Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
Gateway's budget-minded 17-inch gaming laptops have impressed, offering a mix of decent components and high-end video cards for around $1,200. The most recent version, the P-7811 FX, was the best of the bunch, bumping the screen resolution up to 1,900x1,200 while only marginally raising the price. Sadly discontinued (but still hunted for on message boards and eBay), Gateway now has a mostly worthy replacement, the P-7805u FX.
This new system is a Best Buy exclusive that has a list price of $1,299, but is usually available for $1,149 or less, depending on promotions. We're sorry to say that despite the Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU and Nvidia GeForce 9800 graphics card, it's a step backwards for the line, pulling the 17-inch display's resolution back to a more pedestrian 1,440x900.
You'll still probably have to play most games at that lower resolution to crank up the details, so it's not a deal-killer, but the cost-cutting is still a disappointment (and bad for watching HD video). Of the high-resolution P-7811 model, we once said that we didn't see how Gateway could make money selling these things, and it turns out we were probably more right than we knew.
|Price as reviewed||$1,299|
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400|
|Memory||4GB, 1066MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions||15.8 inches wide by 11.8 inches deep|
|Height||1.3 -1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||9.1/10.5 pounds|
Physically, this new model is virtually identical to earlier Gateway FX laptops, such as the P-7811FX. It features a glossy, black, plastic chassis, with brushed-metal detailing and copper accents around the keyboard. It's a subtle look, unlike over-the-top gaming rigs from Toshiba or Alienware.
The full-size keyboard and separate number pad have roomy, comfortable keys. Above the keyboard is a row of media controls, with buttons cut right into the brushed-metal border, along with one touch-sensitive control--a volume slider--which adjusts the volume a little too slowly for our tastes.
The first budget Gateway FX gaming laptops from early 2008 had a native resolution of 1,440x900, which was one of the biggest concessions to cost. As we said, we were pleased to see the Fall '08 model, the P-7811, move up to a 1,920x1,200 display, while keeping the price down.
Unfortunately, the new P-7805u slips back to 1,440x900, perhaps a victim of shrinking profit margins. In real-world terms, you'll probably play most games at the lower resolution in order to keep detail levels turned up high anyway, but downloading and playing 1,080p HD video content loses some of its appeal with the lower resolution.
|Gateway FX P-7805u||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader, eSATA||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner or Blu-ray player|
We liked the eSATA port for hooking up an external hard drive, as well as the full ExpressCard/54 slot, and FireWire connection (something of a rarity these days). This is a fixed-configuration system, so you're stuck with what it ships with (or what it ships without, in the case of Bluetooth).
The 7805u sticks with the same 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU from the P-7811, which is a strong performer, especially when combined with 4GB of RAM and a fast 7,200rpm hard drive. In the mainstream category of our Winter 2009 Retail Laptop Review Roundup, the Gateway easily beat out the Asus G50VT, which had a slightly slower Core 2 Duo P7450, but both are fast performers suitable for serious multitasking, video editing, and, of course, gaming.
The high-end Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTS graphics card is this laptop's main selling point. We were able to get 120.8 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3 at 1,280x800 resolution. Crank it up to the max possible resolution of 1,440x900, and it's still a very playable 101.4 frames per second. In an anecdotal test, we loaded up the most recent PC game in our pile, FEAR 2, and had a smooth gaming experience at 1,440x900, with graphics options set to medium.