Review: Gateway P-7811FX Notebook

Fast, good and cheap: Pick any two. This mantra of designers and engineers pragmatically points out that you can’t have it all. It’s like the laws of physics or something. Gateway’s brand new P-7811FX not only has a name that looks like a Federation Starship name, it seems to break the laws of physics that Chief Engineer Scotty seems to hold so dear (RIP, Mr. Doohan, and sorry about those ashes). Through some loophole, wormhole or deal with the devil, Gateway has produced a massive desktop replacement that’s fast, good and cheap.

How fast, you ask? Fast enough to go toe-to-toe – and school – a $4,800 Alienware Area 51 m15x: In our Quake 4 test, the Gateway posted a score of 167.8 fps to the m15x’s 167.2. This is partially because the Gateway’s 512-MB Nvidia Geforce 9800M is running the show. We know less than a frame per second is not a huge lead, but split seconds are common currency for winning the Olympic gold, so it’s good enough for us. The FX also has Olympic endurance for larger class notebooks, going 2 hours, 23-minutes to play a DVD.

And that brings us to the cheap part. The Gateway is just $1,400 – more than three times less than the Alienware and hundreds (and more hundreds) less than most other desktop replacement machines. Sure, it lacks the latest processor (it’s got a 2.27-GHz Core Duo), but it has a whopping 4 GB of RAM to help it attack processing tasks and a spacious 200 GB of drive space for your stuff.

But is it any good? With a desktop replacement this cheap you’d expect some crap components, but the FX is pretty chintz-free. The keyboard’s solid, the 17-inch screen is bright and even, and the unit has all the ports you’d expect, including eSATA, HDMI and a media slot. The design looks good too: black with a semitransparent lattice that suggests (but isn’t) carbon fiber, trimmed with a metallic orange that would look nice on a souped-up ’69 Ford Mustang Mach I, if your brother-in-law hadn’t wrapped it around that oak out on Route 57.

The big bummer here is the missing Blu-ray drive, which is what is likely keeping this thing so affordable. The included DVD Multi drive has Yamaha’s LabelFlash technology, so you can burn designs onto specially coated media, but that’s not going to provide any solace when Dark Knight hits Blu-ray and you can’t watch it in HD.

It’s great that Gateway unraveled fast-good-cheap, but it’s time to move on to the next challenge, a PC this good, for this price, with Blu-ray. Do that, and the company would have a frenzied crowd of piss-pantsed, slavering geeks, clamoring to buy up its PCs.

  • RAM Size: 4 GB
  • Clock Rate: 2.27 GHz
  • Hard Drive Size: 200 GB
  • Screen Size: 17 inches
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1200
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