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Update: This review has been changed since it originally posted. It was originally written from the perspective that this system was SLI-capable. Instead, it has only a single 16x PCI Express graphics card slot. The rating and the text have changed accordingly.
Gateway's FX7020 desktop is not the first we've seen with a quad-core CPU and a price tag about $1,000. It's distinct, though, because not only does it have a quad-core CPU, but thanks to recent developments in 3D graphics cards, it's also representative of a new desktop PC we expect to see a lot of this year: one that's reasonably priced, and also a capable gamer. It also boasts some basic multimedia capability thanks to its TV tuner. It's not overly upgrade-friendly because of its smallish 400-watt power supply, but for its price and its gaming capability, we recommend this desktop to anyone looking to play the latest PC games. If you're inclined toward aftermarket upgrading, you should hold out for a more tinker-friendly system.
If you read our review of AMD's new Phenom 9600 quad-core processor, you might think we would be disappointed to see that chip in the FX7020. But as we wrote in that review, if AMD-based PCs can compete on price with their Intel-based shelfmates, the Phenom starts to look more attractive. That's certainly the case with the FX7020. Of the other mainstream PC vendors, only HP currently offers Phenom, by way of its Pavilion 9100-series. Configured to match the Gateway FX7020, the Pavilion came in over $300 more expensive. Shop for a similarly configured Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600-based desktop, and expect to pay $500 or more than the cost of the FX7020.
|Gateway FX7020||Uberclok Ion|
|CPU||2.3GHz AMD Phenom 9600||3.2Ghz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600|
|Memory||3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT||512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT|
|Hard drives||500GB, 7,200 rpm||500GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner, DVD-ROM drive|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|TV Tuner||Integrated ATSC/NTSC tuner||NA|
For our testing, we matched the Gateway with a system that's a bit more capable, but also a bit more expensive. We're still waiting to get our hands on that aforementioned HP system, and we're also limited to systems on which we've been able to run our new gaming benchmarks. We didn't expect the Gateway to surpass the Uberclok Ion we paired it with, especially as the latter features an overclocked Intel quad-core chip. But consider that the FX7020 costs $900 less than the Ion, and the Gateway system ends up making a fair account of itself.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
As expected, the Gateway fell behind several pricier, Intel-powered competitors on our application tests. Its second-place finish on the multimedia multitasking test, a bright spot, is likely due to its 3GB of RAM. The others had only 2GB. Don't expect the Gateway, then, to blow you out of your chair with the speed at which it transcodes your MP3 collection, but for the price, it's most certainly not bad.
We're more heartened by the Gateway's gaming scores. Again, it didn't beat its higher-end competition, but if you notice its scores especially, you'll see that the Gateway turns in an impressive 82 frames per second at an aggressive 1,920x1,080 resolution. We also didn't hold back on the image quality settings. The scores are fine; we expect about 20fps for smooth frame rates in real-time strategy games such as that. , on the other hand, will remain a challenge. Nineteen frames per second in even 1,280x1,024 is a poor showing, and that's not even in DirectX 10 mode. The takeaway is that on all but the most challenging PC gaming titles, this Gateway has plenty of juice. And all is not lost if you'd like to upgrade, but you'll need to proceed carefully.
One area of minor concern is that Gateway only gives you a 400-watt power supply unit to work with. That's plenty for running this system as configured, but if you have designs on a high-end 3D card upgrade down the road, 450 watts seems to be the minimum these days for super fast 3D and a quad core CPU. You don't get a ton of spare room for other card upgrades inside the system, but you do get room for extra hard drives.
That brings us to the digital media features of the FX7020. In addition to the TV tuner, you also get a DVD burner, a 9-in-1 media card reader, and an array of multimedia-friendly video and audio ports throughout the system. There's no HDMI, DisplayPort, or anything overly fancy, although you do get two inputs for an IR blaster to work with the included Windows Remote Control. We're not entirely surprised that there's no wireless networking option on this system, given that it's a traditional desktop, but we have a feeling we will see more and more of that this year.
Software-wise, Gateway sticks with Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Media Center, although you also get a few trial software offers for Microsoft Office and other applications in among the icon clutter on the Windows desktop.
For support, Gateway's runs standard with the rest of the industry. The default plan gets you one year of parts and labor warranty coverage and 24-7 toll-free phone support. Online, Gateway has a system-specific help section with all kinds of useful pages from a component and specs guide to driver downloads. You can also chat live online with a Gateway support technician via its Web site or the bundled BigFix support software.
Dell XPS 420
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; two 320GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom 9600; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Velocity Micro ProMagix E2240
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.7GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives