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Gateway M210 review: Gateway M210

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The Good Portable, wide-screen design; affordable; competent performance; includes all the ports and connections most users need.

The Bad Inferior battery life; USB 2.0 ports bunched together; only one year of toll-free tech support.

The Bottom Line The Gateway M210X delivers performance in a portable, wide-screen package, but it has insufficient battery life for regular mobile users.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 5
  • Support 6

Gateway M210X

Editors' note: In early September 2005, Gateway changed the names of many of its laptops. Read our explanation to learn how to make sense of the new names and where to find CNET's reviews of Gateway laptops. (10/6/05)

The Gateway M210X gives students and home-office users a portable laptop with a wide-screen display. While it's neither a fully featured multimedia machine nor a business laptop proper, the M210X delivers enough performance, features, and connectivity for its price. There's one major hitch, however: inferior battery life.

The M210X weighs 5.3 pounds (6.1 pounds with its tiny, two-prong AC adapter)--about average for a thin-and-light and portable enough for regular travel. The sturdy silver-and-black case design, while functional, won't turn many heads. The M210X measures 13 inches wide, 9.75 inches deep, and about 1.25 inches thick. The keyboard is quiet and features large, well-placed keys, though we found them somewhat mushy to the touch. The wide touch pad features a strip for scrolling through documents and Web pages, as well as two slim but responsive mouse buttons.

In a break with traditional notebook design, the M210X tucks away many of its ports, connections, and features in unusual locations. Along the front edge sits a four-in-one flash memory reader, headphone and microphone jacks, and an external volume-control wheel. The fixed multiformat DVD drive sits near the back of the M210X's right edge, and toward the front of the right side are one four-pin, unpowered FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394) port and three USB 2.0 ports; it's a small thing, but we prefer our USB ports distributed around the edges for the greater freedom it affords to place your peripherals exactly where you want them. The notebook's left edge features one type II PC Card slot, a VGA connector for hooking up to an external monitor, and a V.92 56Kbps modem. The back edge is home to a 10/100 Ethernet port and the M210X's sizable battery. Gateway also includes a built-in integrated 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card. Aside from five mundane LED status lights, the M210X doesn't have a lot of color or flash--there are neither dedicated nor assignable media keys. If you're looking for more of a multimedia-focused thin-and-light for about the same price, we recommend the HP Pavilion dv1000.

Though the M210X doesn't include many multimedia extras, it comes equipped with a 14.1-inch, wide-aspect display with a 1,280x768 native resolution--good for DVDs and wide spreadsheets alike. Two comparable machines, the Sony VAIO VGN-B100B02 and the Dell Latitude D610, both feature narrower but taller 14-inch screens that are not wide aspect; the Sony has a similar 1,024x768 resolution, and the Dell has a much finer 1,400x1,050 resolution, which offers more screen real estate but smaller text and numbers. We prefer the wide shape of the M210X's display, but we found its glossy surface reflective and distracting. The screen also looked rather dim, and even at its maximum brightness setting, primary colors appeared murky and earth tones muddy.

Beyond a preloaded edition of Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Gateway includes a reasonable package of software, including Nero Express 6.0 for burning CDs and DVDs and Microsoft Works 8.0.

Our test system, priced at $1,436, featured a standard array of components for a business thin-and-light laptop: a (non-Sonoma) 1.6GHz Pentium M 725 processor; 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM 333MHz memory; an integrated Intel graphics controller that draws up to 64MB from the system memory; and a 4,200rpm 60GB hard drive. Despite these mediocre specs, the M210X turned in a respectable performance in CNET Labs' test suite. The slightly more expensive Dell Latitude D610, equipped with a bevy of strong components, including Intel's next-generation Centrino platform, a discrete graphics card, and a faster, 5,400rpm hard drive, sped by the M210X in our MobileMark 2002 test; the Sony VAIO VGN-B100B02, with the slowest processor of the three, scored slightly lower. The M210X came up quite short in our battery-drain tests, however, running out of steam after 168 minutes--nearly two hours short of the Latitude D610. You can check out other configuration options for this notebook in our Gateway M210 series review.

Gateway's default warranty for the M210X lasts an industry-standard one year and includes coverage for parts and labor. In the event of a malfunction, Gateway will send you a replacement part or you'll pay to send the laptop back to them; they'll pay return postage. You also get one year of 24/7 toll-free tech support. Though there are a number of warranty upgrades, they're expensive, and other companies, such as Dell, IBM, and Sony, offer slightly more generous terms that often include 24/7, toll-free phone support for the life of the system. Gateway's Web site is well stocked with documentation, drivers, and a wide-ranging FAQs section; it also provides e-mail access to technicians. The included printed manuals provide a good overview on getting started, managing Wi-Fi, and troubleshooting.

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