Editors' note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Find out more here.
The first PC manufacturer to embrace the new BTX desktop form factor, Gateway has already earned itself an Editors' Choice award with the stellarhome PC. And while it would be overstating the case to suggest that Gateway's new BTX E-6300 business desktop will revolutionize your workplace, as a whole, the $1,258 (as of January 2005) E-6300 is a competent, reasonably priced PC. If you're particularly concerned about desktop noise issues or if you're worried about thermal wear and tear, as the first business desktop we've seen with the new BTX case layout, the E-6300 is a perfect remedy, especially if you purchase a higher-end configuration.
As with the almost identically designed 7200XL, from the outside, there's not a dramatic difference in appearance between the E-6300 and a PC using the old ATX layout. It's when you get inside the case that you notice the changes. For starters, to open the piano-black case, you need to remove the left-side panel; most older tower-style cases open from the right. As with the 7200XL, the E-6300 uses a small fan in the power supply, a 120mm fan at the back of the case to extract heat, and a 120mm fan at the front of the case that draws air in across the CPU and the memory. Although a single E-6300 is only somewhat quieter than an ATX computer, an office full of them might be noticeably less noisy.
But it isnÂ’t all about hot air and silence with the E-6300. This particular midrange configuration achieves a reasonable balance between power and affordability. Its 3.2GHz Pentium 4 540 CPU and 512MB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM provide enough oomph for standard office tasks. The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 integrated graphics chip leeches up to 128MB of the system memory, but with 512MB of system memory, the E-6300 won't be overwhelmed by anything outside of 3D-intensive work. In contrast, the single 160GB hard drive is more than adequate for the average office desktop. Should you need a more powerful PC, you can configure the E-6300 with a faster processor, more memory, multiple hard drives, and even a high-end 3D graphics card.
The E-6300Â’s case, however, wonÂ’t change. Tool-free inside and out, with the sound chip and the 10/100/1000 LAN connections already integrated into the motherboard, all three PCI slots are vacant, as is the PCI Express slot. It's notable that the E-6300 has a free 16x PCI Express slot for a graphics card update. Some midsize towers, such as the, give you no graphics update path. While 3D capability is less important for business-class PCs, we like that the E-6300 gives you the option.
For other expansion, two of the E-6300Â’s four memory slots remain empty, as well. YouÂ’ll find front-accessible 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch bays to fill, and two extra internal hard drive slots sit waiting for added storage. Connectivity options consist of four rear-mounted USB 2.0 ports, the LAN port, a set of 7.1 audio jacks, and the usual legacy connections. Up front, two USB 2.0 ports, a pair of FireWire ports, and duplicate headphone and microphone jacks run down the right edge.
As for the rest of the hardware, the E-6300 is fairly well appointed, although we have a few questions. The 48X CD-RW drive should serve most offices well enough, although an extra $20 nets you a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive (even business use may require the occasional DVD viewing--think promotional videos, not blockbusters). Regardless, we recommend upgrading the Gateway VX-730 17-inch flat-screen CRT. The 16-inch viewing area is adequate, and the image quality isnÂ’t terrible, but it weighs a hefty 36 pounds and takes up 17 square inches of desktop real estate. Gateway offers LCD panels in the 15- to 20-inch range to make things a bit more compact, starting at $299 for the 15-inch model. The plain-Jane keyboard and USB mouse are ho-hum at best, and they could stand upgrading. Fortunately, Gateway makes MicrosoftÂ’s Wireless Optical Desktop Elite mouse and keyboard set available for $99.
For performance, the Gateway E-6300 lived up to its specs. Its overall SysMark 2004 score of 179 puts the E-6300 right where it belongs among a pack of similarly configured PCs. As we expected, it handled common business apps with aplomb. The 3D graphics picture was less rosy because of the Intel integrated video chip. The E-6300 couldnÂ’t post 60fps even on the low-end Unreal Tournament 2003 test, but thatÂ’s to be expected from a business-class PC. Fortunately, you can upgrade to a dedicated graphics card, thanks to the free 16x PCI Express slot.
You can purchase a variety of software packages from Gateway when you configure your E-6300, but generally Gateway wisely subscribes to the theory that business customers have their own special software needs and are best left to their own installations. Gateway built this E-6300 around Microsoft Windows XP Pro, accompanied by MicrosoftÂ’s Works Suite 2005 and a 90-day trial version of .
Gateway backs the E-6300 with a robust standard support package, covering parts and labor for three years with next-business-day onsite service. YouÂ’ll also find a variety of upgraded warranty and customer-support plans available, as well as an accidental damage protection plan. Gateway also has broad online support features.
(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).