Review: Gateway UC7807u

Long before everyone started gulping down netbook kool-aid, there existed a perfectly tenable option for mobile fetishists: The 13-inch notebook. Indeed when compared to their slightly smaller (yet increasingly popular) cousins, these perky little compacts still tend to offer a more satisfying blend of power and portability.

For all their utility, however, they’ve historically suffered from one major flaw: You need exceedingly deep pockets to roll thin and light. No more.

Not only does Gateway’s new UC7807u prove (once again) that you can cram all sorts of functionality into a small, attractive package, it also dispels the myth that you have to part with more than a G to do so.

For about $300 more than the average netbook, the UC7807u offers a scintillating array of grown-up specs. Intel 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU? Check. 250 GB hard drive? Yep. 3GB of memory, a glossy 13.3-inch display, a slot loading optical drive, and ports galore (three USB and an HDMI)? You betcha! Best of all, with its fetching brushed aluminum chassis, no one will mistake this for a budget notebook.

Unfortunately, the UC7807u also has all the telltale signs of some obvious corner cutting. For one thing, you can forget about gaming. Due to Intel’s torpid integrated GMA 4500MHD graphics card, even moderately intensive titles won’t run properly. In our Quake 4 test, the notebook turned in an abysmal average of 16 fps on auto detect and 9 fps on maximum settings. So, yeah, unplayable. But hey, you’re not buying a 13-inch lappy to frag on, right?

Actually, our main beef with the UC7807u had more to do with the feeble 6-cell battery and its fairly obvious weight issues. For a something that technically falls into the thin-and-light category, this notebook takes considerable liberties on both fronts. Weighing in at 5.3 pounds, it’s nearly a pound heavier than the unibody Macbook. Battery life was equally disheartening. We clocked a disappointing 3 hours, 25 minutes — on average, a full hour shorter than most other notebooks in this category.

Still, taken as a whole, it’s hard to deny this 13-incher’s appeal — especially when you factor in the bargain basement price. It might not have netbook acolytes ready to forsake all their tiny Gods, but it could at least tempt them with a false bovine idol.

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