Review: Gateway MD7826u

You win some, you lose some. Take Gateway for example. Its big P-7811FX gaming laptop is a winner: cheap, a great performer andpretty to look at. Loser? Gateway’s MD7826u. This clunker hides under asheen of coolness that quickly fades, revealing a mediocre laptopdressed in a tuxedo T-shirt and Payless shoes.

In the context of other consumer electronics the MD7826u is not ahorrible piece of hardware — it just comes up short in a couple ofcritical areas. It is cheap though: $1,000 will get you the notebook andleave you with enough cash for a 20-ounce Tall Boy. Its Intel Core 2 DuoP8400, 4 GB of RAM, 320 GB hard drive and ATI Radeon 3600 offer solidoomph for business and casual gaming. Its burgundy case and black trimlends a touch of swank, albeit an aesthetic only Ron Burgundy wouldappreciate. Movies look good if you can tolerate the hobbled controls ofWindows Media Center, and the 8-cell battery will hold up for 2 1-2hours.

But the 15.6-inch screen is wrought with problems. First of allwatching movies on it is a neck-straining bag of suck — the lidonly tilts back a few degrees. And even though the thick bezel adds atouch of pretty, it’s a meaningless flourish that frequently snagged thelip of our messenger bag. And you may have difficulty even getting itinto a bag — the notebook’s 1.75-inch thickness makes it tough tosqueeze into constricted spaces.

The amber, touch-sensitive volume controls are a nice idea, but theyhave a mind of their own, randomly adjusting the volume as they see fit,rather than as you command. And while the Gateway site vaguely touts”Hi-Defenition Audio” (their misspelling, not ours), the speakers pointsquarely at your belly, where your ears aren’t (we hope).

There’s still no Blu-ray on any of the MD-series Gateways, butBlu-ray aficionados are not likely the target audience. This would be afair deal for the cost-conscious, especially if you are hunting forclearance deals in the waning hours of a going-out-of-business sale at afloundering Best Buy branch. But you’d be better served to go for the17-inch P-7811FX gaming laptop — or simply pass on this cheesy PCentirely.

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