These days the market is loaded with low-cost 10-inch netbooks with Intel Atom N450 CPUs that offer long battery life at well under $400. The $349 Gateway LT2118U brings no unique or best-in-class features to this game, but it does provide a solid choice for those seeking 9-plus hours of battery life in a functional, yet stylish chassis. We wish the speakers delivered better sound, but overall this mini laptop is a good value.
While not quite as snazzy as the more expensive Toshiba mini NB305 or as sleek as the MSI Wind U160, the Gateway LT2118U includes some nice touches. Its bright red lid has a small metal stripe with the Gateway logo emblazoned on it. The combination of this silver accent on a bright background reminded us of classic cigarette package art from the '40s or '50s. The interior of the notebook also has a brushed metal accent on the edge of the deck, and a unique power button that has a blue light and sits right next to the left hinge. An orange Wi-Fi status light sits next to the right hinge.
One area where Gateway seems to have made a poor choice is the oddly shaped A/C adapter. Rather than having a power box with a long, thin cord and standard plug like most notebooks, the LT2118U's A/C adapter is a giant wall wart with a rotating and removable plug . The thicker profile means you may have difficulty plugging into tight spaces on power strips.
At 10.2 x 7.3 x 1 inches and 2.6 pounds, the LT2118U is a bit lighter and thinner than the ASUS Eee PC 1001P (10.3 x 7 x 1.4 inches, 2.8 pounds) and Toshiba mini NB305 (10.5 x 7.6 x 1.2 inches, 2.8 pounds). The MSI Wind U160 (10.2 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches, 2.6 pounds) is slightly thinner.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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Click to enlargeThe LT2118U features the same Fine Tip island keyboard we've seen on all recent Gateway and Acer notebooks. Though the keys offered good tactile feedback, our hands felt a little cramped and we managed only 69 words per minute on the ten thumbs typing test, well below our typical score of 80 wpm.
The 3 x 1.5-inch touchpad sits flush with the deck and is covered in decorative white dots that have no texture. Navigating around the desktop was easy, and multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom worked well. Unfortunately, the single mouse button (we prefer dual buttons) was a bit stiff.
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When performing simple tasks like surfing the web, the LT2118U stayed relatively cool, but it warmed up when we subjected it to our heat test--streaming web video at full screen for 15 minutes. Under those circumstances, the keyboard measured 94 degrees Fahrenheit, the touchpad reached 96 degrees, and the bottom hit 99 degrees. We consider temperatures above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable. By contrast, the MSI Wind U160 returned temperatures of 89, 86, and 88 degrees, respectively.
Ports and Webcam
The LT2118U has the standard array of ports we've come to expect from a budget netbook. On the right side are audio in/out jacks, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, a USB port, a Kensington lock slot, and Ethernet. On the left side are a VGA-out and two more USB ports (for a total of three).
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The webcam produced bright but noisy images in well-lit areas of our office. When talking on Skype, our call partner noticed a significant amount of noise, but the video stream was smooth.
Display and Audio
The LT2118U's 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600 screen offered sharp images and bright colors. However, its glossy surface showed plenty of reflections when viewed from a 45-degree angle to the left or right. Downloaded 720p videos from Microsoft's HD Showcase played without a hiccup, but we tried to view a 720p version of the Iron Man 2 trailer on YouTube, playback was as slow as a slideshow. A standard definition version of the trailer played smoothly but suffered from noise and blockiness.
Even for a netbook, the speakers on the LT2118U are lackluster. We streamed a number of songs from Napster.com, including "Rasputin" by Boney M., "Foxy Brown Theme" by Willie Hutch, and "Street Life" by the Crusaders. At medium volume, low pitches (like a baritone singer's voice) sounded decent, but high tones (like a soprano's voice) blended into one another. At max volume, these higher-end tones became very distorted; we've heard better quality from a clock radio.
With its 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 5,400-rpm hard drive, the Gateway LT2118U offered performance typical of a netbook with these standard components. In short, it's good enough for web browsing and editing documents and photos, but not strong enough to play demanding games, edit video, or watch high-def content. On PCMark05, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the LT2118U scored 1,310, which is below the category average of 1,439 but in the same ballpark as such competitors as the Acer Aspire One 532h (1,332) and the ASUS Eee PC 1001P (1,384).
The 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Starter Edition in 57 seconds, which is a little bit faster than the category average of 61 seconds. It took the drive 3 minutes and 53 seconds to complete the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy 4.97GB of files from one folder to another. That's a rate of 21.8 MBps--moderately faster than the category average of 19.9 MBps, and much faster than the Eee PC 1001P's 17.5 MBps. Still, the 24.8-MBps speeds offered by the MSI Wind U160 lead the pack.
It took the LT2118u 6 minutes and 33 seconds to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI with Oxelon Media Converter. That's 17 seconds slower than the category average of 6 minutes and 16 seconds, and over 40 seconds behind the MSI Wind U160 (5:52) and the Acer Aspire One 532h (5:50). The Toshiba mini NB305 (6:03) and Eee PC 1001P (6:02) also did better.
The integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics chip, also standard on netbooks of this type, produced typical but unimpressive results. It was not fast enough to even test games like World of Warcraft and, as noted above, it was slow when streaming HD content. The system was capable of navigating the globe in Google Earth, though images took a while to render as we zoomed in on our block.
In 3DMark06, which measures overall graphics prowess, the LT2118U scored 156, which is just a bit below the category average of 215, but on a par with competitors like the Eee PC 1001P (155), mini NB305 (159), and Wind U160 (163).
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The LT2118U's six-cell battery allowed this netbook to last a whopping 9 hours and 6 minutes on our the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That's more than 3 hours longer than the six-cell netbook category average of 5 hours and 53 minutes, but it's only 20 to 30 minutes longer than competitors like the mini NB305 (8:37), Eee PC 1001P (8:40), Aspire One 532h (8:36), and Wind U160 (8:37).
The 802.11b/g/n Atheros wireless card card managed strong transfer rates of 43.4 and 21.5 Mbps from 15 and 50 feet, respectively. That's far better than the 34.5 and 10.8 Mbps turned in by the MSI Wind U160.
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It took 2 hours and 59 minutes to charge the battery to 80 percent of capacity and a full 4 hours and 36 minutes to reach 100 percent charge. These times were far slower than the category averages of 2:19 and 3:19, respectively, and painfully slow in comparison to the 1:18/2:15 turned in by the ASUS Eee PC 1001P. However, the MSI Wind U160 (3:13/4:32) was even slower. Still, while charging the LT2118U used an average of 21.8 watts; that gives the system a LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 11, which is impressive when compared to the category average of 16.4 (lower is better).
Software and Warranty
The LT2118U comes with Microsoft Works, along with trial versions of Microsoft Office 2007 and Norton Internet Security 2009. Gateway also includes recovery management software for restoring to factory settings and webcam software that lets you take pictures and record video with the webcam.
The LT2118U comes with a one-year warranty that covers parts and labor, along with 24/7 tech support. See how Gateway fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown.
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The Gateway LT2118U has quite a few things going for it: long battery life, good looks, and a great price. However, weak speakers and a subpar webcam hold this netbook back from being an Editors' Choice pick. If you're shopping by price, the LT2118U is a strong option, but the truly cost-conscious should also consider the $299 ASUS Eee PC 1001P, which has a smaller hard drive and less endurance, but performs just as well. If you're willing to spend a little more, you might prefer the better looks, cooler temperatures, and more responsive keyboard offered by the Toshiba mini NB305.