Pros: Packed with features for the price; Runs most games beautifully; Large, comfortable keyboard
Cons: Couldn't handle Crysis on highest settings; Not yet available with Blu-ray; Color scheme isn't for everyone
Verdict: Gateway's first gaming rig delivers good performance and a unique design. Not to mention HD-DVD.
Design of the P-171XL FX Edition
It's immediately obvious that this laptop was designed with fraggers in mind. The P-171XL has a glossy black shell with Halloweenesque orange, silver, and carbon-fiber-colored accents. Inside, above its 17-inch matte widescreen, are a webcam, microphone, and small blue LED light that glows when the webcam is on. Even at just 1.3 megapixels, the camera produced a crisp picture that reproduced colors quite well and wasn't too dark or too light.
Gateway packs the P-171XL with a full-size, copper-bordered keyboard and number pad. We appreciated the large touchpad and included fingerprint reader. Five multimedia buttons, including DVD, Windows Media Center, and music quick-launch buttons, sit just above the keyboard. Each is flush with the surface and glows orange, making for a clean-looking package. A touch-button volume control was handy for tweaking the volume on the fly.
Complementing the P-171XL's 1920 x 1200-pixel display is an HD-DVD/DVD-Multi drive. We watched an HD DVD using CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra and noticed that dark scenes, such as a night shot of a speedboat chase in Miami Vice, had a noticeable amount of noise. Well-lit scenes were crisp and beautiful, however. And now that HD DVD is defunct, Gateway is working on integrating Blu-ray into future iterations.
We were also disappointed with the screen's viewing angles; anyone sitting too off-center is going to see a large drop in color quality and picture visibility. The display is also susceptible to glare, so you'll want to keep the lights low during movies.
Gaming Performance of the P-171XL FX Edition
This notebook's 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 processor is among the fastest in Intel's lineup. Gateway also included the Nvidia GeForce Go 8800M GTS, which fired out 156 frames per second on F.E.A.R. in autodetect mode, after we updated the drivers online. The more expensive Dell XPS M1730 ($3,800), which features the same processor, was able to knock out a comparable 152 frames per second, owing to its two GeForce Go 8700M GT cards in SLI mode.
Good Overall Performance
The P-171XL's CPU, 3GB of RAM, and 400GB 7,200-rpm hard drive helped it yield a solid 26,308 on our 3DMark03 benchmark tests, which was on a par with the Dell XPS M1730's score of 26,983. On 3DMark06, the P-171XL held up just as well against the M1730, where it scored an average of 8,032--just below the Dell's 8,064 score but still trailing the Alienware Area-51 m9750's 8,706 score. The P-171XL's PCMark Vantage score of 4,045 smoked the Vigor Artorius Pro gaming rig that we reviewed recently, which managed just 2,401 but is about $600 cheaper.
We had no complaints with the P-171XL's above-average Wi-Fi performance of 19.6 Mbps at a distance of 15 feet, and 15.9 Mbps at 50 feet. Battery life with Wi-Fi off clocked in at 2 hours and 37 minutes--not horrible for a gaming machine but still nearly an hour below average for desktop replacements.
Gateway P-171XL FX Edition Verdict
|CPU||2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900|
|Operating System||MS Windows Vista Home Premium|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||400GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||7,200rpm|
|Optical Drive||DVD+R DL|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS/|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Firewire|
|Ports (excluding USB)||eSATA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Modem|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Card Slots||5-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1-year parts and labor/24/7 toll-free phone|
|Size||15.8 x 11.8 x 1.7 inches|