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Gateway 7200 review:

Gateway 7200

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The Good Strong 3D performer; quiet; lots of multimedia features; a bargain.

The Bad Cheap mouse; tech support is not toll-free and lasts only a year.

The Bottom Line It's quiet, it's fast, and it's affordable--in fact, we think there's very little you won't like about Gateway's 7200XL.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.4 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Support 7.0

Intro

Editor's note: Gateway recently updated its desktop lines and is no longer selling the 7200XL. The 7200XL has been replaced by the company's new high-end PC, the Gateway 9310. (3/8/05)

Gateway's newly redesigned, high-end 7200XL desktop combines the latest technology with an array of high-end components. The first system we've seen that incorporates Intel's BTX (Balanced Technology Extended), the 7200XL ushers in a new era of quieter computing and a more logically laid out interior. It also represents for Gateway a return to selling configurable PCs directly from its Web site, and the company certainly didn't skimp on the components. The 7200XL's high-end 3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 560 processor, ATI's Radeon X800 XT graphics card, and a 19-inch LCD monitor place this PC firmly in the upper echelon of performance systems. Even better, it costs only $2,625, a full $1,000 less than similarly configured competitor PCs. We recommend you take advantage of this bargain. As processors and graphics cards continually run faster and hotter, they require larger and more expensive heat sinks, multiple cooling fans, and in some cases, special liquid-cooling elements to prevent overheating. Ever-advancing components will eventually surpass the ability of current system design to keep the parts cool and the PC quiet. Enter BTX (Balanced Technology Extended), which was originated by Intel and is showcased here in Gateway's new 7200XL desktop. As the 7200XL shows, the BTX form factor offers improvement over the legacy ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) layout.

The first change that you'll notice: you access the BTX motherboard from the right side of the case, as opposed to the left with ATX systems. When you look inside, you'll see a new board layout designed to maximize cooling efficiency. A plastic shroud extends over the processor from a 120mm fan on the front of the box. This shroud channels cool air directly across the CPU, over the memory (which now sits directly behind the CPU), and the graphics card, then out the rear of the system, with help from another 120mm fan on the back panel. The large fans and the directed air pathway not only make for better cooling, they also allow quieter operation because you no longer need a fan seated directly on the processor itself. Further, the 120mm fans move the same volume of air as standard 80mm fans common in ATX systems while spinning more slowly and quietly. In fact, this PC is straight-up quiet. If not for the drive operation lights, it's sometimes hard to tell that it's actually on.


In the new BTX form factor, air moves from the front of the PC, across the CPU, the memory, and a portion of the graphics card, then out the back.

Another advantage of the new design is that, because of the new position of the x16 PCI Express (PCIe) video card slot, graphics cards with massive, oversize heat sinks, such as the one here, will not encroach upon the adjacent standard PCI expansion slot. The Gateway 7200XL has four PCI slots total, with two unoccupied.

On the outside, the Gateway 7200XL doesn't appear that revolutionary. Its familiar black-and-silver case looks roughly the same size as Gateway's ATX-based 710XL Performance box, the major outward change only a large vent for the intake fan on the bottom portion. A pair of FireWire ports sits on the lower half of the front panel, and underneath the dual layer/dual format DVD burner and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive resides an 8-in-1 media-card reader and a single USB 2.0 port.


The ridged black plastic on the lower portion of the case conceals the intake fan.

Around back, you'll find six additional USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and five jacks for connecting to the integrated High Definition Audio solution. You'll also see the latch for the easy-to-open, tool-free side panel. Inside, the wire layout is somewhat cluttered, but aside from that, it looks about as organized as you'd hope. The 3.5-inch hard drive bays sit perpendicular to the case for easy removal, always a bonus, and with two of the three free, you have plenty of room for added storage. You get less space for front-panel drives, as both of the 5.25-inch bays are occupied, although one of the two 3.5-inch front-accessible bays is available.

With the 7200XL, Gateway makes its triumphant return to selling customizable PCs from its Web site. This unit came to us with a high-end configuration that makes it suited for just about anything you'd like to do with it.


You get a whole lot of computer for only $2,625.

The 3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 560; 1GB of DDR (400MHz) memory; and a 250GB, 7,200rpm Western Digital SATA hard drive form a powerful foundation that gives you plenty of pop and storage space. For games and movies, the pairing of the 256MB ATI Radeon X800 XT PCI Express graphics card and Gateway's 19-inch FPD1940 LCD monitor proved a winning combination. The 3D card is one of the most powerful around for gaming, and the brightly lit LCD incorporates Fujitsu's MVA (Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment) technology for expanding the viewing angle, which helps the screen look great from any angle in its native 1,280x1,024 resolution. It supports both VGA (15-pin) and digital video connections, and its monitor's stylish base and small footprint make it ideal for users with limited desktop real estate. You can also purchase an optional wall-mounting kit to further optimize your work space.

We also liked the pairing of a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS sound card and Gateway's 5.1 GMAX 5100 speaker system, which provided a rich blend of mid/high tones delivered through the five satellite speakers and wall-shaking bass, thanks to an oversize subwoofer.

The 7200XL ships with a decent multimedia keyboard, but we think this system is worthy of an optical mouse rather than the supplied ball mouse. Other than Windows XP Home Edition, the bundled software is limited to Microsoft Works Suite 2005 and trial versions of Norton AntiVirus (90-days), Napster 2.0 (with a 150-song sampler), and AOL (six-month Internet access).

We don't expect BTX to lend any real performance benefit to existing hardware, instead it will enable parts manufacturers to keep ramping up clock speeds. That said, the Gateway 7200XL performs about as well as you'd expect for a PC with a high-end configuration. In terms of application performance, we compared the Gateway 7200XL with a handful of slightly more powerful PCs, and it placed exactly where we thought it would. Its application performance scores were the lowest overall, but a 204 is nothing to be ashamed of, and it makes sense, given that this system has slower memory compared to that of its nearest competitor, the MPC ClientPro 565. As we expected, the Gateway 7200XL can tackle any task you throw at it, and it represents a great deal, considering some of these comparison systems cost $1,000 more.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

The Gateway 7200XL fared better on our 3D gaming performance tests than it did on our application performance tests. On our highest-end Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmarks (at 1,600x1,200 resolution), it slightly trailed a Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX, which boasts both an overclocked processor (P4 560) and video card (GeForce 6800 Ultra). The Gateway 7200XL bested scores produced by a Cyberpower Gamer Infinity 6800GT system and its 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip and GeForce 6800 GT graphics card. It isn't a huge surprise that the Gateway prevails on this test over the Cyberpower, given the 7200XL's superior ATI graphics card, but again, the Cyberpower costs about $900 more. For older 3D games, the Gateway 7200XL will provide more than enough 3D processing power.

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