Intense gamers, multimedia editors, and families looking for a multipurpose computer heavy on 3D graphics power and connectivity can end their search with the Gateway LX6810-01. It's sold exclusively at Best Buy and makes a compelling argument for off-the-shelf systems with high-grade components that won't disappoint even more demanding users. While other prebuilt desktops settle with middle-ground components for a low price, Gateway offers a fast HDMI-equipped Nvidia graphics card, an eager 2.3 GHz quad-core processor for constant multitasking, a TV tuner for onscreen entertainment, and plenty of room for expansion inside and out--all for a very reasonable $779. Although this system lacks pricier extras such as Blu-ray, Bluetooth, or a wireless network card, we still give this Gateway a solid recommendation for intense gamers and media editors who need a reliable, affordable, and versatile desktop machine.
The Gateway LX6810 is about the same size and shape as the Dell XPS 430-121B, although you probably won't want to move the Gateway around too much--it's a little heavier at 31 pounds. However, it hides its aesthetic bulk using sliding doors and a hinged media bay. The front of the system looks unassuming at first, but pushing a button at the top reveals a media card reader with a copy button and two USB 2.0 ports.
The optical bay includes a dual-layer DVD burner and a free slot for an aftermarket upgrade. Another hatch below the power button reveals a FireWire port, headphone and microphone jacks, and a convenient set of audio and video connectors for use with a digital camera, camcorder, external hard drive, or other audiovisual source. Finally, you can pull down the last door at the bottom to slide-out a couple SATA hard-drive bays, should you need even more storage. We saw this same case design last year with the higher-end Gateway's FX 6800-01e, and we find it as well-designed now as we did then, perhaps more so given this newer model's lower price.
The back of the tower houses the usual array of inputs, including four more USB 2.0 ports, an additional FireWire port, as well as a wired Ethernet jack and a standard collection of analog audio plugs. As with the Dell, you only get wired networking here. We don't necessarily demand Wi-Fi in standard midtower PCs, but we also appreciate anything a vendor can do to eliminate cable clutter, and wireless networking is a relatively cheap way to help the cause.
In a side-by-side comparison, we have to applaud Dell for its quick-release handle that pops off the side panel, while Gateway still uses screws to secure the chassis. Not that it's difficult to break out a screwdriver, but it's not as if tool-free case access is a new invention either. Once you do get into the system you'll find the case spacious and ready for expansion. Gateway gives you plenty of room to add an additional optical drive, install two SATA hard disks, or plug an additional expansion card into the free PCI slot. You can even squeeze out another PCI-E x1 slot if you remove the 56k modem card. One foreseeable downside is that the memory is already maxed out at 8GB, but that's still the largest amount of RAM we've seen at this price, and we suspect most of you will find 8GB plenty for the foreseeable future.
|Gateway LX6810-01||Dell XPS 430-121B|
|CPU||2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300|
|Memory||8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||6GB DDR3 1066MHz|
|Graphics||1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics card||256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card|
|Hard drives||640GB, 7,200rpm||750GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN||10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN|
|Video outputs||DVI, VGA, HDMI||DVI, HDMI|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
This Gateway doesn't claim to be a true home theater PC, but still gives you the added entertainment of a TV tuner card with both analog and digital inputs as well as a remote to control the airwaves. You can even connect it to an HDTV thanks to the HDMI output on the Nvidia GeForce GT120 graphics card. The spread of components in the Gateway makes it a very different system from the Dell XPS 430-121B. For more than $100 less, Gateway cuts back on processor speed and storage space, but gives you two more gigabytes of slightly slower RAM that will benefit digital media editors, provided you're content with the reduced storage space.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
Our charts show that the combination of more memory and a faster graphics card benefits the Gateway on some tests, while the Dell's faster CPU helps it shine on others. The Dell enjoys a minor edge on our Photoshop and iTunes tests, but the Gateway is close enough so that you won't really notice the difference. However, on multitasking and Cinebench video rendering, tasks that can be particularly processor intensive, the Dell is able to distance itself more.
Similarly, our Unreal Tournament 3 test shows the Gateway LX6810-01 is better for gaming than the Dell XPS 430-1210B, largely because of its more up-to-date graphics card and a substantial 768MB video memory advantage. As a result, the Dell registers 37 frames per second on our 1,280x1,024-pixel resolution test compared with a slightly smoother 43fps for the Gateway. We wouldn't recommend either of these systems for hardcore, high-resolution gaming, but on less demanding games, such as World of Warcraft and the Sims series, the Gateway should provide a bit more playability over time.
Not unlike the Dell, Gateway also backs its LX6910-01 with its standard warranty that covers parts and labor for one year. If you run into problems, you can opt to call a system technician toll-free 24-7 or search for solutions on the Web site, which includes FAQs, driver updates, and product news.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8200; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell Studio Desktop
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell XPS 430-121B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300; 6GB DDR3 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 120 Graphics card; 750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom Quad Core X4 9650; 7GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
HP Pavilion Elite m9500y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz AMD Phenom 9750 X4 Quad Core; 8GB DDR2 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9500 GS; 750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.