Note: Portions of this review were pulled from our original Gateway P-7808u review.
Gateway proves that you don’t have to spend upwards of two grand (or more) for a quality gaming notebook. The Gateway P-7807u FX, a $1,399 rig that packs a speedy 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS graphics (with a full gig of dedicated video memory) lets budget fraggers mix it up with their rivals in even the highest-end titles. Although the industrial design remains the same as the Gateway FX models that have come before it, this system is a more than worthy purchase.
The large 15.7 x 11.7 x 1.7-inch P-7807u FX has a glossy black shell with the same Halloween-esque orange, silver, and carbon fiber accents that we’re familiar with from earlier models, such as the P-7811 FX. Gateway packs this reasonably portable 9-pound system with a full-size, copper-bordered keyboard and number pad. The keyboard exhibited very little flex and was comfortable to type on as we crafted documents and e-mail. The layout was spacious enough even with the full 10-key numeric keypad, although the right Shift key is shrunken. We also liked the large touchpad and mouse buttons that made navigating the desktop a breeze. The mouse buttons were rather noisy when clicked and felt a bit flimsy, but it’s hardly a deal breaker.
Multimedia keys (including DVD, Windows Media Center, and music controls) sit just above the keyboard. Each is flush with the surface and glows orange, making for a clean-looking package. A touch-sensitive volume control strip sat to the left of those and was handy for raising or lowering the volume of the twin speakers that flank the multimedia keys.
Ports and Webcam
Three USB ports are onboard, but for a system this size, four or more is preferable. We can’t complain too much, because on the right side HDMI, FireWire, and eSATA ports for hooking up your notebook to a large HD display or external storage. Other ports include VGA, headphone and microphone jacks, Ethernet, modem, ExpressCard/54 slot, and 5-in-1 memory card reader.
Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam that lacked the sharpness and color vibrancy we’ve seen in systems such as the MSI GT627 when we chatted with friends in Skype. Skin tones were washed out, and tinkering with the various camera settings didn’t do much to help.
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Display and Audio
The P-7807u FX has a large 17-inch widescreen display with a 1440 x 900-pixel native resolution. This pixel count is way below the 1920 x 1200 offered by the Gateway P-7811 FX, which may turn off some gamers. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the deep blacks and bright colors that we saw when watching episodes of Family Guy and Heroes on Hulu. The glossy screen is large enough for two or three people to share, but anyone sitting anywhere other than directly in front of it will be hit with heavy reflections.
The stereo speakers offered plenty of volume but dropped the ball in terms of quality. When we played The Posies “I Guess You’re Right” MP3, the audio was loud enough to fill a small room, but it lacked the robust sound of systems like the Acer Aspire 8930. Bass was a bit stronger than what you’d find with standard notebook speakers, but when we fired up Kool & The Gang’s “Hollwood Swinging” on Slacker, the classic bassline lacked its familiar liveliness.
Smooth System Performance, Good Vista Boot Time
Click to enlargePowered by a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor and 4GB of RAM, the P-7807u FX plowed through PCMark Vantage (a benchmark that tests Vista performance) to achieve a score of 4,339, which was more than 900 points above the desktop replacement average (and, remarkably, 90 points better than the Gateway P-7808u FX). This was borne out in our time with the machine, in which we saw folders and applications open swiftly; the spinning blue loading icon made very infrequent appearances.
The 320GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive booted into the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium in 56 seconds, which was far more tolerable than the desktop replacement average of 1 minute and 10 seconds. The speedy HDD also helped the system to a 24.2-MBps mark on the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media), which was 2.2 MBps better than other machines in this class.
Gateway packs in a beefy, high-performance Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS graphics card with 1GB of DDR3 RAM into the P-7807u FX, which performed admirably on our benchmarks. Its 3DMark06 score of 9,636 was a bit lower than the Gateway P-7808u FX (10,019), but it aced the desktop replacement average (5,353).
