CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. How we test computers

Gateway P-170L review: Gateway P-170L

Gateway P-170L

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

Large, 17-inch laptops are often the province of gamers who require big, expensive rigs in order to handle the latest games at even modest resolutions and settings. While it makes sense for a serious gamer to plunk down a few thousand dollars for a fully loaded 17-inch system, someone who just wants to enjoy movies, music, TV shows, and other media on a larger screen doesn't need the latest in pricey graphics card technology.


Gateway P-170L

The Good

Includes HDMI, Bluetooth, and 802.11N Wi-Fi; inexpensive for a big-screen laptop.

The Bad

Not configurable; chassis not stiff enough; some parts feel shoddy; no FireWire.

The Bottom Line

Gateway's budget 17-inch P-170L packs in plenty of extras, including an HDMI port, but this is definitely a laptop for media watchers, not for gamers.

The $1,299 Gateway P-170L (currently on sale for $1,049) features a few notable extras such as 802.11n Wi-Fi and an HDMI output. This attractive, media-friendly laptop is not configurable, but it serves up ample specs for the money, including a Core 2 Duo processor on Intel's latest mobile platform. It also doesn't skimp on the memory, which is often the case as the price dips toward the magic $1,000 mark. (In fact, this model is currently discounted on Gateway's site for $1,049.) At the same list price of $1,299, Dell has a 17-inch desktop replacement, the Inspiron 1720, that delivers identical processor, memory, and hard drive options but adds a dedicated graphics by way of an Nvidia 8400 card and loses the built-in Bluetooth, HDMI, and Webcam. Whichever extras are more important to you may tip the scales one way or the other. Perhaps as important, the Gateway's plastic chassis looks sleek and modern but feels cheap and insubstantial.

Price as reviewed $1,299
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250
Memory 2GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 15.8x11.5x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 8.6 / 9.8 pounds
Category Desktop replacement

Cast in a dark gray, the Gateway P-170L has a bubbly, glassy, plastic prefab look, much like Dell's current line of mainstream Inspiron laptops. Even though the keyboard tray is lined with brushed metal, both that and the back lid gave too easily under our fingers. Following the recent direction of Dell and HP, Gateway's new design aesthetic is clean, modern, and satisfying--a long way from the bland industrial laptops of just a few years ago.

A 1.3-megapixel Webcam sits above the display. Media control buttons are cut right onto the brushed-metal keyboard tray, next to a cool, touch-sensitive volume control strip. This is similar to the 15-inch Gateway M-150XL, although this touch pad lacks the large, clearly marked scroll zone found on the 15-inch version. The plastic mouse buttons felt cheap and clicked loudly, but the touch pad and keyboard were otherwise responsive and comfortable.

The 17.0-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size, although more expensive 17-inch laptops, such as the Toshiba Satellite X205, have a higher 1,680x1,050 resolution. Text and icons are readable at either size, and the difference isn't that important outside of gaming and Blu-ray/HD DVD viewing, neither of which you'll be doing with this laptop.

  Gateway P-170L Average for mainstream category
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data Three USB 2.0, SD card slot Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion Express card slot PC Card or Express card slot
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

Despite being a fixed-configuration system, Gateway offers plenty of extras on the P-170L. You get Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, plus an HDMI output, which is an appreciated--if not terribly useful--touch for a laptop without a next-gen optical drive. Still, swapping HDMI for the archaic S-Video port we still find on most laptops is hopefully a portent of things to come. Like the Gateway M-150XL, this system lacks a mini-FireWire jack, but honestly, we didn't miss it--although camcorder owners might feel left out.

As one would expect from a laptop with an Intel T-7000 series CPU, we saw no surprises from the P-170L's performance. It closely matching similarly configured systems, even more expensive ones such as the Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV680 We were able to multitask with ease, running Web browsers, media players, and office documents at the same time with no slowdown or stuttering. With integrated graphics, however, you're not going to be doing much gaming on this system.

Gateway also offers a stripped-down version, called the P-170X, which knocks the CPU down to a 1.46GHz T2310, loses the 802.11n Wi-Fi, but keeps the 2GB of RAM and Bluetooth for only $899 (currently on sale for $799), making it a notable 17-inch bargain.

The Gateway P-170L ran for 2 hours and 5 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's excellent for a 17-inch laptop, and only 10 minutes less than Gateway's 15-inch model. Since our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

The system includes an industry-standard, one-year warranty with parts-and-labor coverage and return-to-depot service. For a reasonable $150, you can upgrade to three years of coverage. Gateway offers a 24-7, toll-free, technical support phone line, and the Web site has the usual driver downloads and FAQs, plus options for e-mailing or online chatting with techs.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P170L-QS

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P170L-QS

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P170L-QS

DVD battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P170L-QS

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Gateway P-170L
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; Intel RAID 0 150GB (x2) Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Acer Aspire 5920
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT; 200GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook A6030
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV680
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT; (2x)160GB Seagate 5,400rpm


Gateway P-170L

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Battery 0Support 7