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Gateway M-150 review: Gateway M-150

Gateway M-150

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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Following the lead from Dell and others, Gateway embraces its colorful side with the M-150XL, a reasonably powerful and reasonably priced 15-inch laptop available in a handful of bright colors (ours was a cherry red). For $1,199 (currently on sale for $1,099), it includes an Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a few notable extras such as a slot-loading DVD burner and an HDMI output. This attractive, media-friendly laptop is not configurable, but the default specs are powerful enough that it's not a deal-breaker. Within a few dollars, it's the same price as a similarly configured Dell Inspiron 1520, with the Dell winning on configurability, but lacking some of the cool default touches found on the Gateway. While we like the components Gateway packed on the inside, we're less enthused about the chassis that surrounds them.

7.4

Gateway M-150

The Good

Good overall performance thanks to current Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of memory; offers extras typically not found on a mainstream laptop such as HDMI, Bluetooth, and a slot-loading DVD drive; roomy touchpad; media control buttons.

The Bad

Not configurable; lid is fingerprint-prone; too much flex in keyboard; some parts feel shoddy.

The Bottom Line

For a mainstream, 15-inch laptop, the Gateway M-150XL serves up a strong mix of components for the price. It's an able performer and includes some unexpected extras including basic dedicated graphics and an HDMI port, but the chassis isn't as sturdy as we'd like.

Price as reviewed $1,199
Processor 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100
Memory 2GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 120GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel PM965
Graphics 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400XT
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 14.0 x 10.0 x 1.2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.4 / 7.5 pounds
Category Mainstream

Available in red, blue, or dark gray, the Gateway M-150XL has a bubbly plastic prefab look, much like Dell's current line of mainstream Inspiron laptops. The back cover is a little fingerprint-prone, as all glossy finishes are. Even though it weighs a few ounces more than other 15-inch laptops, such as the Toshiba Satellite A21, the lid and keyboard doesn't feel as solid, giving slightly under our fingers, but the wrist rest and brushed metal keyboard tray are rock solid. Following the direction of Dell and HP, Gateway's new design aesthetic is clean, modern, and satisfying--a long way from the bland industrial laptops of just a few years ago.

A 1.3-megapixel Webcam sits above the display, and media control buttons are cut right into the brushed metal keyboard tray next to a cool, touch-sensitive volume control strip. We like Gateway's touchpad design, with a large clearly marked scroll zone, but the plastic mouse buttons felt cheap, and the fingerprint reader that sits between them was slightly askew, a very minor manufacturing defect, but still annoying. The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. Text and icons are highly readable at this size, but the screen's glossy coating was a little too reflective. If you hate glossy screens, note that Dell offers an anti-glare screen option on its mainstream 15-inch model.

  Gateway M-150XL Average for mainstream category
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card slot 4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader
Expansion Express card slot PC Card or Express card slot
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive Slot-loading DVD burner DVD burner

Despite being a fixed-configuration system, Gateway offers plenty of extras on the M-150XL. You get Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, both of which are sometimes omitted from laptops that hover around the $1,000 mark, plus an HDMI output, which is an unexpected, if not terribly useful, bonus. Obviously, you're not going to find a next-gen high-def optical drive on a laptop in this price range, but swapping HDMI for the archaic S-Video port we still find on most laptops is hopefully a portent of things to come. This is the first laptop we've seen in a while without a mini-FireWire jack, but honestly, we didn't miss it (although camcorder owners might feel left out).

We saw no surprises from the M-150XL's performance. As we'd expect from a laptop with an Intel T-7000 series CPU, the Gateway was a speedy performer, closely matching similarly configured systems, such as the Lenovo 3000 N200 (which is no-frills, but available with the same CPU and 2GB of RAM for only $948). While our review unit included a T7100 CPU, Gateway is now selling this system with a slightly faster 2.0GHz T7250 CPU. We were able to multitask with ease, running Web browsers, media players, and office documents at the same time with no slowdown or stuttering.

Gateway sells two lower-end models in this series, the $699 M-150S and the $799 M-150X, that use a slower T2310 CPUs and slower 533MHz memory with ditching the Radeon HD 2400XT graphics card, the HDMI port, and the fingerprint reader. The M-150XL provides good value at its $1,099 price, but if you're bound and determined to spend less than $1,000, we like the M-150XL because it serves up a second gig of memory and 40GB more of hard-drive space--the extra RAM is worth the extra $100 alone, especially for a system running Vista Home Premium.

The Gateway M-150XL ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. That's decent for a 15-inch laptop, and since our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

The system includes an industry-standard one-year warranty with parts-and-labor coverage and return-to-depot service. For a reasonable $150, you can upgrade to three years of coverage. Gateway offers a 24-7 toll-free technical-support phone line, and the Web site has the usual driver downloads and FAQs, plus options for e-mailing or online chatting with techs.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway M-150XL
1,166 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Gateway M-150-XL
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400XT; 120GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A215-S4757
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-56; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X1200; 250GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm

Lenovo 3000 N200
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Mobile Intel 965GM; 80GB Seagate Momentus 5,400rpm

Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM; 250GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm

7.4

Gateway M-150

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 7Support 7
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