Gateway FX4710 review: Gateway FX4710

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MSRP: $1,149.99

The Good Fast all-around desktop; overclocked 3D card helps performance on some games.

The Bad More memory than necessary for current software; could use an extra feature or two to keep up with competing desktops.

The Bottom Line The Gateway FX4710 provides enough performance to get you through most of today's games and multimedia software, but the ahead-of-its time memory is wasted on current applications. You can make your PC dollar go further today on a desktop with a more balanced configuration.

6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 7

Gateway's last $1,000-ish desktop came out earlier this year with an aggressive 4GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista. The resulting performance impressed us greatly. Perhaps working under the assumption that more is always better, Gateway's new $1,150 FX4170 comes with 64-bit Vista and 6GB of RAM. Surprisingly, we saw very little performance benefit from the added memory. Despite that wasted hardware, this system remains relatively competitive for its price, although the iMac still looms large in this price range. If you're looking for a Windows PC for work and play, the Gateway FX4710 competes well with similar tower-style PCs. But for the best computer between $1,000 and $1,300, you'll need to weigh your options a bit more carefully.

The FX4710 features a brand-new case design from Gateway, although the differences between it and the previous chassis are mostly cosmetic; this Gateway has the same orange-and-black color scheme, which may verge on garish to some of you. The new case is roughly the same size as the older model, and almost all of the familiar expandability options remain, including a memory card reader, and USB, FireWire, and audio jacks on the front.

The one missing feature is a front panel bay for Gateway's proprietary removable hard drives, and we can't say we're sorry to see it go. HP's Pavilions have clung to these removable storage slots for at least the past year, in some cases installing two per system. Perhaps HP has had more luck pushing its drives on customers, but the impact those built-in bays have on internal space has never seemed like a reasonable trade-off, especially with the proliferation of compact, affordable, third-party USB drives.

  Gateway FX4710 HP Pavilion Elite m9350f
Price $1,150 $1,200
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850
Memory 6GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 6GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB Nvidia Geforce 9800 GT (overclocked) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT
Hard drives 640GB 7,200 rpm 750GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet, modem Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)
TV Tuner No Yes

HP's Pavilion Elite m9350f is the biggest competition for the Gateway FX4710, both of which are fixed-configuration desktops that will compete for your attention at Best Buy. We haven't tested the HP system, so we can't speak to its performance compared with the Gateway, but from a features perspective it appears to have a slight edge because of its TV tuner and its wireless networking adapter, which both seem to make up for the HP's $50 price premium. If you're looking for those kinds of digital media-friendly features, we'd recommend the HP system. Gamers, on the other hand, should favor the Gateway and its overclocked GeForce 9800 GT card. Neither system offers SLI or Crossfire multigraphics card capability, but we hold out hope that we'll see those features come to this price range soon.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway FX4710
Apple iMac

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway FX4710
Apple iMac

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway FX4710
Apple iMac

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Velocity Micro Edge E2055
Gateway FX4710
Gateway FX7026
Maingear Prelude
Apple iMac

For the performance we have seen, the Gateway FX4710 teaches us an important lesson about the current state of hardware and software in the Windows world. We first learned the benefits of 4GB of RAM and 64-bit Vista with the Velocity Micro Edge E2055. Its performance on our Photoshop test showed that with 4GB of RAM, Photoshop becomes much faster with larger workloads (that system goes for $1,999, and has a much faster CPU than the $1,150 Gateway).

That brings us to last quarter's Gateway FX7026, a $1,000 desktop that also has 4GB of system memory paired with 64-bit Vista. Again, we were impressed by its Photoshop scores. You'll notice on our charts though, that the 64-bit, 6GB-equipped Gateway FX4710 is basically neck-and-neck with the FX7026. In other words, there's little reason-- at the moment--to upgrade to 6GB of RAM from 4GB. This is not to say that 6GB is worthless, as the software is likely to catch up eventually. But, for the best way to spend your money today, you're better off looking for a system with 4GB of RAM and either a faster CPU, a faster graphics card, or some other additional feature, depending on your interests.
Unreal Tournament 3
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1920 x 1200  
1280 x 1024  
Maingear Prelude
Gateway FX4710
Gateway FX7026

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1600 x 1200  
1280 x 1024  
Gateway FX7026
Maingear Prelude
Gateway FX4710

We've said we're disappointed that the Gateway FX4710 has no multigraphics card capability, but at least it has an overclocked GeForce 9800 GT card. Its 3D performance outpaces the FX7026 on Unreal Tournament 3, which makes sense, given the new Gateway's faster graphics card. It's interesting that the newer Gateway's Crysis scores are about 10-frames-per-second slower than the older model at both test resolutions. That degradation could be due to a driver issue with the new 3D chip, but for most other PC games, we expect the FX4710 will be plenty fast.

We include the older 20-inch iMac on the charts because it shows what Apple offers in the same price range. We expect the newer iMac would be faster then the older model, although likely still behind the FX4710. Yes, the iMac is an all-in-one with a built-in display, so it's not necessarily an equal comparison, but if you have $1,200 or so budgeted for a new computer, it makes sense to look at the whole market. As you can see, you lose some speed with the iMac, and likely a lot of gaming capability. The iMac's main hardware advantages are its display, its design, and its wireless networking. Whether the Mac OS is an advantage depends on your software needs.

If you'd like to upgrade the Gateway, you have a few options. The four memory slots come occupied with two 2GB sticks, and two 1GB sticks. We don't recommend adding more, but if you do you'll need to clear out the two 1GB sticks. Because the case is relatively small, the insides are also cramped. You'll likely need to remove the 3D card before you take out the memory or to add more hard drives. For more storage, you have two extra drive bays to play with. You also get three standard PCI expansion card slots, although one is occupied by a modem card (presumably for sending faxes).

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