Large, 17-inch laptops are often the province of gamers who require big, expensive rigs in order to handle the latest games at even modest resolutions and settings. While it makes sense for a serious gamer to plunk down a few thousand dollars for a fully loaded 17-inch system, someone who just wants to enjoy movies, music, TV shows, and other media on a larger screen doesn't need the latest in pricey graphics card technology.
The $1,299 Gateway P-170L (currently on sale for $1,049) features a few notable extras such as 802.11n Wi-Fi and an HDMI output. This attractive, media-friendly laptop is not configurable, but it serves up ample specs for the money, including a Core 2 Duo processor on Intel's latest mobile platform. It also doesn't skimp on the memory, which is often the case as the price dips toward the magic $1,000 mark. (In fact, this model is currently discounted on Gateway's site for $1,049.) At the same list price of $1,299, Dell has a 17-inch desktop replacement, the Inspiron 1720, that delivers identical processor, memory, and hard drive options but adds a dedicated graphics by way of an Nvidia 8400 card and loses the built-in Bluetooth, HDMI, and Webcam. Whichever extras are more important to you may tip the scales one way or the other. Perhaps as important, the Gateway's plastic chassis looks sleek and modern but feels cheap and insubstantial.
|Price as reviewed||$1,299|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||15.8x11.5x1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.6 / 9.8 pounds|
Cast in a dark gray, the Gateway P-170L has a bubbly, glassy, plastic prefab look, much like Dell's current line of mainstream Inspiron laptops. Even though the keyboard tray is lined with brushed metal, both that and the back lid gave too easily under our fingers. Following the recent direction of Dell and HP, Gateway's new design aesthetic is clean, modern, and satisfying--a long way from the bland industrial laptops of just a few years ago.
A 1.3-megapixel Webcam sits above the display. Media control buttons are cut right onto the brushed-metal keyboard tray, next to a cool, touch-sensitive volume control strip. This is similar to the 15-inch Gateway M-150XL, although this touch pad lacks the large, clearly marked scroll zone found on the 15-inch version. The plastic mouse buttons felt cheap and clicked loudly, but the touch pad and keyboard were otherwise responsive and comfortable.
The 17.0-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size, although more expensive 17-inch laptops, such as the Toshiba Satellite X205, have a higher 1,680x1,050 resolution. Text and icons are readable at either size, and the difference isn't that important outside of gaming and Blu-ray/HD DVD viewing, neither of which you'll be doing with this laptop.
|Gateway P-170L||Average for mainstream category|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0, SD card slot||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||Express card slot||PC Card or Express card slot|
|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||DVD burner|
Despite being a fixed-configuration system, Gateway offers plenty of extras on the P-170L. You get Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, plus an HDMI output, which is an appreciated--if not terribly useful--touch for a laptop without a next-gen optical drive. Still, swapping HDMI for the archaic S-Video port we still find on most laptops is hopefully a portent of things to come. Like the Gateway M-150XL, this system lacks a mini-FireWire jack, but honestly, we didn't miss it--although camcorder owners might feel left out.
As one would expect from a laptop with an Intel T-7000 series CPU, we saw no surprises from the P-170L's performance. It closely matching similarly configured systems, even more expensive ones such as the Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV680 We were able to multitask with ease, running Web browsers, media players, and office documents at the same time with no slowdown or stuttering. With integrated graphics, however, you're not going to be doing much gaming on this system.
Gateway also offers a stripped-down version, called the P-170X, which knocks the CPU down to a 1.46GHz T2310, loses the 802.11n Wi-Fi, but keeps the 2GB of RAM and Bluetooth for only $899 (currently on sale for $799), making it a notable 17-inch bargain.
The Gateway P-170L ran for 2 hours and 5 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's excellent for a 17-inch laptop, and only 10 minutes less than Gateway's 15-inch model. Since our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.