Pros: Solid performance and graphics for price; Spacious and comfortable keyboard; Long battery life; Runs cool
Cons: Stiff mouse bar; Touchpad has some friction; Weak audio; Relatively dim display
Verdict: The 15.6-inch Gateway NV57H54u delivers a comfy keyboard and good performance for less than $500, but a few drawbacks keep it from being a top pick.
A $499 notebook like the Gateway NV57H54u is nothing to scoff at, especially when it packs a second-generation Core i3 processor, a 500GB hard drive and perks like Intel Wireless display. You also get a modern chiclet-style keyboard and another amenities you don't usually expect at this price. So what's not to like?
The NV57H54u's lid is decked out in a glossy black plastic with subtle geometric designs, similar to the Gateway NV55S05u. It's a nice look, but it picks up fingerprints quickly. A brushed aluminum tab engraved with the Gateway logo is embedded near the top left corner.
The top half of the keyboard deck is matte black while the palm rest also mirrors the lid displaying the funky pattern, but shakes things up with glossy gray plastic.
The 15 x 9.96 x 0.99/1.31-inch NV57H54u is slightly thicker than the 15 x 10 x 1.3-inch Acer Aspire 5755-6647, but both weigh 5.6 pounds. The NV57H54u slipped into our backpack without any trouble, but notebooks like this are designed mostly to be moved from room to room.
The Gateway NV57H54u features a 15.6-inch 1366 x768 display, which is on the dim side. At 144 lux, this laptop is outshined by such budget systems as the Toshiba Satellite C655-S554 (170 lux) and the Acer Aspire 5755-6647 (154 lux). The glossy screen also kicked back plenty of reflections, which impacted viewing angles.
Video playback was colorful and detailed. When we watched the 1080p YouTube trailer of "The Amazing Spiderman," we found ourselves immersed in the rich blue lights of the web-laden Oscorp lab as Peter Parker was bitten by a decidedly large black spider. However, there was some slight pixilation during night scenes of the NYC skyline that took away from the fast-paced action.
Since the NV57H54u is a budget machine, we weren't surprised that the long slim speaker above the keyboard didn't get very loud. At full volume, the audio barely filled a small office, leaving us straining to hear the heated debate between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy's father in the Spiderman trailer. Listening to Outkast's "Morris Brown" was disappointing; the trumpets, snares and bass sounded hollow.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The NV57H54u's island-style keyboard is large with a full number pad. The flat square keys provided springy feedback as we typed this review. We also appreciated the direct action keys for adjusting settings like the brightness and volume--no function key combos required.
The 3.4 x 1.75-inch Elan touchpad was a mixed bag. The surface produced a modest amount of friction, which meant we had to be more deliberate than we wanted to place the cursor in an exact position. Pinch-to-zoom worked smoothly but two-finger scrolling felt slow. You're better off using the dedicated scrolling area on the right side with one finger.
Don't expect gestures here like three-finger flicking through photos or four-finger swipes for revealing the desktop.
We've never been fans of single mouse bars beneath a touchpad, and the NV57H54u didn't change our mind. We needed to click on the left or right edges to register a click; the middle of the bar is dead and stiff.
After playing a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touchpad, space between the G and H keys and underside registered 85, 82 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. That's well below the 95 degree threshold we regard as uncomfortable.
Two USB 2.0 ports, a tray-loading DVD burner and a Kensington secure lock sit on the notebook's right. The left side of the laptop houses another USB 2.0 port, HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, jacks for headphones and a microphone and a power jack. A 5-in-1 card reader is on the left front lip of the notebook.
The 1.3-megapixel webcam captures stills and video at 1280 x 1024 using Gateway's Video Web Camera software. Despite some persistent graininess, our emerald green sweater and dark blue blanket had spot-on color accuracy under florescent and natural lighting.
The Gateway NV57H54u can handle a decent amount of multitasking, thanks to its 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-2350M CPU with 4GB of RAM, 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU. We were able to hack and slash our way through "Bastion" with 10 open tabs in Chrome and six open tabs in Internet Explorer without any noticeable latency.
The NV57H54u scored 2,060 in PCMark07, slightly below the 2,296 mainstream category average. However, that was more than enough to beat the HP Pavilion g6-1c77nr (1,332), though that 15-incher we reviewed had a first-gen Core i3 chip.
The NV57H54u's 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) in 68 seconds, slightly slower than the 57.1 second category average. During the File Transfer Test, the notebook duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 3 minutes and 36 seconds for a transfer rate of 23.6 MBps, which failed to meet the 33.1 MBps average. However, the Toshiba Satellite C655-S554 posted a lower 17.7MBps.
During the OpenOffice test, the NV57H54u took 7 minutes and 10 seconds to duplicate 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses. That's 55 seconds slower than the mainstream average, which isn't bad considering this category includes a lot more expensive laptops.
The NV57H54's Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU can play video and some mainstream games. During 3DMark06, the Gateway NV57H54 scored 4,454. The Acer 5755-6647 had a slightly higher score of 4,789 thanks to its faster Core i5 processor.
On our "World of Warcraft" test, the NV57H54u delivered a playable frame rate of 35 on Good at 1366 x 768 pixels. When we switched to maximum, the Gateway NV57H54u's frame rate dropped to 15 fps.
Gateway bundles the with a modest suite of apps and utilities. We found Gateway's Social Networks to be one of the more unique and useful. Summoned by pressing the button in the upper right corner of the keyboard, we conveniently checked feeds from our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts in one place.
Other Gateway-branded utilities include Gateway MyBackup, Updater and Recovery, which lets us create backups of our drivers and software in case of a system crash. There's also the Gateway Games Web portal, where we enjoyed a riveting round of "Stark Tower Defense."
Aupeo! Premium Radio is also included. We loved being able to create custom radio stations by artist, genre or mood. Parents will appreciate Fooz Kids, a kid-friendly browser full of child-appropriate apps and games. Children can't sign in or out of Fooz without a parent's password.
Gateway also includes a number of third-party programs, including Evernote, Nook for PC, Skype, Microsoft Office Starter, Windows Live and a 60-day free trial of Norton Internet Security.
The comes with a 1-Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty.
During the Laptop Battery Test, the NV57H54u lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes. That's 15 minutes longer than the 5:09 mainstream category average. The Toshiba C655-S554 and the Acer Aspire 5755-6647 lasted 4:26 and 4:44, respectively.
The $499 Gateway NV57H54u offers solid performance and endurance along with one of the better-looking and more comfortable keyboards we've used in this price range. What holds this 15-inch laptop back is its friction-heavy touchpad, stiff mouse bar and somewhat dim display. Overall, we prefer the HP Pavilion g6x in the under-$500 category, but if you're looking for a notebook that can do social networking, word processing and light gaming with long battery life at an affordable price, the NV57H54u is definitely worth considering.
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|CPU||2.3GHz Intel Core i3-2350M Processor|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||8GB|
|Hard Drive Size||500GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive||DVD SuperMultiDrive|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 3000|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205|
|Touchpad Size||3.4 x 1.75 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Kensington Lock|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Card Slots||5-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1-Year Limited Parts and Labor|
|Size||15.0 x 9.96 x 0.99/1.31 inches|