Gateway FX6831-01 review: Gateway FX6831-01

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MSRP: $1,299.99

The Good Convenient hard-drive access through the front panel; best features for the dollar in its price range; strong gaming performance; relatively power efficient for a gaming PC.

The Bad Red external lighting not for everyone; limited room for expansion.

The Bottom Line Don't let the Gateway FX6831-01's case distract you from the fact that this is a fast, aggressively priced gaming PC with some standout features. We wouldn't recommend this system to a generalist consumer or those with discriminating opinions about hardware aesthetics, but for the pennywise gamer, this Gateway is the midrange desktop to beat.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Whether the Gateway FX6831-01's "armored" front panel and red exterior lighting will appeal to you depends on your aesthetic sense. From a value standpoint, this desktop Gateway is one of the best gaming PC deals available for $1,299, offering enough power to play current titles with no hassle. Enthusiasts might demand more upgradeability. Extras like wireless networking and a Blu-ray drive are absent, and the design could become polarizing if you plan to put this PC on prominent display. Based purely on performance for the dollar, we'd recommend the Gateway FX6831-01 to anyone looking for a fast midrange gaming desktop.

We won't belabor the point that the Gateway FX6831-01's design won't be for everyone. Instead, we'll focus on the elements of the case that you'll actually use. Foremost is the FX6831-01's front-accessible hard-drive access. We've seen this feature in other gaming PCs, and we're glad to see it spread. The Gateway gives you access to two hard-drive bays, both of which feature a removable tray. Mount a drive on the tray and it lines up perfectly with the power and data inputs, freeing you from having to mess with any cables. This feature makes it easy to hot-swap data drives in and out of the system, simplifying backup or other large data transfers. And with a separate drive cage inside holding the boot drive, there's no chance you'll accidentally rip out the drive with the OS on it while the system is operating.

The Gateway's other case features include a prominent media card reader/port hub common to Gateway's current tower desktops; dedicated buttons for easy data backup and to create photo slideshows from connected USB storage devices; and a tray on the top of the case designed to hold external devices like phone and cameras, complete with conveniently located USB ports for charging and data connections. All of those features are useful and well conceived, but they're muted by the bright red glow of the various LEDs located at certain points around the case. We're all for systems that stand out for their design, although we can't say we count colored external lighting among the design elements we appreciate most. Perhaps you feel differently.

  Gateway FX6831-01 Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1986NBC
Price $1,299 $1,149
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
Motherboard chipset Intel H57 Intel H57
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770
Hard drives 1.5TB 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

The retail version of Dell's $1,150 Studio XPS 8100 provides an informative counterpoint to the Gateway. Both systems have the same Intel Core i7 860 quad-core CPU and 8GB of memory. The Dell boasts wireless networking, which is useful, if not critical in a performance-oriented tower desktop. For $150 extra, the Gateway gives you a larger hard drive than the Dell, as well as a faster graphics card by way of its 1GB Radeon HD 5850. This latter feature in particular improves the Gateway's gaming performance by a noticeable amount next to the Dell. Also in Gateway's favor, we tried configuring a similar build from Dell, as well as from HP, AVADirect, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and Velocity Micro. Dell and HP lacked the Radeon 5850 graphics card altogether, and in Dell's case was still more expensive with a lesser 3D card. The other vendors wanted between $300 and $800 more than Gateway for a similar configuration.

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

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

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

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Talon
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Gateway FX6831-01
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

The Gateway trails behind the Dell by a small margin on all of our application tests, but the gap isn't large enough to call the Gateway's performance into question for its given hardware. The Gateway lags most on our iTunes and single-core Cinebench tests, which could point to a variation in how its motherboard handles Intel's TurboBoost features that speeds up the CPU in response to workload demands. Despite its lower scores, we expect you'll find few consumer-level tasks short of HD video editing the Gateway can't handle adequately. Also keep in mind that the FX6831-01's primary purpose is PC gaming, a task for which it's very well suited.

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x aa)  
Gateway FX6831-01

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Gateway FX6831-01

Our Far Cry 2 and Crysis tests both showcase the Gateway's gaming prowess in very positive terms. The only faster system we've seen even remotely in its price neighborhood is the Falcon Northwest Talon, a $2,495 desktop from last year with an overclocked CPU and a dual-chip Nvidia graphics card. Among single-chip GPU PCs we've reviewed in its price range, the Gateway FX6831-01 has no competitors. In comparative terms it outperformed the $1,349 Velocity Micro Edge Z30, an Editors' Choice winner from September. On an absolute scale, the Gateway's 74 frames per second on our high-resolution Far Cry 2 test suggests that the FX6831-01 will handle the demands of any PC game on displays up to 24 inches and at high image-quality settings.

If you have ambitions toward connecting the Gateway to a larger monitor or more than one screen, you'll need a second graphics card. Unfortunately the FX6831-01 doesn't have a spare slot to accept one. That's not unexpected in this price range, so we're not too disappointed. Indeed, the only expansion options available in this Gateway are the three hard-drive bays, an optical drive bay, and 1x and 4x PCI Express slots. That's enough to add wireless networking and a Blu-ray drive, which would cover the two more common features this system lacks. For more options, you'll need to look to another desktop.

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