Gateway's new E-1500D is aimed squarely at the small-business audience, offering platform stability along with bundled management apps. With a base price of only $399, the E-1500D offers small-business features at a low price but has some bottom-of-the-barrel components, such as a Celeron processor. Adding useful extras, such as a Pentium 4 CPU, an LCD monitor, and Microsoft Office, can almost double the price, as in our $1,038 review unit. With more configuration options and a similar price, you might do better to look at the next step up, the E-2600 series.
Inside the tool-free midtower chassis, you'll find some room for expansion, including free x1 and x16 PCI Express slots. There's room for one additional hard drive in the case, besides the included 80GB drive in our review unit, and both our RAM slots were filled with 256MB modules, for 512MB total. Having room to add more hard drive space or PCI Express cards is a definite plus for a budget system.
The system lacks a media card reader, but it does have legacy connections that business users might need, including a 3.5-inch floppy drive. The double-layer DVD burner included with our review unit is a optional upgrade, but it's only a $40 add-on from the standard CD-RW drive and worth the cost. Ports include six USB 2.0 jacks (two front, four rear) and serial, parallel, and PS2 ports.
The Gateway E-1500D doesn't include a relatively comprehensive suite for security and management, such as the Lenovo Care package found in the Lenovo 3000 J105. Instead, you'll get basic encryption and recovery software, plus Gateway's Systems Manager tools. With the Systems Manager running on client and administrator machines, you can get detailed information about the components in a particular system, monitor a system's health, and even get remote alerts when the chassis is opened. Lenovo's package is more hands-on and provides quick links to multimedia applications, backup software, one-button system recovery, and Web-based service and support, but it doesn't include Gateway's remote management features.
With a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 521, the Gateway E-1500D is powerful enough for most office tasks. You can upgrade to a handful of Pentium 4 and Celeron processors, topping out at a 3GHz P4 631, which will run you an extra $50. In CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 application benchmarks, the our test system was the slowest of the small-business systems we've tested recently, coming in 16 percent slower than its sister machine, the 3GHz P4 631-powered Gateway E-2600S.
With integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics, you won't be able to do much 3D heavy lifting on the E-1500D, but there is an option to add a GeForce 7300 video card, which includes DVI, VGA, & S-Video outputs for an extra $59. Another option is adding a PCI DVI adapter, which works with the integrated graphics. That will run you a mere $20.
Packed in with the system you'll find a basic black USB keyboard and optical mouse set, along with a small pair of desktop speakers and a 15-inch LCD monitor. The bundled software includes Microsoft Works 8, but a handful of upgraded packages are available, including Office Small Business Edition 2003 for an additional $249. That's what you'd pay for the same package anywhere else, but it is still nearly half the price of the base system itself.
The E-1500D's printed material is limited to a setup poster, and the complete user guide is included as a PDF file on the hard drive. Gateway also offers a wide variety of sometimes confusing warranty options. The E-1500D's default one-year Desktop Value Plus plan provides next-business-day onsite service and toll-free technical support. You can upgrade to five years of this kind of protection for $299 or choose the more airtight Total Protection Plan ($448 for five years), which adds priority support, allowing you to skip those annoying toll-free phone menus.