While parent company Acer rules the Netbook market with its budget-priced Aspire One, Gateway is the first name that comes to mind when thinking of high-quality low-cost gaming rigs, thanks to the popular FX series.
The $1,749 P-7808u version breaks the mold somewhat by cramming in an Intel Core 2 Quad processor, in addition to the expected Nvidia GeForce 9800M (it's also about $500 more than the standard dual-core version). The end result is a great all-around desktop replacement that can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, and an excellent alternative to more expensive gaming laptops from Asus and Toshiba.
The catch (and there always is one), is that the P-7808u continues Gateway's unfortunate habit of pairing its 17-inch laptops with lower resolution screens. While 2008's now-discontinued P-7811 FX was the best of the bunch, bumping the screen resolution up to 1,900x1,200, this model only offers a 1,440x900 display--scarcely better than you'd find on a cheap 15-inch.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,749|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000|
|Memory||4GB, 1066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45|
|Graphics||1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.8 x 11.8 inches|
|Height||1.3 -1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.9/10.5 pounds|
The look of the P-series FX laptops has remained virtually unchanged since the line debuted early in 2008. It still features a glossy black plastic chassis, with brushed metal detailing and copper accents around the keyboard. It's not exactly upscale, but neither is Asus' performance winner, the W90Vp-X1.
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, but the volume control isn't nearly as smooth as it should be.
Like the last version of the FX line we looked at, the P-7808u has a 1,440x900 native resolution--which is much lower than the a 1,920x1,200 some earlier (and cheaper) models in the same line have offered. While running most games with the detail levels turned up will require you to dial down the in-game resolution to something close to 14x9, downloading and playing 1080p HD video content loses some of its appeal with the lower resolution. Even with its excellent performance, we suspect many users would rather trade down from a quad-core CPU to a regular dual-core one in return for a 19x12 screen.
|Gateway FX P-7808u||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, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner or Blu-Ray player|
This is a fixed-configuration system, so you're stuck with what it ships with, but we liked the eSATA port for hooking up an external hard drive, as well as the full ExpressCard/54 slot, and FireWire connection (which is increasingly rare these days). The HDMI port is good for hooking the system up to a bigger display if you want to use the powerful CPU/GPU combo to power HD video for gaming.
The 7808u replaces the perfectly adequate 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU from the last few P-series FX laptops with a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000, making it one of only a few quad-core laptops we've seen in the wild. Another recent one is the Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725, and both are strong performers, especially in our multitasking test, where the extra CPU cores can come in handy. In single-app tests, the Asus W90Vp-X1 was still the performance leader.
Do you need a quad-core CPU? If you need to ask, the answer is probably no, and Gateway's otherwise identical dual-core P-7805u version offers perfectly good performance for less than $1,200.
The quad-core CPU didn't make much of a difference in our gaming tests, but the 100 frames per second in Unreal Tournament III at 1,440x900 is more than enough for all but the most hard-core gamers. If gaming is your main concern, note that the P-7805u version gave us virtually the same 3D performance. Both systems use a high-end Nvidia GeForce 9800M graphics card.
Our battery testing, using CNET Labs' video playback battery drain test, gave us 2 hours and 56 minute of battery life, which is very impressive for a desktop replacement. Because desktop replacements spend most of their time tethered to a single location, battery life isn't usually a big factor here. Other recent gaming rigs, including the Asus W90Vp-X1 and the Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725, ran for less than 90 minutes in the same test.
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 technicians.