Traditionally Gateway hasn't been as lauded as Sony or Apple for its computer designs, but that may change with the introduction of the company's new T series laptops, which feature a slender case and an attractive, glossy finish that's available in three color choices. What you find within the case, though, is classic Gateway: configurable systems with options that range from the downright cheap to the moderately priced. Our T-6815 review unit is the former. Priced at $899, it includes all the features a typical home user will need, and like most budget-oriented laptops built with previous-generation Core 2 Duo processors, the T-6815 offers just enough oomph for light productivity work, e-mail, and Web surfing. Home users seeking a low-price laptop for basic use will find what they're looking for--plus a snazzy, expensive-looking design--in the Gateway T-6815.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$899/$899|
|Processor||1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250|
|Memory||1GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 965GM Express|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight/weight with AC adapter||5.5/6.3 pounds|
Although it's not rugged, the Gateway T6815 feels well constructed and ready to withstand minor bumps and knocks. Though it falls toward the heavier end of thin-and-light laptops, it's light enough to tote to the local coffee shop or on the occasional trip and is much lighter than Gateway's previous 14-inch laptop, the E-265M. While the E-265M featured an unremarkable, matte-black case, the T-6815's case features three color choices--red, blue, and slate--with a glossy, subtly patterned finish. (Virgos and other finicky users should note that the glossy finish is more prone to fingerprint smudges than traditional plastic cases.) The end result of the case redesign is that the T-6815 looks more expensive than it is.
Lift the T-6815's slim lid and you'll find a 14.1-inch wide-screen display with a fairly typical native resolution of 1,280x800. The screen on our review unit included a high-gloss coating that helped videos look great, although reflections proved distracting when we tried to work on a Word document in a sun-filled room. Unfortunately at this point, there is no option for a matte-finish screen. In the display bezel sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam with built-in microphone for video chats.
We were surprised to find that Gateway's flashy redesign did not extend to the T-6815's keyboard. Though it's framed by a thin border of brushed aluminum, the keyboard itself looks a bit too outdated to live in such a futuristic case. But there's nothing functionally wrong with it; typing is comfortable, all the keys are full size, and there's no flex to the board. We like the T-6815's roomy touch pad, which is responsive and provides just the right amount of resistance, and its ample-size mouse buttons. Above the keyboard sit two stereo speakers that produce adequate, but not mind-blowing, sound. There's also a button to launch Windows Media Center, a row of keys to control disc playback that are cut into the brushed aluminum, and a touch-sensitive slider to control volume. Handy but unobtrusive port labels on the keyboard deck let you know where to plug in peripherals.
|Gateway T-6815||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack with SPDIF, microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0 ports and a multiformat memory card reader||Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard/54 slot||PC Card or ExpressCard slot|
|Networking||Modem, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional 802.11n (Draft N) wireless, optional Bluetooth||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Given its low price, we weren't surprised to find a fairly average selection of ports and connections on the Gateway T-6815, though it does lack the mini-FireWire jack found on most home-oriented laptops, such as the Dell XPS M1330. We appreciate the inclusion of an ExpressCard slot, which should make it easy to add a TV tuner or mobile broadband as needed.
The Gateway T-6815 includes multiple elements from Intel's latest Centrino Duo platform (code-named Santa Rosa), including integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics and the Intel GM965 chipset. But its previous-generation 1.5GHz Core 2 Duo T5250 processor and 1GB of RAM kept the Gateway T-6815 from triumphing on CNET Labs' mobile benchmark tests. The T-6815 ranked significantly behind laptops with current-generation processors, including the $1,698 Dell Inspiron 1420 and the $1,199 Enpower ENP660. Nevertheless, the T-6815 is speedy enough for the casual productivity programs, media playback, and Web surfing that constitute most home computer use. And it's worth noting the Gateway's spacious 160GB hard drive, which is larger than expected in a budget system and can hold a large library of photos, music, and videos.
The Gateway T-6815 uses a common six-cell battery and turned in an average score of 1 hour, 55 minutes on our demanding DVD battery drain test. You can expect longer life during typical use, but we would have liked to see the T-6815 hold out for at least two hours. By comparison, the Enpower ENP660 lasted just 15 minutes longer than the Gateway, while the Dell Inspiron 1420's nine-cell extended battery provided about 3.5 hours of run time. For the power hungry, Gateway offers the option of a larger, extended-capacity battery for $50.
The Gateway T-6815's budget price tag 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 24-7 toll-free technical support during the warranty period; the company's support Web site includes the expected driver downloads and FAQs, as well as the opportunity to send e-mail to a technician. Every T series laptop also comes preloaded with Gateway's BigFix diagnostic software.
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