When we first picked up the thin-and-light Gateway M250E, its heft surprised us. For such a slim notebook aimed at students and business travelers, we expected something less weighty. But we quickly found the source of its surprising mass: Gateway included a 12-cell battery with our review unit, which not only extended the battery life but also added to the notebook's weight. The larger battery ran for nearly seven hours, but because of the weight, we recommend it only for frequent coast-to-coast travelers; for everyone else, the standard 6-cell battery should be adequate. Aside from the hefty battery, we liked the overall design and features of the Gateway M250E, and its performance proved more than adequate for basic productivity work. We recommend it for typical business users who want to keep up with the office while on the road.
The M250E doesn't stray from Gateway's standard silver-and-black color scheme, which gives the machine an understated look that will blend into the corporate landscape. The unit measures 13 inches wide, 9.7 inches deep, and 1.3 inches at its thickest, tapering to 1.1 inches toward the front edge--a bit wider than most thin-and-lights but otherwise of average dimensions. The 12-cell battery protrudes about 0.5 inch off of the notebook's rear, but it makes for a convenient grip. With the 1.4-pound, 12-cell battery, the system weighs a total of 5.8 pounds--heavier than models with similar size displays, such as the Toshiba Portege S100 and the ThinkPad T43. The small, two-prong power adapter will add 0.8 pound to your travel bag.
The 14-inch wide-screen display, with a 1,280x768 native resolution, hits the sweet spot for many laptop users, offering decent screen space while keeping the weight less than 6 pounds. The wide-screen aspect ratio is good for multitasking with windows opened side by side and watching DVDs--made all the more attractive with the optional Ultrabright option, which makes even dark scenes watchable. The wider case also affords a roomy, comfortable keyboard. The touch pad, which features a dedicated vertical scroll zone and shares the same wide aspect ratio as the screen, feels a little cramped; we also wish the narrow mouse keys were a bit larger. For such a thin notebook, the M250E doesn't get too hot during use, though the hand rests do get a bit warm after long stretches of computing.
On the Gateway M250E's front panel, you'll find a volume wheel, microphone and headphone jacks, and a 6-in-1 media-card reader that supports Memory Stick/Pro, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, MiniSD, and RS-MMC formats. Also placed around the case are a Type II PC Card slot, modem and Gigabit Ethernet connections, VGA, four-pin FireWire, and three side-by-side USB 2.0 ports. We'd prefer the USB ports to be more spread out, and multimedia types will bemoan the lack of an S-Video port. But no one will complain about our test system's 8X double-layer DVD burner. Unlike more multimedia-friendly models, such as the HP Pavilion dv4000, the buttoned-down Gateway M250E doesn't include an instant-play feature. Neither will you find Bluetooth onboard, though you do get integrated 802.11b/g wireless networking. The M250E lacks the security features found on many more expensive corporate laptops, such as a fingerprint reader or Trusted Platform Module.
Keeping business in mind, the Gateway M250E includes Windows XP Professional and comes with the pared-down Microsoft Works 8.0 productivity suite. Nero is also onboard for any disc-creation chores, and BigFix, a utility Gateway acquired along with eMachines, helps you stay on top of new drivers and ahead of potential security problems.
Our $1,484 (as of August 2005) Gateway M250E review unit featured Intel's current 915GM chipset and 1.86GHz Pentium M 750 processor, along with 512MB of swift, 533MHz DDR2 memory and a sluggish, 4,200rpm 80GB hard drive. Even so, it lagged behind other similarly configured systems on CNET Labs' performance benchmarks. (Since submitting a system for review, Gateway has replaced the 4,200rpm 80GB drive with a faster, 5,400rpm model that may result in a slight performance bump.) The Toshiba Portege S100, a $2,000 system with a faster, 2GHz Pentium M processor and also a 4,200rpm drive, bested the Gateway M250E by 15 percent. More troubling, the M250E lost ground to the Gateway M210 that it replaces, trailing 5 percent behind the M210's slower, 1.6GHz processor and 333MHz RAM. We suspect that the M250E's processor throttled down during testing in order to conserve battery life, resulting in a lower score than the M210's. Still, during our hands-on, anecdotal tests, the M250E proved more than adequate for basic productivity work and even felt responsive during a video-editing project, though we occasionally had to wait for an app to load when we had lots of windows open. While multimedia nuts, performance junkies, and gamers should look for a laptop with more power, the M250E should satisfy the typical business user.
With the larger, heavier 12-cell battery that adds $45 to the cost, you'll be able compute on a flight between New York and LA. Our Gateway M250E test system, which included the larger extended battery, ran for an impressive 6 hours, 54 minutes. It's no surprise that it far outpaced the smaller batteries of the Portege S100, which ran 2 hours, 52 minutes, and the Gateway M210X, which lasted 2 hours, 48 minutes. If you are bothered by the battery sticking out from the back of the notebook or you just want to save some weight, the standard 6-cell battery sits flush. Note, however, that the 9-cell battery is the same size as the 12-cell unit.
Gateway backs the M250X with an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty that includes 24/7 toll-free phone support. You'll have to pay extra if you want onsite service or a longer term; five years of mail-in service, for example, costs $120. In the event of a malfunction, Gateway will send you a replacement part. If depot service is required, Gateway pays shipping costs only one way. Gateway's Web site is well stocked with documentation, drivers, and a wide-ranging FAQ section; it also provides e-mail access to technicians. The included printed manuals present a good overview of getting started, managing Wi-Fi, and troubleshooting.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M 725; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 333MHz; Intel Extreme Graphics for Mobile 64MB; Fujitsu MHT2060AT 60GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Pro; 1.86GHz Intel Pentium M 750; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM PC4300 533MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Portege S100
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM PC3200 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 TE 64M/6600 TE 128M 64MB; Fujitsu MHT2060BH 5,400rpm in RAID 0