Gateway DX420 review: Gateway DX420

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The Good Strong, Vista-capable core configuration; room for upgrades; lots of customization options not commonly associated with a midrange desktop.

The Bad No HD disk player option, which you can find from the competition.

The Bottom Line Gateway's midrange DX420X is a strong midrange desktop that's primed for smooth Windows Vista performance. You can configure this system with some uncommonly high-end parts, but the one feature it's missing is an option for HD DVD or Blu-ray. If you can live without an HD disk player, we recommend this Gateway, especially if you're looking for some extra performance.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Gateway DX420X

Gateway's DX420X is as strong as any midrange desktop we've seen. Our $1,606 review unit's Core 2 Duo E6600 processor hits the price and performance sweet spot, its GeForce 7900 GT graphics card is a tick faster than what you typically find in a sub-$2,000 PC, and a raft of customization options give you plenty of choices to tailor this system to your liking. The only problem is that HP has a similar system, for a similar price, with an optional HD DVD drive. Gateway hasn't picked a side in the HD format wars yet. That reluctance prevents us from giving this system a high recommendation for next-generation digital entertainment duties, but as an all-around desktop, Gateway has a solid system on its hands.

The HP system we're comparing with the Gateway is a $1,649, fixed-configuration HP Pavilion m7690n Media Center TV PC. That model can only be found in retail stores, but HP has a customizable version, the m7690y, available on its Web site. The retail model with an HD DVD drive has a slower CPU and a slower 3D card than our Gateway DX420X, but the HP system also has more memory, 2GB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM, compared to the Gateway's 1GB of faster 667MHz memory. If you upgrade the HP's CPU, downgrade its memory, but otherwise line up its specs as close as possible to the Gateway, you get a price of $1,710. Gamers should take note that the DX420X has a performance edge thanks to its faster GeForce 7900 GT 3D card, but as our testing showed, the HP isn't exactly a slouch, either.

We also saw in our testing that the HP's additional memory goes a long way toward helping its overall performance, making us wish that the Gateway DX420X came with more RAM. The Gateway's Core 2 Duo E6600 has a clock speed of 2.4GHz, just a bit faster than the HP's 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo E6400. But we highly suspect that the HP's 2GB of memory helped on CNET Labs' Multitasking and Photoshop tests, during which the HP edged out the Gateway by a small but noticeable margin. On the iTunes, CineBench, and Quake 4 tests--all of which benefit most from raw processing power--the Gateway came out ahead.

Multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  

You'll notice on the Quake 4 scores especially that the Gateway has a solid lead over the HP, especially when we bump up the resolution to 1,280x1,024. We found in anecdotal testing that the Gateway DX420X would handle 1,600x1,200 as well, posting at 75.7 frames per second. We sent the HP back already, so we didn't get a chance to test it more, but considering its 1,280x1,024 score peaked at 67.2, we're not too confident in its ability to maintain smooth game play at higher resolutions.

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x1,024, 4xAA, 8xAF  
1,024x768, 4xAA, 8xAF  

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