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Gateway M675XL review: Gateway M675XL

Gateway M675XL

Dan Littman
7 min read
Review summary
Gateway's M675-series notebook is like a docked houseboat that gives up the freedom of the open seas for conveniences such as electricity, cable TV, and plumbing. The 8.9-pound desktop replacement with a 17-inch screen provides all the comforts of home but is just barely portable and runs only two hours on a battery. For $2,600, you get a lot of computer, thoroughly equipped for playing games and for watching or creating video. But on some tasks, it performs slower than its muscular specs would suggest, and we've seen crisper screens. In many ways, it's a fine notebook, but we can't recommend it over the HP Pavilion zd7000 or the Apple 15-inch PowerBook G4.

The M675 series weighs a hefty 8.9 pounds and measures almost 16 inches wide by 11 inches deep by 1.75 inches thick. That's big, but in line with other big desktop replacements. We were stunned by the size of the 1.5-pound AC adapter and even more surprised when we learned the adapter has its own built-in fan.

7.5

Gateway M675XL

The Good

Includes removable DVD-RW drive and flash memory card reader; firm, full-size keyboard; great speakers.

The Bad

Heavy; disappointing screen quality; not as fast as expected on some tests; short battery life.

The Bottom Line

The M675 series provides desktop capabilities and many features, but the screen quality disappoints. We can't recommend it over its rivals from HP or Apple.

Once reconciled to the notebook's size, we liked most other aspects of its stylish design. The shell is entirely silver on the outside, while the bezel and keyboard area are solid black. A 3-inch-wide latch smoothly releases the lid, which yawns open on hinges that run all the way across the notebook's back edge.

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Typing is a pleasure on the wide keyboard.
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A thumbwheel for scrolling nestles between the mouse buttons.

The notebook is so wide that it has a full-size keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. Typing is a pleasure, thanks to the smooth, quiet operation. Above the keyboard is a button to turn the Wi-Fi (802.11b) transmitter on and off, and a wide thumbwheel (for scrolling up and down) sits between the left- and right-click mouse buttons. Above them, you'll find a responsive touchpad in the same 5:3 aspect ratio as the extrawide screen.

The screen displays a native resolution of 1,440x900, in about the same width-to-depth ratio as a movie-theater screen. But the screen disappointed us: it was evenly lit with comfortably wide viewing angles, but even on the brightest setting, the whites looked slightly gray, and colors didn't look rich or intense. Speakers at each end of the front edge can really blast out music, thanks to clear tone and some bass; the speakers are far enough apart on the big chassis that you can get a stereo effect.

As befits its size, the M675 series sports more features than most notebooks, starting with four USB 2.0 ports--one on each side and two in the back. Each side also houses a swappable media bay, one of which holds a DVD-RW drive and the other a module with three slots to read six flash-memory-card formats. Unfortunately, the bays don't support backup batteries, which this notebook could use. Other ports include those for four-pin FireWire and S-Video, a Type II PC Card slot, a modem, and gigabit Ethernet.

Inside, the notebook runs Windows XP Pro on a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 partnered with an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics controller that has 128MB of its own memory. The graphics card may explain why the system scores comparatively well on 3D tests rather than on ordinary computing tests. The two memory slots in CNET's test system were both filled with 256MB memory modules; a variation with a single 512MB module and one empty slot costs $60 more. Microsoft Works 7.0 comes standard with the M675.

The M675 comes in several configurations. CNET tested a top-of-the-line, $2,500 XL model with an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. But two other variations, the M675E and M675X, display 1,280x800 resolution on 15.4-inch screens. The M675E, with a 2.6GHz P4, a CD player, a 30GB hard drive, and 256MB of memory, costs $1,700; the M675X, with a 3GHz processor, a 60GB drive, and 512MB of memory, costs $2,000.

