For some companies, the word “budget” is code for “compromise,” usually in both style and performance. The $799 Gateway T-6828, however, has few trade-offs for the affordable tag. In addition to a sleek design and portable 14-inch screen, you get robust performance, and a longer-than-standard two-year warranty.
Budget Price, Luxury Looks
The T-6828 keeps everything we loved about the larger, but otherwise near-identical, 15-inch M-150XL’s design. Our unit has a glossy Garnet Red lid and matching palm rest. At 5.6 pounds, the T-6828 is closer in weight to a mainstream machine than a thin-and-light, but it’s still lighter than many budget notebooks. The 13 x 9.8 x 1.3-inch body feels compact. It narrows to 1 inch thin, which is nice for this class of system.
There’s still a brushed-metal bezel with embedded multimedia controls, but the keyboard is now a matching silver, not black. Although we liked the smooth, ample keys and the pleasant sound they make, the flipped control and function keys were awkward to use. The touchpad is large with a series of raised bumps along the right side. When we reviewed the M-150XL, we had to use two fingers on the low-friction surface, but this touchpad responded fine to just one. The touch buttons are easier to press than the M-150XL’s, but they’re still noisy and far too narrow, especially given how disproportionately wide the touchpad is.
T-6828’s Display and Sound
At 14.1 inches, the 1280 x 800-pixel display is large enough for long stretches and watching movies. Although we were able to watch DVDs comfortably, we noticed that both Anchorman and Finding Nemo looked dark, even with the maximum brightness settings (we faulted the M-150XL, too, for having a dimmer screen than the competition). However, we were able to enjoy these flicks at wide viewing angles, despite the screen’s glossiness.
While not booming, the speakers were louder than others we’ve tested recently, even those belonging to larger notebooks, such as the 17-inch Toshiba Satellite L355D.
Standard Ports, Decent Webcam
The notebook’s port list is pretty standard: Three USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet and modem jacks, and VGA, headphone, and mic ports. Its 8X DVD burner is slightly faster than the 6X drive we’re used to seeing on budget systems. Although it’s missing a FireWire port, users will get a lot of mileage out of the 5-in-1 memory card slot, which reads SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, and xD media.
The 1.3-megapixel webcam captured bright photos and video, but the color and clarity are just okay. Video looked choppy, even when we took captures offline. We do like that the camera software comes with fun frames and screen decorations and that you can attach images to e-mail with the touch of a button.
Good Performance for the Price
Despite having 3GB of RAM (usually unheard of for a machine this affordable), the T-6828’s 1.83-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor doesn’t perform as well as other thin-and-lights. However, its scores are right in line with, if not better than, other budget notebooks. When it comes to general performance, this notebook garnered a score of 138 on MobileMark 2007. That’s 17 points below the category average but more than adequate for everyday use (scores that dip below 100, however, are red flags). Its 3DMark03 score of 1,492 is 800 points below average but still a tad higher than the $899 Toshiba Satellite M205 (since updated to the M305), which notched 1,447.
Startup took a sluggish 1 minute and 21 seconds, thanks to a whopping 610MB of trialware. Once we removed these superfluous programs, the boot-up time dropped to a more typical 1:06. Multitasking was a breeze: We were able to run Windows Defender, check for Vista updates, download iTunes, defrag the hard drive, and navigate among several tabs in Internet Explorer without hindering performance. We were also able to run various programs in the background without affecting DVD playback. One noticeable issue: The touchpad warmed after several hours, even when we weren’t actively using it.
Long Battery Life and Warranty
In terms of battery life, you’re getting a decent deal with the T-6828: It lasted 3 hours and 51 minutes with Wi-Fi off, though this is still about 30 minutes less than the category average. Its 802.11n wireless driver delivered strong throughput of 18.8 Mbps at 15 feet but dropped to 11.2 Mbps at 50 feet.
Although not as fast as other thin-and-lights, the T-6828 offers several advantages over competing systems. First, there’s the massive 250GB hard drive, ideal for storing large music and video libraries. It also comes with a two-year warranty, whereas most notebooks only come with one year of coverage.
You’ll be hard-pressed to get more for your money than with the Gateway T-6828; for the price, it offers more style and hard drive space than other 14-inch notebooks. If you can handle a few drawbacks—the not-so-bright screen and the small touch buttons—this all-purpose portable is sure to please.