Editors' note: This review is part of our
Gateway's MD-series of laptops is aimed at consumers of digital media who also enjoy a good Web-surfing session, and possibly some productivity tasks. With the entry-level MD2614u, Gateway keeps the same case design, touch-sensitive media controls, and LCD as the excellent MD7801u, but popped in a less expensive and considerably less powerful 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 RM-72, cut the hard drive storage in half, and ditched 1GB of memory. However, even with all these reductions, the MD2514u is nevertheless a fine laptop for basic computer needs.
|Price as reviewed||$549.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 RM-72|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium SP1 64-bit|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.2 inches wide by 10.4 inches deep|
|Height||1.3-1.7 inches high|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.5/7.3 pounds|
The design of the MD2614u is fairly low-key, without looking boring. The lid is a shiny black, with the exception of a vertical, brushed-metal strip topped by a tastefully small "Gateway" logo. Its dimensions are not ideal for even infrequent trips away from the home or office (we like to stay below 14 inches for that).
Underneath the fingerprint magnet of a lid is a 15.6-inch LCD with a 1,366x768 resolution that was bright, with good color and contrast. It's a nice display especially for the laptop's entry-level price. Atop the screen is a run-of-the-mill 1.3-megapixel Webcam.
The notebook has a comfortable, matte-black keyboard with white markings, which makes them visible in low light (but not as much as backlit keys would be). However, we wish the Function keys were marked in another color, especially since there is no hard switch for the Wi-Fi radio. Typing is pleasant enough, though, with agreeable key travel and enjoyable clacking feedback.
The right side of the glossy keyboard tray has a set of touch-sensitive media controls (play/pause, stop, forward, rewind, volume, and mute). Their orange glow looks great against the black background and they work fine, but the whole setup is so glossy that it doesn't take much use before it looks like a mess of fingerprints. On the upside, all the lights can be shut off, so they're not a distraction or if you simply don't like them. It's rare to find controls like this in a laptop under $600.
Ports and connections
|Gateway MD7818u||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone (2) and microphone jacks, built-in mic||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, multiformat media-card reader,||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The front-firing stereo speakers are probably the weakest part of the "multimedia" package; it's not even that they sound bad, just that they're not all that powerful (not that we'd expect much from a budget laptop's speakers). The inclusion of 802.11n Wi-Fi, an HDMI port, and an ExpressCard slot are welcome in this price range.
Internal components are, on the whole, in line with what other vendors are offering at the MD2614u's sub-$550 price: an AMD dual-core processor, 3GB of DDR2 memory, and a respectable 250GB hard drive. Nothing stellar, but still decent performance for your buck.
The MD2614u's performance was right in the middle of the pack in our collection of entry-level retail fixed-configuration laptops (with systems costing under $600). The 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 dual-core RM-72 is good enough for basic multitasking, and overall we were happy with the speed at which it handled our CNET Labs' tests. The integrated ATI graphics processor doesn't support much beyond casual gaming and movie playback, but that's really all that's needed in an entry-level laptop.
The notebook ran for 1 hour and 57 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included eight-cell battery. This isn't bad, all things considered, but when compared to Intel-based systems it's clear that AMD has catching up to do on its processors' power consumption. Our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
Gateway includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system, though charges may apply to phone support. The company's Web site includes the expected driver downloads and FAQs, as well as the opportunity to send e-mail to a technician. Every MD series laptop also comes preloaded with Gateway's BigFix diagnostic software.
Find out more about how we test laptops.
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