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Gateway NV59C09u review: Gateway NV59C09u

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For many consumers, design is an important part of their laptop-purchasing decision. Gateway is apparently wise to this as evidenced by its NV59C09, a $799 15-inch notebook with a Core i3 processor and Blu-ray combo drive. It's a bit more attractive than its NV-series predecessors, but consider that the Gateway NV5933u we recently reviewed costs $649 and offers essentially the same package, just in a slightly different body. There are a couple other nonessential differences, but really, unless you're in love with the NV59C09's design, you should save $150 and buy the NV5933u. At the NV59C09's price point there are too many competitors that offer similar or even better values. The Samsung NP-R580 for example is only $30 more and has a larger hard drive, a Core i5 processor, and discrete Nvidia graphics.

OVR
7.2

Gateway NV59C09u

The Good

Comfortable keyboard; Blu-ray drive included; solid performance.

The Bad

Battery life still below average; should really have Core i5 processor or larger hard drive at its price.

The Bottom Line

At less than $800, the redesigned Gateway NV59C09u is a solid large-screen laptop, but it's really just the better-value NV5933u in a more expensive coating.

The Gateway NV59C09u is a laptop that's slightly thinner and lighter than the nearly identically configured NV5933u we reviewed recently, but to be honest it won't register to most people who aren't studying laptop lineups with a magnifying glass. A matte-silver finish with a wavy-lined pattern across the outer lid and inner keyboard deck is a little nicer-looking than the older Gateway NV design, but by a small degree.

One design change in the NV59C09 is a flatter lid hinge, making a leaner look at the back edge than the bulkier tube-shaped hinge design of other NV laptops. The look inside is nice and clean: shiny black plastic around the inset glossy screen and keyboard, and a small mirrored strip above the keyboard that houses a narrow power button.

The keyboard and touchpad have been redesigned on the NV59C09, to mixed results: the wide, flat keyboard is still technically flat versus raised, but the spaces between keys have been widened to create a bit of a raised-key effect, even though the gaps are recessed. It makes the keys slightly more comfortable, but the chances of crumbs and gunk falling down between keys seem like an annoying inevitability. We do appreciate the dedicated volume keys above the adjoining number pad, a move we wish more laptops would include. There's also an interesting "social media" key that looks like little smiling people, which brings up Gateway's software app for glomming Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites together. This isn't anything that programs like Digsby don't already do, but it's nice to see it so effortlessly integrated.

The touchpad is delineated only by thin raised lines on the keyboard deck--otherwise, it's basically an extension of the rest of the palmrest surface. We like a more recessed, dedicated touchpad zone, but it worked fine all the same, with a decent surface area comparable to other NV models. The button bar is flush and a rocker bar (we prefer two discrete buttons), but it's a step better than the overdesigned, annoying thin mirrored strip on the lower-end Gateway NV models. Oddly, however, the new design looks cheaper.

The LED-backlit 15.6-inch glossy display on the Gateway NV59C09u has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1,366x768, which is standard for most laptops up to 15 inches. At this size, we've seen higher-res displays--the lower resolution is a bit of a disconnect with the included Blu-ray drive--and for the not bargain-basement cost of $799, we were a little surprised the resolution didn't get bumped up to at least 1,600x900. Blu-ray discs looked good, but not distinctly better than a good DVD player experience. To really show off your discs, you'll probably want to go through the HDMI-out port.

Above the screen, a high-def Webcam offers video conferencing and picture-taking capabilities, with a maximum resolution of 1,280x1,024. This is one of the few upgrades from the NV5933u, which could record VGA-quality video only. We appreciate the spec bump, and the quality is better than average for laptop Webcams. Skype software is preinstalled along with a large collection of other programs we're not sure we need Gateway to load on for us.

The integrated speakers--located above the keyboard and under thin black mesh grilles that too easily trapped small dust particles--have better-than-average volume and bass for movie watching, but are really no better than other NV laptop speakers we've tried. They're good enough and certainly loud enough for video watching, music, and Web chat, but they're not knockouts sonically.

Somewhere along the way to getting a fancier redesign, the Gateway NV59C09u actually lost one of its USB ports, now only offering three. Unfortunately, no counter-offer has been made to sweeten the deal. Bluetooth is still M.I.A.

As we mentioned up top, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 320GB hard drive are included, but these are the same specs the NV5933u enjoys. For the higher cost, we'd expect at least a 500GB hard drive.

We've said before that we're pleasantly surprised by the performance and value of the new Intel Core i3 CPUs, which are technically the low end of the new Core series of processors. Even at the low end, this Core i3 is still better than most Core 2 Duo CPUs, especially when it comes to multimedia and multitasking. We could achieve Blu-ray playback, Hulu streaming, and word processing simultaneously with no problem, and found that little slowed the processor down. However, in this price range, Core i5 processors are offered in many competitors' laptops, providing even better speeds and multitasking performance.

As far as graphics go, there aren't any to speak of except for Intel's integrated HD processor. This machine is perfect at handling any form of video playback, but it can't handle games beyond casual or browser-based ones.

Juice box
Gateway NV59C09u Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.62
Sleep (10 percent) 0.93
Idle (25 percent) 8.13
Load (5 percent) 42.47
Raw kWh 40.48
Annual energy cost $4.59

The Gateway NV59C09u ran for 2 hours and 32 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. Anything under 3 hours on a mainstream laptop is disappointing. Apple's recent MacBooks, by comparison, last well over 5 hours. This laptop fared slightly better than the NV5933u, but by a matter of only about 15 minutes. It's essentially the same experience in a new shell.

Gateway does include a two-year limited parts-and-labor warranty with the NV59C09u, which is a year better than most laptops. Support is accessible via chat or e-mail as well as by toll-free 24-7 phone line, although there's no clear indication of any phone number on their Web site (it's 800-846-2301). An online knowledge base and driver downloads, by comparison, are relatively easy to find.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
834 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
139 

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
185 

Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
197 

System configurations
Gateway NV5933u
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel Media Accelerator HD; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel Media Accelerator HD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (Dedicated)/1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A505-S6025
Windows 7 Home Professional (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310M; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Find out more about how we test laptops.

OVR
7.2

Gateway NV59C09u

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 6Support 7