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Gateway FX 6840-15e - Core i7 870 2.93GHz review: Gateway FX 6840-15e - Core i7 870 2.93GHz

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The $1,099 Gateway FX6840-15e is a classic midrange gaming PC in a now-familiar specialized chassis. It has predictable components we expect for a PC in this price range, although we suspect those looking for a dedicated gaming system will wish Gateway had configured this PC for better 3D performance. Convenient front-loading hard-drive bays give the unique case design some substance, but overall its by-the-numbers CPU and graphics card combination fails to impress. Perhaps if you frequently swap out hard drives, this system may have some appeal. If gaming is your primary focus, however, you can get more performance for less from other vendors.

Gateway FX6840-15e
6.0

Gateway FX 6840-15e - Core i7 870 2.93GHz

The Good

Gaming case maintains at least some self respect; front-accessible hard-drive bays; microSD card slot.

The Bad

Outperformed by more-ambitious gaming PCs that cost less; limited external connectivity.

The Bottom Line

Gateway's by-the-numbers FX6840-15e shows how mainstream PC vendors can fall down compared with their smaller, hungrier competition. This isn't a bad computer, but you can find faster gaming PCs elsewhere for less.

We've seen Gateway's gaming case a few times in the past, and its design continues to strike a more-or-less careful balance between style and mainstream appeal. The highlight feature is the drop-down door on the front panel that conceals a pair of removable hard-drive trays. This design is one of our favorite features in recent gaming PCs, and not only does it make swapping hard drives a tool-free experience, but not having to access the drives by removing the side panel makes the process almost as easy as plugging in a USB drive.

The remainder of the case features some convenient touches. We always appreciate a gadget tray, and the external case lighting and the thrust-forward port and Memory Stick bar minimize the amount of fumbling involved in connecting a pair of head phones or plugging in an SD card. Mobile device owners may also find the microSD card slot useful.

Gateway FX6840-03e Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition
Price $1,099 $999
Motherboard chipset Intel H57 Intel P55
CPU 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870 3.62GHz Intel Core i5 760 (overclocked)
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750 768MB Nvidia Geforce GTX 460
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

If we look at the Gateway's specs side by side with an aggressively priced holiday deal system from Velocity Micro, it's not immediately apparent that the FX6840-15e would prove to be the slower system on almost all of our performance tests. Yes, the Velocity Micro's overclocked CPU comes in almost 700MHz faster than that of the Gateway, but the Gateway still has a Core i7 chip to the Velocity Micro's Core i5. With 8GB of RAM and a video card with 1GB of graphics card memory, the Gateway has a few advantages over the Velocity Micro, at least on paper. You will likely find certain scenarios where the Gateway will come out ahead, but in most cases, and particularly for games, the Velocity Micro and its ambitiously overclocked CPU are simply too much for the Gateway. That the Gateway costs $100 more makes its lack of performance edge tougher to swallow. The Velocity Micro's Blu-ray drive doesn't help, either.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

The Velocity Micro and the Gateway system are two of the most affordable PCs among the five listed on our charts, so we can excuse the fact that they're on the lower end of the performance scale. We just can't justify the Gateway's slower speed next to the Velocity Micro system. The Gateway loses out on all but our multitasking Cinebench test. If you use programs that you know will take advantage of the Core i7 chip and its eight processing threads, perhaps the Gateway makes sense for you. Otherwise, though the Gateway is an adequate performer as PCs go, the Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition is both faster and a better deal.

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

We find the same disconnect between performance and price on our gaming charts. The Velocity Micro system is twice as fast as the Gateway on our Far Cry 2 test, and almost twice as fast on our Crysis test. We suspect both the Velocity Micro's overclocked CPU and its higher-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card push it past the Gateway here.

Again, this is not to say that the Gateway is a poorly assembled computer. The Gateway FX6840-15e seems to have a reasonably balanced configuration for its price point. The problem is that mainstream PC vendors often have trouble competing when overclocking and other enthusiast-oriented tweaks come into the picture. By playing to its boutique PC roots, Velocity Micro is able to add more value than Gateway with its off-the-shelf components.

If the Gateway's Core i7 foundation sounds tempting as an upgrade platform, we would encourage you not to get too excited. You get only a standard PCI card slot and a 1x PCI Express to build from. You do get four RAM slots, though all come occupied, and you can add up to four hard drives, including via the two removable bays. Aside from storage, between its limited expansion card bays, its 500-watt power supply, and its Intel H57 chipset, this PC is near the peak of its configuration potential.

We were also disappointed by the Gateway's external connectivity options. The graphics card has DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs, and you get a passel of USB ports on the front, top, and back of the system, but it offers no eSATA or FireWire ports, no digital audio outputs (aside from the HDMI jack), and doesn't even support 7.1 analog audio, instead relying on a 5.1 analog audio jack array. We mentioned earlier that we appreciate the various media card options, but Gateway's choice of motherboards limits the ports on this system, and thus its ability to work with a diverse set of external devices. We expect more flexibility from a PC in this price range.

Juice box
Gateway FX6840-15e Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.39
Sleep (watts) 2.19
Idle (watts) 50.82
Load (watts) 132.38
Raw (annual kWh) 252.35808
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $28.64

Annual power consumption cost

At least we can say that the Gateway's power consumption is among the best in its mainstream-gaming-PC price class. The flip side is its comparatively slow performance, of course, but we're glad to see that its power-use-to-performance ratio comes in where it should. Expect to pay about $2.40 per month to use this PC.

Gateway gives you one year of parts and labor coverage with the FX6480-15e, along with 24-7 toll-free phone service, and a variety of help resources that are available online. The system also comes with a few diagnostic apps to help you monitor the status of various components yourself.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Gateway FX6840-15e
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics card; 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Acer Aspire Predator AG5900-U3092
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card; 1.5TB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Digital Storm Special Ops
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.07GHz Intel Core i7 950; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards; 80GB Corsair Drive Force solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive

Maingear F131
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.62GHz Intel Core i5 760; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 768GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card; 1TB, 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

Gateway FX6840-15e
6.0

Gateway FX 6840-15e - Core i7 870 2.93GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 6Support 7