Mobile application performance
The Gateway M675 came in last place in mobile performance in this small test group of desktop replacements. The system has a 3.2GHz Pentium 4, but when unplugged, this high-speed processor does not run full bore. Why? Because the notebook automatically lowers its processor's speed to conserve battery life. The processor speed for both the Eurocom D500P and Fujitsu LifeBook N series drops as well, but not to such a dramatic extent. That said, the Gateway M675 is a big desktop replacement, and as such, would be used plugged in most of the time, where it could harness the true power of its processor.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Eurocom D500P
141 
Fujitsu LifeBook N series
116 
Gateway M675
106 

SysMark 2002 performance
The Gateway M675 ran fast enough on this maximum-performance test to earn it second place. It easily beat the 2.8GHz-based Fujitsu LifeBook N series, but compared to the Eurocom D500P's exceptional score, the M675 comes up a bit short. This is mostly likely due to the Eurocom's faster and more abundant memory, as well as its faster 7,200rpm hard drive. Nevertheless, the Gateway M675 has great maximum performance, thanks to its fast 3.2GHz processor. In a plugged-in state, this performance will satisfy all but the most demanding users.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2002 rating  
SysMark 2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark 2002 office productivity  
Eurocom D500P
315 
449 
221 
Gateway M675
298 
434 
205 
Fujitsu LifeBook N series
237 
348 
162 

To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
The 3D graphics scores mirrored the maximum performance score. The Gateway M675 again came in second place behind the Eurocom D500P, which was boosted by its memory amount and speed. Still, the difference in performance was quite small, as both systems are two of the highest scorers we've yet seen. Not surprisingly, the Fujitsu LifeBook N series pulled up the rear, as it uses a graphics adapter that is about a generation behind that of the other two systems. The Gateway M675 has awesome 3D performance that will please hard-core gamers.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark03 Pro  
Eurocom D500P
10,588 
Gateway M675
9,814 
Fujitsu LifeBook N series
7,324 

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark03 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768. System configurations:

Eurocom D500P
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 128MB; Hitachi 7K60 60GB 7,200rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook N series
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 8500 64MB; Hitachi DK23EA-60 60GB 4,200rpm

Gateway M675
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 128MB; Hitachi 5K80 80GB 5,400rpm

Battery life is probably the least important aspect of a desktop replacement, as it's meant to be plugged in most of the time. Unfortunately, this notebook comes in last place in battery life using its single, 14.8V, 6,300mAH (93WHr) battery--even against other desktop replacements. But some perspective is in order: First, the Eurocom D500P lasted 40 minutes longer than the Gateway, but it was using two batteries, a 14.8V, 4,400mAh (65WHr) and a 14.8V, 3,400mAh (50WHr) battery. Second, some huge desktop replacements don't have enough juice to even complete the MobileMark 2002 test, which is what CNET Labs uses to test battery life and mobile performance. Finally, the Fujitsu LifeBook N series has a less powerful--14.8V, 5,880mAh (87WHr)--battery than the Gateway M675, but its 2.8GHz processor (slower than the M675's 3.2GHz processor) lets it use less power to extend battery life.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  
Eurocom D500P
161 
Fujitsu LifeBook N series
154 
Gateway M675
119 

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).

System configurations:

Eurocom D500P
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 128MB; Hitachi 7K60 60GB 7,200rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook N series
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 8500 64MB; Hitachi DK23EA-60 60GB 4,200rpm

Gateway M675
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 128MB; Hitachi 5K80 80GB 5,400rpm

Despite the high price of the M675 series, Gateway provides only one year of warranty coverage, which includes 24/7 toll-free tech support. The company sells a wide range of warranty extension plans, including one that increases basic coverage to three years for a reasonable $170, and a $200 plan that includes onsite service for three years.

Gateway used to pack wonderful manuals with its computers. The M675 comes with no printed documentation at all, but the wonderful manuals are still there, installed on the hard drive. (Although placing it on the hard drive can be a problem if you can't start your notebook.) A 350-page file provides a good intro to Windows and solid information on traveling with the M675, maintaining it, and migrating over from your previous computer. A separate 160-page file covers wired and wireless networking in educational detail.

To find out more about how this product's warranty really stacks up and what you should look for in terms of service and support, take a look at CNET's hardware warranty explainer.

7.5

Gateway M675XL

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 7Battery 6Support 6