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Editors' note July 2, 2008: Due to a calculation error, the rating of this system has been changed from a 7.1 to a 6.9.
If Apple's iMac is the best all-around, all-in-one PC (if not one of the best all-around desktops), and Sony's VAIO LT19U succeeds in a very specific, high-end niche, where does that leave the new Gateway One? It's certainly attractive, but our fully loaded, $1,799 review unit has slower performance and a smaller screen than the less expensive, equally pretty iMac. The Gateway One has a few clever design elements, and the best upgradeability we've seen in an enclosed system. We can also imagine the OS X-shy might be interested in a visually pleasing, Vista-based all-in-one. But for confident, platform-agnostic users, we'll continue to recommend Apple, mostly due to its price and performance lead.
The sleek, glossy black Gateway One is not the first all-in-one from Gateway, but it's definitely the best looking. At 17.5 inches tall, 18.3 inches wide, and 3.5 inches from front to back, it takes up less space than the 7.25-inch-deep iMac. The trimmer footprint is due to an unexpectedly sturdy support on the back of the Gateway One, that actually recalls the design of Apple's old Cinema Displays. As with those bygone LCDs, you can stand the Gateway One up at an almost a 90-degree angle or tilt it back by roughly 45 degrees.
The Gateway One also does a better job than the iMac of preserving its aura of wireless techno-calm. In addition to the obligatory RF wireless mouse and keyboard, the single cable coming from the rear of the system goes down to a power brick. But on that brick you'll also find a collection of USB, digital audio, networking, and other inputs. Gateway includes USB and headphone ports on the side of the system as well, but the beauty of placing the ports on the brick is that it lets you keep the wires to things you don't normally disconnect under the desk and out of sight. Apple has its wireless mice and keyboards as well, but any other hard inputs go directly into the rear of the iMac, disturbing the cable-free aesthetic.
Also in the Gateway One's favor, it allows for more customer upgradeability than either the iMac or the Sony VAIO LT19U. You slide two latches on the bottom of the system to pop the rear panel up like the hood of a car. Inside, you get access to the memory slots as well the two PCI Express MiniCard slots and the spare hard drive bay. Apple offers only memory access. Sony lets you get at both the memory and the hard drives of its all-in-one, but to add or remove the drives you need to wrangle with cables and an annoyingly complicated removable drive sled. The Gateway simply has two plastic bays that line the drives up directly with their fixed data and power inputs. No screws, no cables.
While Gateway has done a good job designing the body of its new all-in-one, its soul needs some work. Consider the following specs comparison:
|Gateway One||Apple iMac|
|Screen size||19 inches||20 inches|
|CPU||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel P965||Intel P965|
|Memory||3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB ATI Radeon 2600 XT||256MB ATI Radeon 2600 Pro|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200 rpm||320GB 7,200 rpm|
|TV tuner||External ATSC/NTSC tuner||None|
|Optical drives||16x dual-layer DVD burner||16x dual-layer DVD burner|
|Wireless connectivity||RF, IR||RF, IR, Bluetooth|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium||Apple OS X|
We should point out that the iMac we reviewed is a nonstandard config that has upgrades to its memory and its hard drive. And even after those add-ins, the Gateway One still has more memory and more storage space, not to mention a TV tuner. But counterbalancing those features are the Gateway's higher price, its smaller screen and slower processor, and its lack of Bluetooth capability. You can add Bluetooth via the Gateway's spare MiniCard port, so you can at least do that as an option, but if you were hoping to for wireless syncing between the Gateway and a smart phone or another device, you're out of luck to start.
It might be fair to argue that the Gateway's TV tuner and the iMac's Bluetooth capability cancel each other out (although we wish the tuner was internal, as on the Sony). What's plain, though, is that the Gateway is a performance laggard. Considering its higher price, its slowness hurts it the most. Of the three all-in-ones we've reviewed recently, as well as a standard HP desktop of similar price and capability for good measure, the Gateway One finished last or second to last on every test. Especially compared to the iMac, the Gateway is slower at editing photos, encoding audio and video files, playing games, and multitasking. PC vendors are sometimes keen to argue that all-in-ones can sacrifice performance as long as the features are there and the thing can serve as a standard-definition multimedia box. We don't expect any all-in-one to set records, but it's clear that Apple takes the iMac's performance as an actual computer far more seriously than Gateway does.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
If we do consider the Gateway One as a digital entertainment hub, we find some things we like and others we don't. The TV tuner and the standard-definition DVD burner are both welcome, if somewhat expected features. An included Windows Media Center remote control is also no surprise, although of course, it too helps the Gateway One's usability (we also like that the IR receiver is built into the chassis). What Gateway lacks, however, is an integrated Webcam. Instead you get a detachable, hinged USB cam that pops into a mini USB port on the top of the Gateway One. Gateway says this gives you more adjustability. We say it's easier to lose, and the range of motion is barely noticeable.
Gateway also highlights NXT SoundVu technology built into the chin of the unit, that turn its flat surface into a pair of speakers with no visible vents. Unfortunately the concept sounds better than the actual audio quality, which comes out sounding tinny and underpowered. As for the screen itself, in addition to being smaller than the 20-inch iMac's display, it lacks the Apple screen's "pop." We were able to watch movies on it without major image-quality issues, which should satisfy most of you.
With no Windows-standard iLife competitor, Vista-based machines will also always end up inferior to Macs as far as bundled applications, at least barring vendor intervention. Gateway includes its BigFix support software, as well as Napster and a Cyberlink disk-burning utility, but nothing to compete with iLife's iPhoto, iMovie, or Garageband. We will give Gateway points for one of the cleaner desktop screens we've seen recently. You get the recycle bin, an easily-deleted AOL ad-icon, and that's it.
In addition to BigFix, the Gateway One gets the standard support coverage of Gateway's other PCs. You get a year of parts and labor protection, as well as 24/7 toll-free support. That blows Apple's 90 day phone coverage out of the water. Online you'll find the usual array of FAQs and system specific information, all of which we expect you'll find useful if you need to get help.
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Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive;
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics chip; 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Elite m9040n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives
Sony VAIO LT19U
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GT graphics card; 500GB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive