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Gateway's FX6800-01e is the first mainstream PC we've seen with Intel's new Core i7 desktop processor, but that's far from the only exciting feature in this desktop. A smartly spruced-up case design and a forward-looking motherboard give this PC a decided edge over its competition. The orange-and-black case might not be for everyone, and a lower-wattage power supply will keep any hard-core upgrade plans in check. Still, the FX6800-01e is fast enough out of the box, and also provides an enticing upgrade platform for anyone inclined toward post-purchase tinkering. If that describes you, we recommend this PC.
We understand that some of you might find the color scheme of the FX6800-01e's case garish. If you can get past the electric orange accents, you'll find a lot to like here. Gateway has basically taken a handful of features we expect to find in $3,000-plus high-end PCs and distilled them into a much more affordable package.
First, you see no visible ports on the front panel. Instead, the media card reader and a pair of USB ports pop up from behind a concealed panel on the top of the system. A second panel, about halfway down the front of the case, conceals two more USB ports, as well as headphone and mic inputs, and also cleverly angles them upward, so that you can get to them easily if you keep your PC on the floor.
Behind yet a third door on the front panel, you'll find two removable hard-drive trays. The boot drive itself sits in a traditional drive case accessible through the side panel, but Gateway has made adding extra data drives to the FX6800-01e easy. Each drive tray slides right out of its housing, and you make the power and data connections through what's called a "passive backplane." Essentially this means that the power and data cables have been anchored in place and aligned so that the drive will connect directly to them when you slide it in on its tray. It's a simple process, and while perhaps not crucial for average consumers, it's certainly useful to anyone who might want to swap large amounts of data between PCs.
Two final touches set the FX6800-01e apart. A set of touch-sensitive media controls sits on the upper portion of the front panel. This gives you a convenient way to navigate Windows Media Center without messing with a mouse and keyboard.
Lastly, Gateway has designed this system so that the main body of the case is actually supported by a secondary piece of plastic underneath it. This provides the system with an extra airflow pathway through its underbody. The more cooling, the better.
|Gateway FX6800-01e||Dell Studio XPS|
|CPU||2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920||2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel X58||Intel X58|
|Memory||3GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850||512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200 rpm||500GB, 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
The major design portions out of the way, we can focus on the FX6800-01e's features. It provides an interesting side-by-side with the Dell Studio XPS, another Core i7-equipped desktop in the same price range. The two are nearly identical specs-wise. The Dell has more RAM, 6GB to the Gateway's 3GB, but the Gateway also has a 750GB hard drive. The Dell has only a 500GB model. You'll see from our performance charts that the Dell's added memory gives it a noticeable edge across all of our tests. We'll describe shortly why there's more to the story for the Gateway than the scores you see below, especially for gamers.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
|1,920 x 1,200||1,280 x 1,024|
|1,600 x 1,200||1,280 x 1,024|
Of the two, the Dell is the clear winner. It costs $50 more and it has a smaller hard drive, but for raw performance the Gateway can't compete. In the grand scheme of things both of these systems are plenty fast. That they run with and in some cases overtake the $1,999 Velocity Micro Edge Z15, an Editor's Choice winner with an old Core 2 Quad chip (albeit with a significantly faster CPU clock speed than either the Dell or the Gateway), suggests that the Intel Core i7 chips even at the mainstream deliver tremendous performance for the money. It also argues for the general performance capabilities of both the Gateway and the Dell. Even gamers will be satisfied with either of these desktops, although the Dell gets the nod as configured today.
The Gateway, however, has much more promise down the road. Unlike the Dell, the FX6800-01e has a second graphics card slot, letting you double its graphics horsepower. Better, because the Intel X58 chipset support either ATI's CrossFire or Nvidia's SLI multi-3D card standards, you have complete flexibility regarding the cards you use. The 500-watt power supply will limit you to midrange cards only, so don't consider the Gateway a serious high-end platform. And to be fair, both the Dell and the Gateway should be able to play any game on the market smoothly, and with reasonably high image quality. Should you one day come across a game that chokes this system, however, the Gateway gives you an economical upgrade path by letting you add a second midrange card for $100 to $200, depending on how prices move. With the Dell, you'd have to purchase a more robust 3D card to see any performance gains, likely starting around $300.
We should also grant that the Gateway's 3D card economy is offset somewhat by the fact that it only has 3GB of RAM. The Dell has 6GB, and as you can see from its scores, more memory helps. You'd be wise to make an additional 3GB for the Gateway a priority. You should be able to find compatible memory three packs for $125 to $150 online right now, and we expect prices to come down as Intel's new platform becomes more prevalent.
Gateway kept the rest of this fixed-configuration PC fairly straightforward. The only other feature we haven't mentioned is the LightScribe-equipped dual-layer DVD burner, a nearly obligatory feature at this point. You also get a respectable degree of upgrade room, including the three spare memory slots, the aforementioned pair of hard-drive bays behind the front panel, and room for one additional expansion card by way of a 1X PCI Express slot. Unlike many of the systems in this price range from HP, there's no TV tuner or wireless networking onboard, but considering what you do get, we don't miss those extras.
Gateway backs the FX6800-01e with a one year parts-and-labor warranty. Phone service is available toll-free, 24-7, and you can also find system-specific information on Gateway's Web site as well.
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Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 3GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Dell Studio XPS
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive