Laptops selling for less than $600 are a dime a dozen, so Gateway set out to distinguish the NV55S05u with a stylish white design, a quad-core AMD Fusion APU, and built-in social media tools. With enough power for everyday tasks, plus enough graphics muscle for gaming, this $579 15-inch notebook has all the right ingredients to make it a winner. Read on to find out how this Gateway machine performs.
Kudos to Gateway for dressing the NV55S05u in something other than black. The Moonlight White lid with a subtle tan geometric pattern definitely makes this 15-inch system stand out from its darker-hued competitors. Inside, Gateway decked out the area above the keyboard with white plastic, while the lower half is silver with a pattern that's similar to the lid. When closed, the rear of the machine juts out approximately a quarter inch.
The 15 x 9.9 x 0.99-1.3-inch NV55 is slightly larger than the HP Pavilion g6x (14.7 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches) and the Lenovo G570 (14.8 x 9.8 x 0.68-1.3 inches), but it can still fit easily into a large messenger bag or backpack. The 5.6-pound N55S05u is also slightly heavier than the G570 and the g6x (both 5.2 pounds), though you likely won't travel much with this Gateway laptop.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The NV55S05u features a white matte island-style keyboard with a full number pad. There is generous spacing between the large flat white keys, and enough room left over for Gateway to make the right Shift key oversized. Feedback was fairly strong, but there was a tiny bit of flex. We like that the function row keys have been reversed, so that you can adjust screen brightness, control volume, and launch Gateway MyBackup and Social Networks with a single key press.
The notebook's 3.4 x 1.8-inch Elan touchpad felt cramped in relation to the keyboard. Gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scroll, and rotate were quick and responsive on the smooth surface. However, the cursor occasionally skipped around document and web pages, even when our palms were nowhere near the touchpad. The single mouse bar below the touchpad provided firm feedback.
Ports and Webcam
The right side of the NV55S05u houses two USB 2.0 ports, a DVD burner, and a Kensington Lock slot. A 4-in-1 card reader sits in front, and an additional USB 2.0 port is located on the left side along with a headphone jack, a microphone jack, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, and the power jack.
Images captured with 1.3-megapixel HD webcam were sharp and clear under natural light at 1280 x 1024p, but slightly dark under florescent lighting. During a Skype session, our caller reported sharp details, but our voice sounded hollow and faded in and out during the conversation.
After 15 minutes of streaming Hulu at full screen, the Gateway laptop's touchpad registered a cool 89 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was slightly warmer at 90 degrees, while the middle of the underside was a frosty 82 degrees.
Display and Audio
The Gateway NV55S05u features a 15.6-inch widescreen UltraBright display (which features a standard resolution of 1366 x 768). Overall, it offered fairly bright and crisp images, but suffered from narrow viewing angles. When we watched the 1080p YouTube trailer of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Johnny Blaze's red and yellow flames appeared dull and failed to pop against a muted blue sky when we moved off to one side or the other.
The notebook's thin speaker bar, located directly above the keyboard, provided hollow-sounding audio that failed to fill a small room. On Ledisi's "Pieces of Me," the singer's normally crisp and powerful vocals sounded muted. Slash's epic guitar solo on "November Rain" lacked depth, while bass was practically non-existent on J-Doe's "So Dope" remix. Gateway's ID47, which has Dolby-powered speakers, offers richer audio.
The NV55S05u pairs 6GB of RAM with a 1.5-GHz AMD Quad-Core A8-3500M APU--one of AMD's new Fusion processors that combines the CPU and GPU onto a single chip. However, this notebook's score of 4,377 on PCMark Vantage was well below the 5,631 mainstream category average, and it was also bested by the HP Pavilion g6x (5,384; 2.53-GHz Intel Core 13-380M processor, 4GB of RAM) as well as the Lenovo G570 (6,291; 2.3-GHz Core i5-2410M processor, 4GB of RAM).
