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Gateway M-1626 review: Gateway M-1626

Gateway M-1626

Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops
Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.
Michelle Thatcher
5 min read

The Gateway M-1626 is a fixed configuration version of the manufacturer's midsize M series and is currently available through Office Depot. As with the M-1618 we reviewed last summer, we like the design of the Gateway M1626, which combines a lovely display and a comfortable keyboard inside of a relatively sleek and stylish case. We like the laptop's price tag even more: at $850, the M-1626 undercuts similarly configured Toshiba Satellite A305D ($999), Dell Inspiron 1525 ($949), and HP Pavilion dv6700z ($915) models. As with any low-cost laptop, you will have to make concessions; in the case of the Gateway M-1626, you'll have to accept merely average performance and put up with truly lousy battery life. But given the price, we think the Gateway M-1626 would work well as a student laptop or as a secondary computer--provided it stays close to a wall socket or travels with a second battery.


Gateway M-1626

The Good

Inexpensive; slim profile; comfortable keyboard; Webcam; HDMI output; generous RAM allotment helps offset the pokey AMD processor.

The Bad

Highly reflective screen finish; uneven benchmark performance; pathetic battery life; lousy speakers.

The Bottom Line

If you can look past the terrible battery life, the low-cost Gateway M-1626 is a decent midsize pick for a student laptop or for use as a secondary computer.

Price $850
Processor 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60
Memory 4GB of 667MHz
Hard drive 250GB at 5,400rpm
Chipset ATI RS690T
Graphics ATI Radeon X1270 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WDH) 14x10x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.0 / 6.8 pounds with 3-cell battery
Category Midsize

While other laptops in Gateway's M series come in multiple colors, the M-1626 is available only in black. Both the finish of the rubbery matte lid (reminiscent of a ThinkPad) and the brushed-metal keyboard deck are less prone to fingerprinting than the glossy finish found on other Gateway systems. The lid attaches to the base via two extrawide hinges that feel ready to take life's bumps and knocks. We like the case's rounded edges, and its 1.5-inch thickness is on the thin side of average, not to mention thinner than the HP Pavilion dv6700t.

The Gateway M-1626 features a lovely 15.4-inch wide screen with a typical 1,280x800 native resolution. We liked the look of movies and photos on the screen, which displays deep color saturation. However, we found the overly glossy screen finish distracting while surfing the Web and typing e-mail. Because this is a fixed configuration for sale in retail stores, there is not a matte-screen finish option. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.

We love typing on the Gateway M-1626, which features a sturdy keyboard and nearly full-size keys; though the Ctrl, Alt, Windows, and Shift keys have been shortened, we were able to pound out several e-mails without typos. We like the M-1626's roomy touch pad, which is responsive and provides just the right amount of resistance, as well as its ample-size mouse buttons. Above the keyboard sit a button to launch Windows Media Center, a row of keys to control disc playback that are cut into the brushed aluminum, and a touch-sensitive slider to control volume. Handy but unobtrusive port labels on the keyboard deck let you know where to plug in peripherals.

  Gateway M-1626 Average for mainstream category
Video VGA-out, HDMI, Webcam VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Headphone/SPDIF-out, microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data Three USB 2.0, multiformat memory card reader Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion ExpressCard PC Card
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 g Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

The Gateway M-1626's slender case has just enough room for the basic ports and connections, with a few curious additions. The included HDMI output is an unexpected bonus, though we're not sure how useful it will be without an accompanying high-definition optical drive. The S/PDIF-capable headphone jack is also a welcome touch, especially considering the truly pathetic sound produced by the M-1626's built-in speakers. The laptop lacks the mini-FireWire we've come to expect on a midsize laptop, though it does include a multiformat memory-card reader so you can still grab images and video from your digital camera. While other M series laptops have incorporated sleek slot-loading optical drives, the M-1626's LabelFlash DVD burner is tray-loading.

The Gateway M-1626 is a fixed-configuration, retail-only laptop that's currently available at Office Depot. The $850 price tag includes a 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 processor, 4GB of RAM, and integrated ATI Radeon X1270 graphics. The laptop uses 64-bit Windows Vista, which lets it access the full allotment of memory; 32-bit operating systems typically cannot access more than 3GB. On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Gateway more or less matched the performance of the similarly configured Toshiba Satellite A305D ($999), but it fell behind a $1,024 Dell Inspiron 1525 built on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor. The sole exception came during our Photoshop test, where the Gateway's generous RAM allotment helped it finish at the head of the pack. During our use, the Gateway M-1626 hung in there while we simultaneously surfed the Web, typed a Word document, and listened to a CD.

The Gateway M-1626 also posted mediocre battery scores, lasting just 1 hour and 34 minutes on our grueling DVD drain test. The Toshiba Satellite A305D held out for 20 minutes longer, and the Dell Inspiron 1525 lasted more than an hour longer than the Gateway. Our DVD drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect a slightly longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

The Gateway M-1626 comes backed by 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 also offers 24-7, toll-free phone support during the warranty period. The company's Web site includes the expected driver downloads and FAQs, as well as the opportunity to send e-mail to a technician. Every M series laptop also comes preloaded with Gateway's BigFix diagnostic software.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway M-1626

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-1626
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-60; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Xpress 1270; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A305D-S6835
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-64; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Xpress 1250; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook A6120
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 358MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 300GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm

Dell Inspiron 1525
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Seagate Momentus 5,400rpm


Gateway M-1626

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 5Battery 4Support 6