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Gateway M405 review: Gateway M405

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The Good Big screen and keyboard; long battery life.

The Bad Mediocre speed; undistinguished audio and video performance; lackluster support package.

The Bottom Line If you want an affordable laptop with lots of screen real estate, you should consider Gateway's M405XL.

Visit for details.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7
  • Support 8

Review Sections

summary

The Gateway M405XL is a reasonably priced choice for people who want a mainstream notebook with a bright, desktop-size screen and a large, comfy keyboard. Given the system's solid battery life of more than four hours, you can lug the M405XL to another location for an afternoon without having to bring the power adapter along. A dependable integrated 802.11b/g wireless-networking system enhances this mobility. If you are interested in performing anything beyond basic home and home-office tasks, however, you may want to look elsewhere. The Gateway M405XL performed below average for notebooks in the same processor class, and its audio and graphics capabilities were of only middling quality. It also lacks frills, such as FireWire and video-out ports and memory-card readers, that would appeal to video and photography buffs. The Gateway M405XL is big for such a basic notebook. Our unit weighed in at a portable 5.86 pounds, 6.6 pounds with power brick and cord. Only essential features such as its VGA monitor port, modem and Ethernet jacks, and two USB ports interrupt the breadth of its charcoal-gray case. You won't find frills, such as FireWire and video-out ports or memory-card slots, that would appeal to video and photography buffs.

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The M405XL's electrostatic touch pad has only three buttons.

Inside, it's equally basic. Below the 15-inch LCD screen (with a standard 1,024x768 resolution) sits a well-proportioned, slate-gray keyboard and an electrostatic touch pad with three buttons. Though standard size, the touch pad looks miniature amid the vast expanses of plain gray running off to either side. The area to the right is big enough to hold a sandwich, and the left-hand spot could easily support a coffee mug (though we don't recommend mixing lunch and laptop in such a fashion). Even without food in the way, crossing the empty zones is a slight strain. We found ourselves having to stretch forward a bit too far to reach the keyboard, leaning closer than otherwise necessary to see such a large screen. Aside from that, typing was quite pleasant. The keys feel solid and never rattle. Depressing them requires a bit more effort than on the light-touch keyboards from vendors such as IBM and Fujitsu, but they are certainly no harder to move than the keys on a standard desktop PC.

Text is easy to read on the bright LCD screen, but colors are slightly disappointing at default settings. Digital photos and a DVD movie (Pirates of the Caribbean) had a slight amber cast, and blues appeared a bit faded. Minor tweaks of the integrated Intel 855GM graphics system greatly reduced the color biases, however.

Considering all the empty space around the keyboard, we were surprised to find the Gateway M405XL's stereo speakers tucked into the edge of the notebook under the palm-rest area. Oddly, the reasonably powerful speakers sound best when you're sitting back from the notebook. As the keyboard forces you to lean in, the sound is somewhat muffled by being located beneath your ears and slightly blocked by your arms. A better plan might have been to shift the keyboard a bit closer to the front and mount the speakers under the LCD, as on the Toshiba Satellite M30 notebooks. The Gateway M405XL has a nonremovable combination 8X DVD-ROM and 24X/10X/24X CD-RW drive on the right side. The left side holds headphone and microphone jacks, the two USB 2.0 ports, and a combo Type II/Type III PC Card slot--a bit of a novelty, as most laptops today support only Type II PC Cards. In addition to Ethernet, modem, and monitor ports, the back also features a parallel port for the old-fashioned printers that require it.

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Slots on the M405XL can accommodate both Type II and Type III PC Cards.

The Zen simplicity of the Gateway M405XL's design continues on the Windows XP Home desktop, which contains only the My Computer and Recycle Bin icons and is free of the shortcuts for applications and services that clutter many a rival notebook's screen. Gateway does provide some extras under the Start menu, however. The collection of bundled Gateway utilities includes Ink Monitor to keep tabs on your inkjet's precious fluids. It also features PC-Doctor's eponymous application, which combines its own diagnostic programs with a streamlined interface to Windows' haphazard collection of utilities and control panels, allowing you to easily investigate and troubleshoot system components grouped under intuitive headings such as Audio, Video, and Storage.

We also liked the Gateway Driver and Application Recovery utility, which guides you through reinstalling software contained on the system's recovery CDs. It also pings Gateway's servers to look for updated drivers or new programs.

Aside from utilities, the M405XL has a basic software bundle consisting of Microsoft Works 7.0 and, for playing movies, InterVideo WinDVD 4.0. This entry-level suite does not include Microsoft Money or Microsoft Word, though it does provide a basic word processor. An extra $40 buys an upgrade to Works Suite 2004, which includes Microsoft Word, Money, Encarta, Streets & Trips, and Picture It Photo Premium. Upgrades to three versions of Microsoft Office are available for prices ranging from $130 to $330.

The integrated Intel 802.11b/g network card was easy to configure for a wireless network, including setting up WEP encryption, and it reliably established a connection every time we powered it up.

The standard 40GB hard drive is an adequate size for most users. But if you collect a lot of digital music or photos or both, consider upgrading to a 60GB drive for $90 or an 80GB model for $210. You can also access the RAM to stoke it as high as 1,024MB. (Our review unit came with 256MB.) Mobile application performance
The mobile performance of the Gateway M405XL came in second place in this small group of thin-and-lights. The 1.5GHz Pentium M-based Gateway M405XL couldn't assert itself over the 1.4GHz Pentium M-based HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000, which, aside from its processor, has very similar specs. The HP also has double the amount of RAM in the configurations we tested. The Toshiba Satellite M30-M35 series came in last place, thanks to Toshiba's consistently unique throttling techniques. Compared to systems we've tested in the past, the Gateway M405XL scores about 13 percent below the average score of Pentium M 1.5GHz-based systems, which is disappointing. The Gateway M405XL could have benefited from more RAM; instead it ends up with below-average mobile performance.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

Gateway M405XL
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000
Windows XP Professional; 1.4GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite M30-M35
Windows XP Home; 1.4GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

The Gateway M405XL's 11.1V, 4,400mAh (49WHr) battery put this laptop in second place with regard to battery life. The system lasted more than four hours while running office and content-creation applications, which was nearly an hour longer than the Toshiba Satellite M30-M35 series managed with its similar 10.8V, 4,400mAh (48WHr) battery. However, Gateway's laptop couldn't match the incredible six-hour battery life of the HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000's, with its 14.8V, 4,400mAh (65WHr). Still, four hours is a respectable showing for a notebook, and the Gateway M405XL achieved that easily.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes  

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

Gateway M405XL
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000
Windows XP Professional; 1.4GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite M30-M35
Windows XP Home; 1.4GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

As priced, the M405XL comes with Gateway's basic one-year parts-and-labor warranty, including one year of toll-free, 24/7 technical support. You can add onsite service for an extra $70. You can also extend the coverage to three years of warranty and tech support for $140 or pay $190 for three-year coverage plus onsite support.

The M405XL provides excellent documentation in electronic format. The Gateway Documentation item under the All Programs list of the Start menu links to two PDFs: one is a detailed user manual and the other is Gateway's thorough Networking User's Guide. Alas, paper is still the handiest format for manuals (especially for operations that require powering down the computer). The M405XL's hard-copy documentation is limited to a nicely illustrated setup brochure and a booklet describing extended service plans.

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