Still, the Gateway held its own during everyday tasks, streaming a full-screen Hulu video while running a full system scan with 10 tabs open in Google Chrome and six in Internet Explorer.
The Gateway booted Windows 7 Home Premium in a zippy 48 seconds, which beat the gx6's sluggish 74 seconds and the category average (65 seconds). Still, the Lenovo G570 finished in only 35 seconds.
It took the NV55S05u's 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive 3 minutes and 59 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files, which translates to a rate of 21.3 MBps, failing to meet the 27.9MBps average. The G570 and the g6x's 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drives also failed to match the average, but they posted higher rates of 23.4 and 24.8 MBps, respectively.
Graphics and Gaming
For a sub-$600 laptop, the Gateway N55S05u has serious graphics chops. On the 3DMark06 test, the laptop's AMD Radeon HD 6620G GPU notched an impressive 5,686, handily blowing past the g6x's Intel HD GPU (1,826) as well as the 4,168 mainstream average. The Lenovo G570's Intel HD 3000 GPU notched a more respectable 4,552.
As we ran a few quests in World of Warcraft on Good at 1366 x 768, the Gateway NV5505u came in just below the 68.4 fps category average with a score of 67 fps. The G570 only managed 36 fps, while the Pavilion g6x scored a measly 15 fps. With the settings maxed, the NV55S05u scored 29 fps, easily blowing out the G570's 14 fps and edging past the 27 fps average.
The Gateway laptop even held its own on the graphically taxing Far Cry 2, scoring 53 fps on autodetect at 1024 x 768p--14 frames higher than the average. The G570 scored an unplayable 22 fps. When we cranked the NV55 up to maximum at 1366 x 768, it clocked in 28 fps, which is playable but a bit choppy.
On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing via Wi-Fi), the Gateway NV55S05u lasted 4 hours and 26 minutes, 10 minutes below the 4:36 average. The Pavilion g6x lasted a minute longer at 4:27, while the Lenovo G570 scored 4:52.
Gateway offers 17 different configurations of the 15-inch NV, with a variety of AMD and Intel CPUs. Our $579 review unit has a 1.5GHz AMD Quad-Core A8-3500M CPU with 6GB of RAM, a 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, and an AMD Radeon HD 6620G GPU. The $399 entry-level NV50A16u comes with a 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II Dual-Core N660 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and ATI Radeon HD 4250 graphics. The most expensive model, the $699 NV59C70u, features a 1.5GHz quad-core AMD A8, 6GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive, and a AMD Radeon HD 6620G GPU.
Software and Warranty
Gateway bundles the NV55S05u with a modest amount of software and utilities, the most unique of which is Gateway's Social Networks app. Pressing the button on the upper right corner of the keyboard launches the app, which allowed us to keep track of all friends on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube in one convenient place. In addition to seeing friends' updates, we could share photos and videos and change our updates. Unfortunately, you can't add other social networks such as Google+ and Twitter.
Other utilities include Gateway MyBackup software and Gateway Recovery, which let us create backups of our applications and drivers in case of a system crash. The AMD System Monitor allowed us to keep track of how much power and memory the CPU and GPU used as we worked. The AMD VISION Engine Control Center manages the graphics settings for video, gaming, and power.
Multimedia software includes a web portal of The New York Times Reader and Nook for PC. With the 14-day free trial of AUPEO! Premium Radio, we streamed music and created custom stations. We also used the mood header to select a mood (including happy, calm, and danceable) and genre, which let AUPEO! DJ for a while.
Other third-party software include Skype, Windows Live Essentials, Microsoft Office Starter, Adobe Reader 9, and a 60-day free trial of Norton Internet Security.
The Gateway NV55S05u provides a good computing experience at a budget-friendly $579. It delivers better graphics performance than competing notebooks in its price range along with a modern white-and-silver design. Some may prefer the HP Pavilion g6s because it offers better CPU performance in a lighter design--along with more color options. But overall, the NV55S05u is well suited for consumers who want an entertainment machine with a stylish design at an affordable price.