At first glance, the Gateway P-6831FX looks almost exactly like the P-171XL FX Edition. But at half the price, it's a solid option for gamers on a tighter budget, without sacrificing the graphics power needed to play some of today's latest games. Multimedia fans, too, will be pleased with this notebook's overall performance, large and crisp display for movie watching, and plethora of ports.
Both the P-6831FX and the P-171XL were designed with fraggers in mind (although the P-6831FX is for students who buy their own, whereas the P-171XL is for those shopping with Mom and Dad's money). Its glossy black shell is accented with Halloweenesque orange, silver, and carbon fiber. Inside, above the 17-inch matte widescreen is a webcam, microphone, and a small blue LED light that glows when the webcam is on. Even at 1.3 megapixels, the camera produced a crisp picture with accurate colors.
This rig offers a full-size, copper-bordered keyboard and number pad below five flush, orange-lit multimedia buttons. We also appreciated the large touchpad, and the touch-button volume control was handy for tweaking the volume on the fly. The keyboard was comfortable during our Call of Duty 4 sessions; it's soft, yet the keys have a nice snap.
Three USB ports are on board, but we prefer four or more. We can't complain too much, though, because aside from standard ports, the P-6831FX also has HDMI and eSATA ports for hooking your laptop up to an HDTV and eSATA external hard drive, respectively.
Is the Display Good Enough?
The original glossy 1920 x 1200-pixel screen on the P-171XL has been downgraded to a 1440 x 900 matte screen on the P-6831FX, which is a bit disappointing but helps keep the price down. The DVD+/-RW dual-layer drive is technically a downgrade from the HD DVD packed in the P-171XL, but since the format is dead, there's no real loss. We watched a DVD of Beowulf, and the picture quality was crisp and full of color. Viewing angles aren't great; you'll need to sit in front of the screen to get a good view.
Good Gaming Performance
The P-6831FX features a relatively slow 1.67-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 processor, but it compensates with 3GB of RAM and a very capable graphics card in the Nvidia 8800M GTS, complete with 512MB of video memory. During our gaming tests this value-priced rig performed just as well as gaming notebooks that cost hundreds more.
OnF.E.A.R. set to maximum resolution, we saw 86 frames per second, as opposed to 156 fps on the P-171XL, which says that the Nvidia 8800M GTS is still powerful enough to pump the game's graphics without relying on the processor. During our Autodetect benchmarking session of F.E.A.R., we saw an average of 107 frames per second--not bad at all, considering the components and price. OnCall of Duty 4, we averaged a respectable 29 frames per second.
On 3DMark03 the P-6831FX notched 23,489, about 2,800 lower than the P-171XL, but still more than twice the average for a desktop replacement and strong for a gaming rig. On 3DMark06, the P-6831FX scored 7,601 points, just 431 points less than its more expensive brother.
So-So Productivity Performance
On PCMark Vantage the P-6831FX scored 2,640, which is below the category average of 2,811. This might be why the system took 1 minute and 43 seconds to boot up, which is on the slow side, even for a Vista machine. Once Windows started, however, we had no problems multitasking. We surfed the Web, logged on to AIM, and watched Miami Vice on DVD without experiencing any hold-ups.
Battery Life and Wireless
Battery life was decent at 3 hours and 5 minutes with Wi-Fi off--right on target for a desktop replacement and about 30 minutes longer than the P-171XL, and generally very good for a gaming rig. For everyday multitasking the computer fared quite well. The P-6831FX performed decently on our wireless tests, where it had a throughput of 17.1 Mbps at 15 feet and 16.5 Mbps at 50 feet.
It's hard not to be impressed by the gaming capabilities of the Gateway P-6831FX, and its large screen size and HDMI port make it a good choice for multimedia fans too. It held up remarkably well on our gaming tests, even against its more expensive sibling. For gamers on a budget, you won't find a better performing rig for the money.
*Note: Parts of this review were taken from our original Gateway P-171XL FX Edition review.