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With the GM5632E, Gateway joins Dell, HP, Lenovo, and others in offering a mainstream desktop with a quad-core Intel processor. This $1,230 PC doesn't quite bill itself as a do-everything digital media lifestyle system, lacking fancy features like an HD optical drive, wireless networking, or an automatic backup button. Instead, it offers more hard drive space, as well as slightly better performance than those other systems. We find those advantages more compelling, which makes the Gateway GM5632E the desktop system we recommend in this price range.
The GM5632E is a fixed-configuration system you'll find on the shelf at Best Buy. It's more or less the retail equivalent of the configurable DX430 on Gateway's Web site, but despite the online version's graphics card, Wi-Fi, and other upgrades, it doesn't offer a quad-core CPU option. For our money, we'd rather start with the quad-core chip and then make any upgrades after-the-fact, making the in-store GM5632E the better pick of the two.
The top competitor to the Gateway on the store shelf will be HP's Pavilion Elite m9040n. The two are very similar, as you can see from our comparison chart:
|Gateway GM5632E||HP Pavilion Elite m9040n|
|CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel G33||Intel G33|
|Memory||3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM||3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT||256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS|
|Hard drive||(2) 500GB 7,200 rpm||(2) 320GB 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drives||16x dual-layer DVD burner w/Labelflash||16x dual-layer DVD burner w/LightScribe|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium||Windows Vista Home Premium|
Those are only the core specs, and don't count a handful of other features. Both Gateway and HP offer TV tuners, media card readers, and integrated receivers for the bundled IR remote control that comes in each system. Both also have at least one dedicated bay for a removable, proprietary USB hard drive that will cost you extra. HP actually has two of these bays, which earns our ire, as it smacks of upselling. The HP also has 802.11a/b/g wireless networking. Some people may want this feature, and we don't mind it, but given the choice between Wi-Fi on a desktop that will likely stay put (and won't be on display in the living room), and the Gateway's larger hard drive capacity (1TB, to 720GB on the HP), and we'd take the latter every time.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
|1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)|
We'd also take the Gateway for its better performance. Although both systems use the same 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 four core processor, the Gateway has faster memory than the HP system. The result is better performance on our Photoshop test, which, in general, is an indicator of the benefit that fast memory can have on a PC. If you need a new desktop for any kind of intense, or even occasional, photo editing, the Gateway is a better pick.
You might also notice that neither the Gateway nor the HP systems offer much in the way of 3D gaming performance. This is because of their underpowered 3D graphics cards. You might be able to get away with basic gaming at low image quality settings, but if you want to play any of the flood of new PC holiday titles, you're going to want to upgrade.
Thankfully, the GM5632E is actually fairly upgrade-friendly. Both it and the HP have a PCI Express graphics card slot (although you'll need to get rid of the current graphics card), but the Gateway has a 400-watt power supply. The HP and its 275-watt power supply likely won't be too happy with 3D card upgrade like Nvidia's new GeForce 8800 GT, in addition to the greedy power demands of the quad-core chips. Gateway also has the convenient touch of outward-facing internal hard drives. That makes them much easier to replace.
We mentioned that Gateway built the receiver for its remote control into the media card reader. HP did this, too, and it's a good step toward cleaning up your desktop. Dell and Apple offer similar integration of their Bluetooth receivers. We'd like to see that on all of these new desktops, as well. For one, it would let Gateway and HP both eliminate the unsightly RF dongle for their wireless mice and keyboard. Bluetooth is also becoming more and more prevalent in cell phones, MP3 players, and other mobile devices.
For software, the Gateway GM5632E is about on par with HP, in that both offer useful software suites providing helpful system information and instructions on how to make recovery disks. Gateway also doesn't have as many crapware icons as HP likes to put on its systems, which is a nice change. Neither company, however, can compete with Dell, which now includes Abobe's Elements Studio software suite, which comes with programs for editing photos and movies, as well as creating your own movies. Gateway and HP are going to need to make a similar counter to Apple's iLife suite if they want to stay competitive.
Gateway's support is fully inline with its competition. All offer a year of parts and labor coverage, as well as 24/7 toll-free phone support. The product-specific support page on Gateway's Web site gives you plenty of useful links, from driver downloads to system manuals. You can also use Gateway's BigFix program to relinquish control of your PC to a Gateway tech and, at your discretion, let the tech fix any problem by remotely taking over your mouse cursor.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive;
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; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8500GT graphics card; two 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives
HP Pavilion Elite m9040n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives
Velocity Micro ProMagix A50
Windows Vista Ultimate; 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives