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Gateway 5200 review: Gateway 5200

We're suckers for a pretty face, and Gateway's midrange 5200XL desktop definitely made us look twice. Happily, there’s plenty of substance behind the style.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
5 min read
Gateway 5200XL
Although it still uses the ATX form factor (unlike the BTX-based Gateway 7200XL), the 5200XL is a futuristic silver jewel, with remarkably clean lines and stylishly distributed black accents. Behind this sleek veneer lies all the horsepower most home and business users are likely to need, be it for running office applications, playing games, or editing video. We particularly like the 5200XL's $999 base price, though the strategic upgrades Gateway added nudged the grand total of our test system to $1,330--still a great deal for such a well-rounded mainstream PC. Despite a few minor hiccups, Gateway's dazzling midrange PC has the substance to support its style.

Though it roars like a jet engine when you first power it up, after a few seconds the noise gives way to near silence. Indeed, the Gateway 5200XL is an admirably quiet system overall. A tool-free side panel provides access to the interior, where you'll find limited room for expansion. The PCI slots and the external drive bays are full, though there is space for more RAM and a second hard drive. External expansion options, fortunately, are plentiful, with three USB 2.0 and two FireWire ports in front, plus four USB 2.0 and two more FireWire ports in back.


Gateway 5200

The Good

Snazzy design; double-layer DVD burner; solid performance and quiet operation; great sound system; lots of USB and FireWire ports.

The Bad

Analog LCD produces slightly fuzzy text and graphics; not much room for internal expansion; you have to burn your own recovery CDs; wired mouse and keyboard.

The Bottom Line

With its killer looks and a try-to-please-everyone roster of components, the midrange Gateway 5200XL gives you what you need in a generalist PC.

For mainstream users, itÂ’s hard to argue with GatewayÂ’s component choices for the 5200XL. The system comes standard with a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 530 processor, 512MB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM, a 200GB Serial ATA hard drive, and an 8-in-1 media reader. Any disc-creation tasks you may have are ably handled by the 5200XL's DVD/CD-RW combo drive and double-layer DVD burner.

Although the base model comes with a 17-inch CRT, Gateway sent us its $150 FPD1750 17-inch analog LCD monitor. With its 12ms response time, itÂ’s outstanding for games and movies alike. Text and static images, however, werenÂ’t particularly crisp in our tests, probably owing to the monitorÂ’s analog interface. If you want a sharper display, consider GatewayÂ’s 19-inch LCD, which includes both VGA and DVI interfaces. The 19-inch monitor adds $300 to the 5200XLÂ’s base price.

Gateway also replaced the stock ATI Radeon X300 SE graphics card with ATI's Radeon X600 XT Pro ($99). The latter offers much better performance for games: it ran Unreal Tournament 2003 with a blazing 98.8 frames per second, which bodes well for the 5200XL's ability to play 3D games with at least moderate frame rates. As for application performance, the 5200XL turned in solid scores--about what we'd expect for a machine in this class.

We didnÂ’t expect much from GatewayÂ’s GMAX 2100 speakers, an admittedly attractive three-piece system with ball-shaped satellites and a sturdy, freestanding control module. The latter includes both volume and bass dials, plus headphone and microphone jacks (a potential source of confusion, given the presence of identical jacks on the front of the tower). Paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS card (a $50 upgrade), the 2100s cranked out deep, detailed music and boisterous game and movie audio.

GatewayÂ’s multimedia keyboard features a host of handy, clearly labeled buttons for everything from document editing to browser navigation to CD/DVD playback. Too bad both the keyboard and the mouse are wired--weÂ’d greatly prefer wireless components in a system like this.

Gateway keeps the software to a minimum: Microsoft Works Suite 2005, Nero Express 6.0 (the "lite" version of the Nero suite), and a 90-day subscription to Norton AntiVirus. You also get a stack of blank CDs and the annoying, time-consuming task of burning your own recovery discs. Thankfully, you can burn a recovery DVD, although Gateway doesnÂ’t supply any blank media for that.

Given the price of the system, we were hoping for a somewhat better warranty than one year on parts, labor, and technical support (which is 24/7 but not toll-free). Gateway does offer various support upgrades, such as extending the policy to three years for $140. The company also deserves kudos for pasting Web and phone contact info and the 5200XLÂ’s serial number on the front of the tower, where theyÂ’re easy to find, and for offering real-time support via online chat. Novices would probably appreciate more printed documentation, however, than the included setup poster.

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 1,024x768  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X, respectively, during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations

Dell Dimension 4700C
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915G ; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Gateway 5200XL
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.2GHz Intel P4 540; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X600 (PCIe); WDC WD2000JD-22HBB0 200GB 7,200rpm Seral ATA

Gateway E-6300
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.2GHz Intel P4 540; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915G; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Velocity Micro Vector SX-V
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 550; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 6600GT (PCIe) ; WDC WD2000JD-00HBB0 200GB 7,200rpm Seral ATA

WinBook PowerSpec 9262
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 550; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce PCX 5300 (PCIe); WDC WD2500JD-00HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA


Gateway 5200

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 7Support 6