To be fair, while the iMac designers took bold steps to remove extraneous features, leaving us with a sleek, elegant, but ultimately inflexible design, the Profile 6SB is by comparison highly configurable and offers lots of options. It has removable rear and side panels for easy maintenance and features many legacy ports for connectivity. Moreover, Gateway touts the Profile's life-cycle "cost efficiencies": because the system is a single, integrated unit, deployment, maintenance, and retirement costs are supposedly reduced.
In addition to its upgradability, the Profile 6SB tries to bridge the gap between the all-in-one PC and the standard desktop, and the resulting miscegenation looks like a minitower mounted onto the back of an LCD, much like the small-form-factor Dell OptiPlex GX620. The resulting system is heavy, bulky, and unattractive, and Gateway's claims of heightened ergonomics, reduced cable clutter, and space savings are overstated.
Then there's the problem of performance. Our test system came equipped with a 2.8GHz Pentium D 920 and 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 RAM. The Alienware Area-51 3550 and the HP Media Center TV m7360n, both standard desktop systems based around the 920 processor, outperformed the Profile on our SysMark 2004 overall test by 6 and 3 percent, respectively. And despite its GeForce 7300 LE graphics card, our test machine could barely get through Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 testing at 1,024x768. On the same test, the iMac Core Duo, a platform not exactly known as a gaming workhorse, scored 25.8 frames per second when we dual-booted into Windows XP. We can forgive the Profile 6SB its low scores since it's designed for business, but the Profile 6C consumer model uses the same graphics chip, so home buyers should most definitely beware.
On the plus side, you can configure the Profile 6 to a greater extent than we've ever seen from previous all-in-ones. Choose from among a handful of processors, including dual-core Pentium D, hyper-threading Pentium 4, or budget Celeron CPUs, as well as various hard drives and optical drives. The consumer model, the Profile 6C, offers only the higher end of the CPU spectrum, but both models let you choose from a 19-inch LCD (like the one we tested) or a 17-inch model. You can only downgrade the graphics from the Nvidia GeForce 7300 LE in our review unit. And we were surprised to find that while minimizing desk clutter is a main target of an all-in-one PC, Gateway offers no wireless keyboards or mice.
We found that DVD playback looked acceptable on our test system; the display's 1,280x1,024-pixel native resolution handled colors and movement well with only a slight hint of pixelation. The height-adjustable monitor hinge is also a welcome feature. As for audio, we were pleasantly surprised by the depth of the Profile's two 3-watt internal speakers, which were more than powerful enough for standard business applications. Home users who choose the Profile 6C model will want to chip in for a subwoofer, however. In future models, we'd really like to see some kind of mute button, even if it's a key combination. The hardware volume-up/down control on the right side of the system is nice but useless in a panic situation.
Corporate buyers may want to consider the Profile 6SB, targeted at large businesses, because it's part of Gateway's Managed Desktops line, with managed product life cycles, beefed-up security offerings, and remote-management capabilities. And as usual, Gateway offers a wide range of warranty and service packages and provides 24/7 toll-free support in addition to exhaustive online help.