With a nondescript, rounded, silver-and-black case, the mainstream Gateway M460 blends right in with the Dell Latitudes, the ThinkPads, and the Toshiba Satellites that make up much of the corporate IT landscape these days. Though its components aren't the fastest available, the M460 offers decent performance and great battery life. Measuring 1.4 inches thick, 14 inches wide, and 10.3 inches deep, the M460 is about an inch wider than other laptops with 15-inch displays, including the ThinkPad R51 and the Toshiba Satellite A65-S126. At 6.8 pounds, the M460 is also a couple ounces heavier than the R51; with its 13-ounce AC adapter, it has a tolerable 7.3-pound travel weight.
Gateway offers a number of iterations of the M460, and we discuss the details of each in our series review. We tested the M460S, priced at $1,470 (as of June 2005), which features a tall, 15-inch XGA screen. Unfortunately, our test system had annoying hot spots at the two lower corners of the screen, and it lacked the contrast and the brightness of the latest shiny displays, such as the HP Compaq nx9600. Wide as it is, the M460S has plenty of room for a comfortable keyboard, though it flexes too much and can feel wobbly. The 3.4-inch (diagonal) touch pad is a gem, with a nicely textured surface and horizontal and vertical scroll zones.
The laptop has good connectivity features for the office and the road, with a modem, Gigabit Ethernet, and an Intel 802.11b/g data radio, though there's no Bluetooth option. In addition to a flash card reader that supports Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, and Memory Stick formats, the M460S has four USB 2.0 ports, as well as outlets for audio, S-Video, an external monitor, and a Type II PC Card slot. Gateway offers a $139 port replicator that adds four more USB 2.0 as well as FireWire, parallel, and serial ports. Unfortunately, there's no fingerprint reader, leaving the M460 somewhat vulnerable, with neither a biometric security device nor smart-card capabilities.
The M460S does have an 8X multiformat DVD burner that sits in a modular bay; depending on your needs, you can swap it out for an additional battery or hard drive. IT support staff will appreciate that the modular drives are screwed into place, making them a little more difficult to remove.
Inside the case is a current-generation Centrino platform that uses a 1.8GHz Pentium M processor along with Intel's 915 graphics engine and 512MB of fast, 533MHz RAM; the system can hold up to 2GB of RAM chips, but most users will find 512MB sufficient. The 4,200rpm 40GB hard drive is small and slow, but Gateway offers a 60GB 5,400rpm drive for only $30 more. That said, our test unit's components were enough to earn the M460S a respectable score on CNET Labs' benchmark tests, just ahead of the MPC TransPort T2300, which also has a Pentium M 750 1.8GHz processor but faster, 533MHz RAM. Both machines, however, lagged significantly behind the ThinkPad R52, even though it has a slightly slower, 1.73GHz processor.
The M460S proves that it's sometimes worthwhile to pay a little extra for a larger battery. The M460S, equipped with a $40, 12-cell battery pack, excelled in our battery-drain tests, lasting a phenomenal 6 hours, 58 minutes of runtime between charges. That's more than twice as long as the MPC TransPort T2300 and 2 hours longer than the Portable One MX, both of which are more expensive than the Gateway, even when you factor in the cost of the battery. Truly power-hungry users can add Gateway's $140 modular battery for about 10 hours on a charge--more than enough for workaholics or avid movie watchers on an international flight.
Our unit shipped with the Windows XP Professional operating system. Like most corporate notebooks, the M460 doesn't come preloaded with a ton of software; you get a 90-day subscription to Norton AntiVirus, the Microsoft Works 8.0 office suite, and BigFix, a helpful program for diagnosing problems and updating software.
Gateway keeps the price of the M460S low by including just one year of tech support in its warranty; the upgrade to three years adds $160, with onsite service and accidental damage insurance costing even more. Even with the basic three-year warranty, the M460S is competitively priced, and Gateway offers warranty extensions up to four and five years--something many of its competitors don't offer. The standard warranty includes access to a 24-hour tech support line; you can also e-mail questions to the company. The Web site has the expected BIOS and driver updates, setup and troubleshooting tips, and manuals, but it lacks an online chat room for technicians and users to work through problems together.
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