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Gateway FX6840-03E review: Gateway FX6840-03E

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MSRP: $1,099.99

The Good Useful front-panel hard-drive access; strong application performance.

The Bad Gamer-oriented case not for everyone; lacks gaming performance to back up its looks; weak connectivity with only 5.1 audio and no FireWire or eSATA jacks.

The Bottom Line The unique-looking Gateway FX6840-03e offers respectable productivity speed, but it's relatively limited in gaming and multimedia, which is ironic considering its flashy appearance. Gateway's FX line offers some strong configurations, but this isn't one of them, and you should look for more-complete PCs in this price range.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.

We're documented fans of Gateway's latest FX case design, at least for the most part, but we have reservations about the FX6840-03e, a specific $1,099 configuration. We'll give the Gateway some credit for its strong application performance scores, but a $1,149 Dell system offers a more versatile configuration for only a nominal price increase. We do like certain aspects of this Gateway system, but there's not enough value in this PC to recommend it.

We like the Gateway case primarily because it introduces front-accessible hard-drive bays to a relatively mainstream PC. We're more used to seeing that feature on gaming desktops from boutique vendors. Not everyone will need the front-panel drive access, but it's a rare enthusiast design touch that is actually useful.

The case design has some polarizing elements to be sure, its red accent lighting chief among them. It's also large enough to qualify as a full tower system, as opposed to the midtower PCs that have dominated our recent retail desktop roundup. If you're particular about the look of your hardware, you may have some reservations about picking up the distinctive Gateway. Heavy data archivers should consider the convenience of the front-panel hard-drive access, and either accept or overlook the Gateway's "gaming PC" looks.

  Gateway FX6840-03e Dell Studio XPS 7100
Price $1,099 $1,149
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860 2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1055T
Motherboard chipset Intel H57 AMD 780G
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1.5TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

You'll see below that the Core i7-based Gateway posted strong application performance scores, but the AMD-based $1,149 Dell Studio XPS 7100, a built-to-order system, offers better gaming performance, along with a better selection of features. The Gateway has a midrange 3D card, a standard DVD burner, and only wired networking. You'll pay $50 more for the Dell above, and it won't complete productivity-oriented tasks as quickly, but it will play games faster, and at higher resolutions. It also provides a Blu-ray drive, more hard-drive space, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. If we were shopping for a home PC with entertainment in mind, we'd happily sacrifice the Gateway's superior CPU performance for the Dell's more complete feature-set.

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  
Gateway FX6840-03e
Gateway FX6831-01
Dell Studio XPS 7100
Asus Essentio CG1330-05

We cannot deny that the quad-core Gateway DX6840-03e is faster than the six-core Dell Studio XPS 7100 on all of our productivity-oriented tests. If you wanted a desktop for consumer-level digital media editing and light-gaming duties, this Gateway would make a reasonable choice.

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
Gateway FX6840-03e

The problem for the Gateway is that we have a feeling most consumers shopping for a performance-and-gaming-capable PC in this price range put gaming first. And as you can see from our Far Cry 2 scores, the Gateway can't come close to the Dell in 3D performance. You should be able to play current and future PC games on the Gateway at lower resolutions and minimal image quality settings without much difficulty. Introduce a 22- or 24-inch LCD that can support higher resolutions and the Gateway's shortcomings will quickly come to the forefront. By coming in above 60 frames per second on our high-resolution Far Cry 2 test, the Dell shows that not only can it handle current titles, but that it also has the headroom to accommodate near-future PC games as well.

If you want to upgrade the Gateway's 3D capabilities, that's certainly an option, and the 500-watt power supply will support a decent graphics card upgrade. You get no second graphics card slot, so you'd have to get rid of the current Radeon HD 5770 card, but that's more or less expected for PCs in this price range. Other card upgrade options include a 1x PCI Express slot, along with a standard PCI card slot. You also get room for three more hard drives: one internal, and two via the front-panel drive trays. All of the RAM slots come occupied.

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