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Gateway FX6831-01 review: Gateway FX6831-01

Gateway FX6831-01

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
6 min read

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.


Gateway FX6831-01

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.

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.

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
Gateway FX6831-01

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.

On the other hand, Gateway has led the major PC vendors in offering a variety of up-to-date ports on its desktops. The FX6831-01 has two eSATA inputs, a FireWire 400 jack, a handful of USB 2.0 ports, both analog and digital audio ports, and DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort jacks for video output. You will find few modern external devices that you can't somehow connect to this system.

Juice box
Gateway FX6831-01 Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.71
Sleep (watts) 2.3
Idle (watts) 95.49
Load (watts) 190.69
Raw (annual kWh) 422.42034
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $47.94

Annual power consumption cost

We're also happy with the Gateway's power consumption. We tested this system and the others in our comparison with Crysis to determine its power draw under load. The Gateway not only posted some of the fastest frame rates in that test, but it's also the second most power efficient gaming PC in this price range of the systems in our comparison. Though this system will still cost you two to three times as much per month in power bills than a nongaming budget desktop, you can at least take comfort knowing that the bill could be even higher.

Gateway's service and support policies are in line with the rest of the industry, although the company finished last in a recent "="" rel="follow">Consumer Reports survey on customer service satisfaction. At least on paper, Gateway offers a yearlong warranty, 24-7 phone support, and a variety of support resources on its Web site. That's about all we expect from a desktop in this price range.

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System configurations:

Gateway FX6831-01
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 920 (overclocked); 9GB 1,066 DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1986NBC
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Falcon Northwest Talon
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-860 (overclocked); 8GB 1,330MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 275; 80GB Intel X-25M solid state hard drive, 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive

Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.22GHz Intel Core i7-860 (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive


Gateway FX6831-01

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8Support 7