Designed for organizations with 100 employees or more, the Gateway E series of desktop computers look just as buttoned-down as they act. Taking a page from IBM's design manual (that is, basic, boxy black) and eschewing aesthetic embellishment, the E-series tower and desktop boxes seem to say: "We mean business." The $1,938 E-6500D we tested offers plenty of power and options for the money, including a 17-inch LCD monitor and a dual-core CPU, all in a stable, easy-to-maintain environment.
There's nothing particularly sexy (inside or out) about the E series, which isn't surprising in a business-class PC; you can't configure even the highest-end E-6500D with a fast graphics card or 5.1 speakers. You won't find TV tuner cards (such a feature could hurt productivity) or built-in flash-card readers (even a business user could make use of a card reader) offered as options. Gateway's Web site instead offers a wide array of business-oriented options to choose from, such as fingerprint-recognition hardware, chassis locks, and personalized help-desk support packages. The breadth of these offerings is where the volume purchaser--always with a keen eye on a system's TCO (total cost of ownership)--will find the advantages of buying a business system instead of a standard consumer desktop.
Despite its lack of flash, you can outfit the Gateway E-6500D for raw processing performance. While our system came with a 3.0GHz dual-core Pentium D 830 processor, you can opt for the even faster Pentium D 840 or the top-of-the-line, single-core 3.8GHz 670 with Hyper-Threading. Likewise, the storage options are more high end than you might expect. Our system also included dual 200GB hard drives, and you can go all the way up to 800GB. The system's mainstream Intel 945G chipset supports faster DDR2 memory. Our test system came with 1GB of RAM; the E-6500D supports up to 4GB.
In benchmark testing, the E-6500D matched the performance of Sony's VAIO RA842G system, which shares the same Pentium D 830, on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 tests but was only a couple of percent (within the test's margin of error) faster than Dell's business-oriented , powered by a single-core Pentium 4 660.
In our Photoshop tests, designed for dual-core CPUs, the E-6500D matched the very similar Gateway FX400XL, which wasn't surprising, as they have the same processor, but both were trumped by the , which was 22 percent faster.
Unlike the more flexible Dell OptiPlex GX620 business system, which can be configured in four different form factors, the E-6500D comes only as a midtower. The BTX-based case keeps the system both quiet and cool. If you don't want a midtower, Gateway's midline series, the E-4500, comes in both tower and desktop form factors and can even be configured exactly like our E-6500D test system for virtually the same price. While the E-4500's case lacks S/PDIF audio and has one less internal drive bay and PCI slot than the E-6500D's, the system still offers the same configuration options, plus an optional 256MB version of the GeForce 6600 video card.
Our system shipped with a 17-inch Gateway LCD and included a two-button optical mouse, a basic keyboard, and a flimsy two-piece speaker set, all of which should suffice for any business needs. No other speaker options are available, but $50 will get you a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 audio card, an unusual if impressive option for a business machine.