Pros: Bright 17-inch widescreen display; Sleek design; Convenient media controls; Loud speakers; Bluetooth and HDMI
Cons: Oversensitive fingerprint reader; Below-average performance scores
Verdict: A slick desktop replacement, Gateway's P-Series has the right mix of features for light multimedia use.
Most 17-inch notebooks focus on either gaming or multimedia, but for those who want an all-purpose notebook with a large screen, the Gateway P-171X is a good choice. The system sports a beautiful 17-inch high-resolution display and offers plenty of storage for your music, photos, and videos. You can get comparable performance from big-screen machines that cost less than $900, but for the student or individual looking for more style--and higher end features like a fingerprint reader, Bluetooth, and HDMI--this is a pretty good value at $1,100.
Large but Stylish
An update to Gateway's P-Series, the 14.0 x 10.0 x 1.1-inch P-171X isn't going to fit in a backpack, but at 8.6 pounds--10.4 pounds with the AC adapter--this desktop replacement is light enough to move from room to room. Gateway's P-Series offers a glossy, black laminate coating similar to that of HP's Imprint Finish. The system sports Gateway's Ridgeview dot pattern, which is durable and scratch-free but prone to smudges. We would choose the design over the P-171XL FX's glaring orange accents any day.
A full-size keyboard with a 10-key numeric keypad proved comfortable for long typing stints. The system's large touchpad was responsive and includes an integrated scroll bar for scanning long Web pages. One major gripe: The fingerprint reader is placed between the mouse buttons, and any misswipe on the touchpad caused the fingerprint software to launch. We preferred using an external mouse, which paired easily with the P-171X's integrated Bluetooth 2.0 connection.
Display and Audio Quality
The 17-inch glossy, widescreen display provides plenty of real estate and is perfect for multitasking and looking at windows side by side. A nice resolution for its $1,100 price tag, the 1440 x 900-pixel LCD offered bright colors and wide viewing angles. We saw some glare and reflections at wider angles, but watching Superbad on DVD while lying in bed wasn't a problem. Watching a high-definition clip of the Amazon rainforest was impressive: The tops of the trees were extremely detailed, and the blues had a crystal look.
Above the keyboard are brushed-metal media control buttons and a nifty touch-sensitive volume control strip that lets you swiftly raise and lower the notebook's audio with the swipe of a finger. Twin speakers, which straddle the media controls, produced loud and well-defined audio; with the volume turned up, we had no problem hearing Panic at the Disco's <i>Pretty.Odd</i> album from another room. Above the screen resides a 1.3-megapixel webcam that captured clear-looking stills, but a video call over Skype provided somewhat slow and jerky video. Its neighboring microphone provided crisp audio to our callers.
A 1.66-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 processor and 3GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB) make the P-171X a decent performer, although we were a little surprised when we compared this $1,100 system with the $799 Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7809, which offers different components (a faster CPU but less RAM and a slower hard drive) but holds its own against the P-171X. The system's MobileMark 2007 score of 119 was below the 151 average for a desktop replacement and just a hair above the L355D's score of 111. The $862 Acer Aspire 7520-5115 turned in a score of 106.
Nonetheless, we found the P-171X plenty capable for productivity chores. It handled multitasking just fine; watching a DVD while surfing on Firefox and running Skype didn't slow down the system enough to affect playback. But as with the Toshiba unit, booting up the system was sluggish at 2 minutes and 8 seconds. The 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive, combined with an eSATA port for an external drive, should be enough to hold your music and videos.
Because of its integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics, the P-171X scored a low 1,391 on 3DMark03 tests--not good enough for gaming but in line with other systems using integrated graphics. The lower-end Toshiba system managed a surprising 1,425.
What the P-171X lacks in 3D performance, it makes up for in battery life (not that you'll be moving it around much): We rarely found ourselves reaching for the power cord, since the system lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes with Wi-Fi on and 3:30 with wireless turned off. This is one area where the Gateway excels over Toshiba's L355D-S7809, which managed only 2 hours of battery life.
The P-171X's 802.11a/b/g connection was slightly below our averages, zipping data along at 14.5 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point and 11.6 Mbps at 50 feet. Web pages loaded quickly, and streaming episodes of Arrested Development via Windows Media Player's TV service played without any pauses in audio or video.
Software and Support
The P-171X comes preinstalled with some useful programs, including Spare Backup Software, Google Desktop, a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007, and Norton Internet Security. We weren't bothered much by the AOL and Napster promotions. Gateway covers the system with a one-year limited warranty and 24/7, toll-free tech support.
Gateway P-171X Verdict
For $1,100, the Gateway P-171X is an affordable and stylish desktop replacement. You get a large and crisp display, plenty of storage space, and bells and whistles you just won't find for under a grand. It's not exactly blazing, but if you just need a notebook for home and light media use, the Gateway P-171X is definitely worth a look.
|CPU||1.66-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450|
|Operating System||MS Windows Vista Home Premium|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||250GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW DL|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Intel GMA 950|
|Ports (excluding USB)||eSATA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Card Slots||5-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||One-year parts and labor/24/7 toll-free phone|
|Size||14.0 x 10.0 x 1.1 inches|