Converting a 5:05 video file (640 x 480-pixel resolution) from MPEG-4 to AVI using Handbrake took 6 minutes and 33 seconds, which is on a par with the Sager NP8662 (6:28), another budget-friendly gaming rig. When we transcoded the file again while compressing a 4.97GB folder of mixed media into a zip file, the Gateway took 11:49, compared with the Sager NP8662’s 10:28. The P7807u’s scores closely mimic those of the Dell Studio XPS 13, which has the same processor, RAM, and hard drive, and took 6:31 and 11:39, respectively, to complete the same tasks. While good, all of these times paled in comparison to the Gateway P-7808u FX, a quad-core notebook with Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS graphics that completed the tasks in 3:36 and 5:54, respectively.
Nvdia’s CUDA Technology
Designed to enable the graphics processor (instead of the CPU) to crunch video data, Nvidia’s CUDA platform allowed us to transcode the same 5:05 clip from MPEG-4 to AVI (using vReveal, an application designed to take advantage of this technology) in just 3 minutes and 15 seconds—a savings of almost 2 minutes. Transcoding it with the 4.97GB folder being compressed, saw the conversion time increase to 4 minutes and 52 seconds—a decrease of more than 50 percent. If you’re a video enthusiast, using CUDA-enabled software is a must for speedy processing.
The P-7807u FX proved to be an excellent gaming machine. On Far Cry 2, the system pulled in a very smooth 67 fps with the graphics set to 1024 x 768, and a still very acceptable 43 fps with the resolution cranked to the native 1440 x 900. While not as high as the P-7808u FX (85 fps at 1024 x 768 and 53 fps at 1440 x 900), these numbers were on a par with the MSI GT627 (63 fps at 1024x768 and 42 fps at 1280 x 800) and the Sager NP8662 (64 fps at 1024 x 768 and 39 fps at 1680 x 1050).
In our gaming sessions, we didn’t experience any in-game bugs or lagging due to graphics performance when we sprayed the environment with bullets. When we booted Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, we were able to engage in firefights with enemy troops without polygonal breakup or the graphics suffering from the action. Overall, it was very obvious that the hardware under the hood was up to the rendering tasks, even with the graphics and effects turned up all the way.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The P-7807u FX ships with a nine-cell battery—a big improvement over the six-cell battery that comes with most gaming systems—which delivered 3 hours and 41 minutes of juice on our LAPTOP Battery Test. While it’s unlikely that you’re going to leave this system unplugged for any length of time, it’s good to know that it lasts 41 minutes longer than the average desktop replacement (and more than an hour longer than the MSI GT627 and Sager NP8662).
The Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 802.11a/g/draft-n wireless LAN pushed data along at a rate of 20.5 Mbps at 15 feet away from our access point, and 19.1 Mbps at 50 feet. The first score was just above the desktop replacement average (19.0 Mbps), but the second was over 3.0 MBps faster than average (15.8 Mbps).
Software and Warranty
Bundled with the systems is a host of software that includes Adobe Flash 9.0, Adobe Reader 9.0, CyberLink Power2Go, CyberLink LabelPrint, eBay Desktop, EarthLink, Gateway Games Powered by WildTangent (ten demo games with 60 minutes of play), Google Toolbar, Microsoft Money Essentials, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 (60-day trial), Microsoft Works 9.0SE, Microsoft Windows Media Player 11, NetZero Internet Access, and Symantec Norton 360 (60-day trial). A year of Gateway’s limited parts-and-labor warranty and toll-free 24/7 tech support is included with the system.
Gateway offers two other models in the FX series, the P-7805u and the P-7808u. The P-7805u ($1,299) comes with a less powerful 2.26-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, a 7,200-rpm 320GB hard drive, and the same Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS graphics card. It also has a 17-inch display with 1440 x 900-pixel resolution, the same ports, and 4GB of RAM. The higher-end P-7808u ($1,799) has a 2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 quad-core processor, a 1080p display, and a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive.
Gateway P-7808u FX Verdict
Click to enlargeAlthough the design could use a refresh and the sound could be better, the Gateway P-7807u FX is still the best budget gaming rig available; it chewed through everything we threw at it, and we had an exciting time shooting up the baddies without having to worry about lag. Our rig was also a multitasking champ. Priced at $1,399, it’s $88 less than the Sager NP8662, but $250 more than the 15-inch MSI GT627, which offered comparable gaming performance. However, gamers may find it worth those extra dollars, since the P-7807u FX features greater endurance, a sharper display, and a better keyboard.