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Gateway P-6860FX review: Gateway P-6860FX

Gateway P-6860FX

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Dan Ackerman
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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

5 min read

Always looking for the right mix of power and value, we were big fans of Gateway's 17-inch gaming laptop lineup, ranging from the $3,000 P-171XL FX to the $1,299 P-6831FX, a retail-only model that was the cheapest way to get Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GPU. Gateway's recent refreshes of these systems have been equally impressive, even if they just offer minor component tweaks, in the form of the high-end P-172FX and a new version of the company's budget gaming laptop, the P-6860FX.

8.0

Gateway P-6860FX

The Good

Excellent performance for the money, particularly with games; offers more memory, a larger hard drive, and slightly faster CPU for same price as the model it replaces; includes HDMI and eSATA ports.

The Bad

Not configurable; wimpy CPU for a gaming system.

The Bottom Line

The Gateway P-6860FX offers GeForce 8800 gaming muscle and plenty of memory in a midprice laptop, making it a great choice for gamers who fall just short of hard-core.

For $1,350 (the system is occasionally on sale for $1,299) the P-6860FX offers some decent upgrades from the earlier P-6831FX, bumping the RAM from 3GB to 4GB and the hard drive from 250GB to 320GB. The CPU also gets a slight upgrade to a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo T5550, but the underpowered processor remains the one weak point.

The P-6860 also includes the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, although you're unlikely to see any real advantages or disadvantages from that in everyday computing tasks or playing current games, until more software is specifically coded for 64-bit systems. Because 32-bit Windows can address only 3GB of RAM, the real advantage of using the 64-bit OS is the capability to use 4GB or more.

With upgraded components but the same low price, the Gateway P-6860FX is our current choice for budget gamers.

Price as reviewed $1,350
Processor 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5550
Memory 4GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS
Operating System Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WDH) 15.8x12.2x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 9.3 / 10.1 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

Physically identical to the Gateway P-172XL FX and P-6831FX models we recently tested, the P-6860FX has the same glossy black plastic chassis with brushed aluminum detailing and copper accents around the keyboard, making a more subtle gaming machine than Alienware or Dell models.

As in the previous versions, the keyboard and separate number pad have roomy, comfortable keys--even if we're not crazy about the dark red used on the number keys, which can make them hard to see. Above the keyboard is a row of media controls, with buttons cut right into the brushed metal border. These backlit buttons look cool, but it's sometimes hard to tell if you've pressed them hard enough. A touch-sensitive volume slider sits to the right, and was responsive and easy to use.

The 17.1-inch display has a native resolution of 1,440x900, which isn't as high as the 1,920x1,280 in the more expensive 17-inch Gateways, but with the system's slower CPU, you probably won't want run most games at higher resolutions. We liked the screen finish, which was somewhere between the high-gloss finish found on most consumer notebooks (too much glare) and the matte finish found on business systems (too muted).

  Gateway P-6860FX Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA-out, S-Video, DVI or HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader, eSATA 4 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion ExpressCard PC Card or ExpressCard
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 HD DVD or Blu-Ray

All the current 17-inch Gateway FX laptops include not only an HDMI output (quickly becoming standard equipment in high-end systems), but also an eSATA port, which is good for hooking up external SATA hard drives. The higher-end models have thankfully dropped the fairly worthless HD DVD drive, but there are no Blu-ray options in the P-series lineup.

The P-6860FX isn't the fastest performer in nongaming applications, because of its 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5550 CPU. Compared with the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 in the P-172 or the 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 in the HP Pavilion dv9700t, it excelled only on our Photoshop test, thanks no doubt to its massive 4GB of RAM, which the 64-bit OS can fully address. Still, we didn't run into any slowdown or stuttering when playing media files, Web surfing, and working office documents at the same time.

The low-end CPU/high-end GPU combination is an odd one, but it's largely works if you primarily want to use the Gateway P-6860FX as a cheap gaming rig. With the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, we were able to get frame rates reasonably close to the more expensive P-172, and got more than 60 frames per second in Unreal Tournament III even at the display's maximum resolution. We tested the 64-bit compatible game Crysis on both this system and the older P-6831 model (which has 32-bit Vista), but, as we expected, the difference in performance was negligible.

Our battery testing, using CNET Labs' video battery drain test, gave us 2 hours and 1 minute of battery life, which is fairly impressive for a desktop replacement, as many 17-inch laptops give up well short of the 90-minute mark. Because desktop replacements spend most of their time tethered to a single location, battery life isn't usually a big factor.

The system includes an industry-standard one-year warranty with parts-and-labor coverage and return-to-depot service. 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 P-6860FX
1,211 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-6860FX
188 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-6860FX
228 

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF  
1,280x800, 4X AA, 8X AF  
Gateway P-172X FX
90.6 
91.2 
Gateway P-6860FX
77.6 
90.3 

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-6860FX
121 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Gateway P-6860FX
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5550; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8800M GTS; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Gateway P-172X FX
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS; 160GB Seagate 7,200rpm (x2).

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4
Windows Vista Home Ultimate Edition; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB (x2) w/ SLi Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT; 160GB (x2) Hitachi 7,200rpm.

HP Pavilion dv9700t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm.

8.0

Gateway P-6860FX

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8Battery 6Support 6
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