Gateway 450xl (Pentium M 1.6 GHz review:

Gateway 450xl (Pentium M 1.6 GHz

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Thin and light; excellent tech support; FireWire port; wide, responsive keyboard.

The Bad Middling performance; limited screen, graphics, and hard drive speed options; no modular swapping with other Gateway laptops.

The Bottom Line The Gateway 450's solid features and battery life make it a dependable thin-and-light travel companion for both business and home users.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Battery 7.0
  • Support 8.0

Gateway has designed three unassuming 450 flavors for corporate and consumer users alike. Each of these models--the L, the X, and the XL--is a solid if relatively unexciting notebook, appropriate if you travel often yet need more features than you'd find on an ultralight laptop such as the Gateway 200. Each also includes a mobile Pentium 4-M processor, but otherwise, prices and features differ across the line. For example, the 450L offers only a 14.1-inch screen, while the 450X and XL come with 15-inch displays. And while the 450 delivers slightly disappointing performance results in CNET Labs' tests, it performs adequately for average business and home tasks. Add Gateway's stellar tech support to the mix, and you get a sensible notebook for a relatively low price. In the thin-and-light category, the 450 has some stiff competition from big business players such as the IBM ThinkPad T series and the Toshiba Tecra 9100, as well as consumer laptops such as the Compaq Presario 1700 and the HP Pavilion zt1190. The 450's 1.3-by-13.15-by-10.6-inch chassis looks fairly plain, but it includes its own perks, such as a slick, silver-magnesium shell; four application quick-launch buttons above its wide, springy keyboard; a FireWire port; and a tiny rectangular scroll bar that sits between the two mouse buttons, beneath the standard touchpad.



EZ Pad touchpad.


Drive on right side.


The 450's base weight varies between 5.88 and 6.44 pounds, depending on your choice of either 14.1- or 15-inch screens, both of which look sufficiently bright and crisp. (The AC adapter tacks on another pound.) The 450 maintains its modest weight by including a single modular bay that supports a floppy, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, or combo DVD/CD-RW drive. The bay also accommodates two optional batteries at an additional $79 and $99.




Rear-panel ports.


Rear-panel ports.


Unlike some corporate laptops such as the mainstream Dell Latitude C610 series, the 450 series won't let you swap these modular devices among Gateway's other laptop lines--not an ideal setup for enterprise customers seeking to save costs by sharing drives. But Gateway tips its hat to businesses by preserving serial, parallel, and PS/2 legacy ports. Composite/NTSC video-out, two USB ports, two Type II (one Type III) PC Card slots, Ethernet, and a 56k modem also come standard with the 450. However, the 450 breaks from corporate tradition by supporting only a pared-down port replicator ($129) rather than a more full-featured docking station.


Unlike most manufacturers that design different laptop chassis for their business and home notebooks, Gateway takes a one-chassis-fits-all approach with the 450. The low-end 450L starts at $1,399, putting it out of range of budget buyers (who should look to the larger but cheaper 1450 series, which bottoms out at $999). At the other end of the spectrum, an amped-up 450XL will set you back $2,500 or more; considering how widely the 450's prices and features differ across the line, you should be able to find a 450 that's adequate for most tasks. For example, the 450L and 450X offer Pentium 4 processors that range in speed from 1.7GHz to 2GHz and hard drives in 20GB, 30GB, and 40GB capacities; the top-of-the-line 450XL comes with a 2GHz processor and a 40GB hard drive. All three systems let you add up to 512MB of system memory.



Gateway takes a one-chassis-fits-all approach with the 450.
But although we appreciate this mixing and matching, we wish the 450 offered a bit more feature flexibility. The series comes with only one 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon M6-P graphics chip; each of its hard drives spin at the same slow 4,200rpm speed; and its screens all default to a low 1,028x768 resolution--great for big, readable text but less than ideal for detailed graphics. Many notebooks in this class offer built-in wireless options too, but you'll have to add an 802.11b integrated adapter ($99) to the 450 for such capabilities.

Gateway thankfully offers a mind-boggling assortment of software options with the 450. In addition to Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, all 450s come with Microsoft Works Suite 2002. Gateway also peddles a vast array of educational apps, games, and training programs on everything from notebook security to digital photography. Fortunately, you can choose many of these apps individually so that you're not stuck with a software bundle you don't need.

On everyday applications tests, the Gateway 450 failed to live up to its high-end CPU. In addition to a 2GHz Pentium 4-M processor, the system we tested came with 256MB of system memory and a 40GB, 4,200rpm hard drive. In spite of these above-average specs, the 450 fell well behind the slower, 1.8GHz IBM ThinkPad T30. The 450 did manage to score a small but ultimately meaningless victory over the 850MHz Sony VAIO PCG-VX88. On battery-life tests, the 450 came in last, no doubt hampered by its relatively low-power battery and its fast CPU.

Mobile application performance
The 2GHz Gateway 450 scored below average for a mainstream system with comparable specs. The 1.8GHz IBM ThinkPad T30--which packs a faster, 5,400rpm hard drive--beat the 450 by 20 points on mobile performance tests. Compared to the Sony VAIO PCG-VX88, the 450 performed moderately well, but we expected a 2GHz system to beat an 850MHz system by a much larger margin.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
IBM ThinkPad T30
123 
Gateway 450SX4
103 
Sony VAIO PCG-VX88
88 
 
System configurations:

Gateway 450SX4
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M6 32MB; Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad T30
Windows XP Professional; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 16MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 40GB 5,400rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-VX88
Windows XP Home; 850MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82815 graphics controller 4MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm


With its 11.1-volt, 3,600mAh lithium-ion battery and low-power CPU, the VAIO PCG-VX88 placed first in battery-life tests, lasting 3 hours, 49 minutes. The Gateway 450, hampered by its low-power, 11.1-volt, 3,800mAh battery and fast CPU, lasted only 2 hours, 36 minutes. The ThinkPad T30 with its 10.8-volt, 4,400mAh battery managed to last a full 20 minutes longer than the 450.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
Sony VAIO PCG-VX88
229 
IBM ThinkPad T30
177 
Gateway 450SX4
156 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5).

System configurations:

Gateway 450SX4
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M6 32MB; Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad T30
Windows XP Professional; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 16MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 40GB 5,400rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-VX88
Windows XP Home; 850MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82815 graphics controller 4MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm



HelpSpot.
Gateway backs the 450 series with an excellent set of support polices. You can pick from one- and four-year parts and labor warranties, with a $179 difference between the two; both policies come with an increasingly rare, unlimited, 24/7 phone support term. The company also offers accidental damage protection options in prices ranging from $119 to $169, but they're oddly unavailable in several states, including Florida, Virginia, and Washington. The company's Web site is chock-full of support information, including a long list of tutorials on everything from using your software to laptop basics. You can even enter your serial number to locate relevant system info quickly.

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