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Gateway FX400 review: Gateway FX400

The FX400XL packs dual-core computing and a decent video card into a BTX-based case for a quiet, powerful system that should satisfy all but the most demanding users.

5 min read

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Gateway's FX400XL brings leading-edge PC technology to mainstream users, packing a dual-core CPU inside a BTX case design. Add plenty of memory and a speedy video card, and you have a premium PC that can handle almost anything you can throw at it. Our $2,489 test system is aimed at high-end mainstream users. Those who want the extensive options and absolute latest hardware of a powerful gaming machine might want to look elsewhere.

6.6

Gateway FX400

The Good

Dual-core CPU; quiet BTX design; lots of memory and hard drive space; external expansion ports abound.

The Bad

Little room for internal expansion; DVI equipment with no DVI cable; sloppy cable routing; AMD processors not an option; last-generation graphics card.

The Bottom Line

The Gateway FX400XL makes an attractive, well-priced PC for mainstream users, but high-end users may be put off by some of its configuration limitations and lack of expansion.
Gateway FX400XL

The BTX case design rearranges the components to allow for better airflow. With a pair of quiet 120mm fans, the FX400XL is barely audible under normal operation. Only when running processor-intensive applications, such as a 3D game or a video-editing app, do the fans speed up to a more noticeable level, despite the fact that the internal cabling looks sloppy compared to the expert routing you find from specialty manufacturers such as Alienware or Falcon Northwest.

At the heart of the Gateway FX400XL lies a 3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 830 dual-core processor. The only other CPU option available is a $250 upgrade to the faster Pentium D 840, which we'd recommend to only the most serious performance junkies. Gateway backs up the dual-core processor with the requisite hardware to take full advantage of the chip's performance. Two GB of DDR memory is standard, and the system includes two 250GB hard drives (configured as discrete drives; RAID isn't supported). A double-layer DVD burner is paired with a second DVD-ROM drive, and a flash memory card reader sits below the floppy drive. Audio is courtesy of a Creative Audigy 2 ZS sound card and the Gateway GMAX 5100 speaker system, which has been replaced by the Creative Labs Inspire T5400 5.1 speakers. The system's dual DVD drives and generous hard drive space will keep users with large movie and music collections happy.

With a PCI dial-up modem taking up room, internal expansion is a bit tight. There's one open PCI slot and one available 3.5-inch drive bay. There's plenty of room for external expansion, with three USB 2.0 ports and a pair of FireWire ports up front, and four USB 2.0 ports, two more FireWire ports, and an Ethernet port around back.

Despite hardware specs that will satisfy just about everyone this side of hard-core gamers, some of the configuration options can be confusing. The GeForce 6800 Ultra includes dual DVI outputs, but only a standard VGA cable is supplied with the system. Out of the box, text on the included Gateway FPD1975 19-inch LCD monitor was somewhat fuzzy. When we substituted our own DVI cable, it was like a whole new monitor, with much crisper, easier-to-read text. (Of course, Gateway is happy to sell you an optional Belkin DVI cable for an additional $29.95.)

When compared to other dual-core systems, the Polywell Poly 939N4X2 easily surpassed the FX400XL's SysMark 2004 benchmark results, using an Athlon 64 X2 4200+ to beat the Gateway by a sizable 24 percent margin (more evidence that AMD's dual-core chips are superior to Intel's). The Dell Dimension 9100, which uses the 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 840 (available as an upgrade in the FX400XL), was 5 percent faster.

Video and 3D graphics come from Nvidia's until-recently top-of-the-line GeForce 6800 Ultra, a speedy card that still has the chops to run today's most demanding games in high resolution. In our 1,600x1200 Half-Life 2 test, the FX400XL's performance fell behind that of Polywell's newer GeForce 7800GTX by 20 percent but still provided very playable frame rates, passing 60 frames per second. As Gateway's top-of-the-line consumer system, we wish dual GPUs were offered. Sadly, this is not an option.

The dual-core Pentium 830 completed our multimedia tests slower than the dual-core AMD chip in the Polywell--some 4 percent slower in the case of our video-encoding test. The Dell Dimension 9100 beat the Gateway by 6 percent in the same test.

Our test system came with Windows XP Home, complete with system-restore CDs. Microsoft Windows XP Media Center and XP Professional are both available at extra cost. Bundled software includes trial versions of both Norton Internet Security (90 days) and McAfee Security Center (30 days). Other software includes the excellent Nero Express CD/DVD burning suite and PowerDVD. Our test unit included Microsoft Works Suite 2005, but different versions of Microsoft Office are available starting at $90. Also included is a Gateway-branded wireless keyboard and mouse.

A one-year parts-and-labor service plan is the default, but for onsite service, you'll need to add $109 for one year to upgrade to the Value Plus plan. As if two levels of warranty service were not enough, you can also splurge on the Desktop Total Protection plan, which promises priority technical support and no phone trees when you call Gateway. That's an extra $159 above the basic Value Service plan for one year of coverage, although it sounds suspiciously like what used to pass for standard warranty support not too many years ago. The basic plan still includes e-mail and 24-hour toll-free phone support, plus online chat every day from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Half-Life 2 custom demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF  
Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  

Multimedia performance tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sorenson Squeeze 4.0 video-encoding test (in seconds)  
Adobe Photoshop CS test (in seconds)  
Apple iTunes 4.7.1.30 MP3 encoding test (in seconds)  

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6000 SE
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Nvidia Nforce 4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 (PCIe); Hitachi HDS722516VLSA80 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Dell Dimension 9100
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 840; Intel 945GP chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 (PCIe); two WDC WD160JD-75HBB0 160GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801GR/GH SATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Gateway FX400XL
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 830, 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Intel 945GP chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 (PCIe); Hitachi HDS722525VLSA80 250GB 7,200rpm Seral ATA (two separate drives no RAID)
Polywell Poly 939N4X2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+; Nvidia Nforce 4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (PCIe); two WDC WD740GD-00FLA2 74GB 10,000rpm SATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Shuttle XPC G5 8300mc
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 (PCIe); WDC WD2500JD-98HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

6.6

Gateway FX400

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Support 6