Gateway T-6815 Review

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$899

Pros: Sleek design with in-mold pattern; Multimedia controls; Excellent Wi-Fi performance; Decent speakers

Cons: Short endurance with standard battery; Discrete graphics not available; Limited tech-support hours for retail version

Verdict: Gateway delivers multimedia amenities and a fresh new design with this affordable mainstream machine.

This system doesn't look like a Gateway. Sporting a futuristic-chic redesign, the 5.6-pound T-6815 is a sexy machine that provides the HP Pavilion dv2000 series with some serious competition. Blessed with a snappy Intel Next Generation Centrino Duo processor, stellar wireless performance, and smooth multimedia controls, this $899 notebook is a compelling choice for those who want to have fun on the go--as long as you can live with a few tradeoffs.
Gateway is redefining itself with this new product line, and the design of the T-6815 features a beautiful glossy black color scheme and--a first for Gateway--an in-mold design (view photo gallery). Similar to HP's Imprint Finish, the subtle Ridgeview dot pattern on this machine can't be rubbed out or scratched away. While this new look is certainly welcome, the T-6815 is a bigtime fingerprint and smudge magnet, so keep a cloth handy.
The 14.1-inch widescreen display provides decent resolution for the price (1280 x 800 pixels), and it offered bright colors and wide viewing angles when watching DVDs. However, like most glossy displays, it has a habit of kicking glare and reflections back at you. Movies looked good but a tad dark. Above the LCD resides a 1.3-megapixel webcam that recorded decent-looking stills and somewhat jerky video.
At only 5.6 pounds and 13 x 9.7 x 1.3 inches, the T6815 is light and compact enough to tote around town but big enough to offer a good-sized keyboard. The keys flexed somewhat under rigorous typing, but they get the job done. A brushed-metal strip above the layout contains buttons that launch Windows Media Center and Music Library, as well as control CDs and DVDs. We're fans of the volume strip that lets you swiftly raise or lower the notebook's sound by swiping a finger, as well as the onscreen meter that displays your volume level.
The twin speakers sounded surprisingly good for the price; they're loud, and although they don't offer the strongest low-end sounds, you'll be able to enjoy your tunes and movies out loud in a small room. A 5-in-1 memory card reader and an ExpressCard/54 slot are on the left. Owners of some digital camcorders may lament the lack of a FireWire port, but the lack of an S-Video port is far from being a dealbreaker. A Kensington lock slot is on the back for securing the notebook.
Although our retail model was configured with an 8X DVD+/-R optical drive, users looking for a high-end multimedia machine can opt for the T-140X (stating at $999), which is the same notebook as the T-6815 but sold directly through Gateway. It comes standard with Bluetooth 2.0 and an HDMI port, which is the perfect complement for the optional Blu-ray or HD-DVD drives (coming later this year at an undisclosed price). You can also add a fingerprint reader for $29.
At the heart of this machine is a 1.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB), allowing the T-6815 to notch a PCMark05 score of 3,426. That's average for a mainstream notebook and well above the 2,719 score turned in by the $799 Gateway NX570X, which features an older 1.6-GHz dual-core processor with a more dated chipset. Even more impressive was the T-6815's 802.11a/b/g connection, which zipped data along at 17.9 Mbps when placed 15 feet from our access point and 17 Mbps at 50 feet--numbers we would expect from an 802.11n Wi-Fi connection.
The integrated Intel GMA 965 X3100 graphics cranked out a 3DMark03 score of 1,512, which is above average for this class of system and good enough for light gaming and a smooth, hiccup-free Aero experience in Windows Vista Home Premium, even when loading multiple applications at once.
We wish the standard battery offered more juice. The T-6815's six-cell battery lasted just 1 hour and 56 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which is about 25 minutes less than average for a thin-and-light machine. Running basic business applications should net you approximately three hours of runtime. We recommend purchasing a nine-cell battery ($TBD).
Bundled with the system is a software package that includes a 90-day trial of McAfee Intenet Security Suite, Microsoft Works 8.5, and the BigFix utility suite for system troubleshooting and recovery. Unfortunately, if you need to get on the horn with a live person, Gateway offers tech support only from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central Time. The company will offer 24/7 support with the configure-to-order model sold directly by Gateway online, which will be available later this summer.
The Gateway T-6815 strikes the right balance of killer craftsmanship, performance, and price. We wish there were a discrete graphics option out of the gate--and that tech-support hours didn't depend on where the system is purchased--but overall this is a bold and satisfying effort.
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Operating System MS Windows Vista Home Premium
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 160GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Display Size 14.1
Native Resolution 1280x800
Optical Drive DVDR
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 965 X3100
Video Memory 384MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
USB Ports 3
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 5-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year parts and labor/ 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Central Time
Size 13 x 9.7 x 1.3 inches
Weight 5.6 pounds
Company Website www.gateway.com