In the wake of our winter roundup of retail laptops, we noticed that while there are plenty of good, inexpensive laptops available. For frequent travelers, there are still few options that cost less than $1,000 (Netbooks excluded).
The $689 Gateway UC7807u is one such system: a 13-inch wide-screen notebook with a travel weight of roughly 6 pounds and good enough performance to handle everyday productivity tasks and entertainment needs. Also worth checking out is another 13-inch option in the same general price range, HP's Pavilion dv3z.
|Price as reviewed||$689.99|
|Processor||2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)|
|Dimensions||12.6 inches wide by 9.4 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3/6.1 pounds|
We're not sure if the "UC" really stands for "Ultra Chic," as indicated by Gateway's product page for this model series; but regardless, it's not. Granted, as budget-friendly notebooks go, the UC7807u is attractive with its glossy, bronzy moonstone exterior, black brushed-metal palm rest, slot-loading optical drive, and touch controls for media playback above the keyboard.
While the keyboard is perfectly functional, the system's most eye-catching and potentially irritating features are the round touch pad and single button for right and left clicking. We've only seen this design on a handful of laptops--most notably Intel's Classmate PC--and for good reason, as it's hard to use, especially for anyone with a muscle memory for rectangular touch pads.
Gateway does get points for the 13.3-inch wide-screen LCD, with its 1,280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The display gets adequately bright and graphics, photos, text, and video all look sharp, with good color and contrast. Plus, this size tends to be the sweet spot for most people, right between too small for regular use and too big for travel.
|Gateway UC7807u||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, multiformat media card reader,||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
We wouldn't expect a laptop at this price and size to be overflowing with ports and connections, and, well, the UC7807u isn't. Networking, for example, is limited to Ethernet and Wi-Fi, so no Bluetooth or dial-up modem. Also, while it does have an HDMI jack for connecting to an external display, the cost is a shortage of data ports. Still, what it does have should be plenty for most users. Since this is a retail-only model with a fixed configuration, there's no chance to upgrade before you buy, though memory is user upgradable to 4GB.
The 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 CPU is what's found in the vast majority of laptops between $600 and $900, and for the most part, the UC7807u performs on par with other T6400 laptops; that is to say, it's fairly unremarkable. For typical multitasking use--Web surfing, office documents, media viewing, and so on--the component combination is capable, and we saw no slowdown or stuttering in anecdotal use.
The UC7807u ran for 2 hours and 31 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's not too bad, all things considered; and with some power management you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use, which is primarily what this laptop is intended for.
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.