by Jerry Jackson
The Gateway M-series notebooks provide multimedia performance in a sleek, stylish design. Packing Intel Core 2 Duo processors, plenty of RAM and large-capacity hard drives these budget notebooks are certainly attractive to many consumers looking for a portable multimedia center for bringing movies, music and digital photos on the go. But do the latest notebooks from Gateway offer more than good looks? Let’s take a closer look.
Our Gateway M-6816 ($949.99) review unit features the following specifications:
- Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
- Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5250 (1.5GHz)
- 15.4" Ultrabright WXGA TFT LCD
- 2GB DDR2 system RAM
- 160GB PATA HDD (5400rpm)
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (up to 384MB shared)
- DVD+-RW SuperMulti dual layer drive
- 10/100 Ethernet
- Wireless LAN: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g
- 1.3 megapixel webcam
- 5-in-1 memory card reader
- ExpressCard 54 slot
- 6-cell Li-Ion battery (2400mAh)
- Dimensions: 1.1 – 1.5" (H) x 14.00" (W) x 10.00" (D)
- Weight: 6.29 lbs
- Warranty: One Year Parts and Labor Limited Warranty
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Build and Design
The M-6816 features a striking all-new design with a "graphic-inlay premium finish," that looks quite similar to the Imprint Finish on the latest generation of HP notebooks. That said, Gateway’s choice of dark spots which gradually fade away is much more subtle than anything we’ve seen in HP’s Imprint Finish. The M-6816 appears durable, with an eye-catching design thanks in no small part to the thick plastics and metal accents. Integrated above the notebook’s keyboard is a brushed-metal multimedia control panel, featuring smooth-cut keys in a "tooth" pattern and a touch-sensitive volume adjustment.
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The lid hinge feels surprisingly solid for a consumer notebook in this price range and the rounded edges of the notebook make for a much cleaner and thinner overall appearance. To be perfectly honest, the only potentially negative issue about the build and design is the choice of glossy plastics/coatings on the screen lid and palm rests. The glossy plastic is a magnet for fingerprints (as you can see in our photos).
Although the 1280×800 resolution display on the M-6816 is far from high definition, the screen provides rich colors, superb clarity and good brightness. There were absolutely no problems with the screen on our review unit: the refresh rate seems excellent when videos or games with fast motion are displayed and there are no stuck pixels. As is common with glossy screens, colors and contrast are quite good and both images and video "pop" off the screen. Brightness is good but not quite as impressive as some of the screens we’ve seen in the last year. For example, at maximum brightness there is enough light coming from the screen to make for an enjoyable viewing experience … but not enough light to cause eye strain.
Horizontal viewing angles are average and the backlight brightness remains even across the screen while viewing at extreme horizontal angles. There is some minor color inversion when you view the screen from sharp vertical angles (such as standing above the notebook or looking up at the screen from the floor. Of course, as with any glossy screen reflection from room lights can become a problem … depending on the room and the lights.
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The integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam on the M-6816 is a nice feature with mixed performance. The pre-installed Gateway Web Camera software makes it quick and easy to capture still images or live video using the built-in webcam. The video frame rate was good enough to capture smooth motion but colors came out a bit green under our florescent office lighting. Overall, the webcam is perfectly capable for online video chat or business video conference calls.
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One negative web camera-related issue that kept "popping up" during review was the "pop up" Gateway Web Camera control interface. While it was nice to have quick access to the web camera controls, every time the mouse pointer came close to the left side of the screen the annoying pop up control panel would appear … making it difficult to select items on the Windows desktop.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Other Input Buttons
The keyboard on the M-6816 was a welcome improvement over most keyboards we see on consumer notebooks. The keys have a good texture with excellent cushion and travel. The keys aren’t as silent in operation as those found on more expensive business class notebooks, but there was minimal "clack" while typing. Gateway also includes dedicated page up, page down, home, and end keys. Of special note is the fact that the keyboard has almost no flex across the board. Even with significant pressure applied, the keyboard on the M-6816 remained quite firm.
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The touchpad was responsive with a nice texture and felt durable. The scroll section of the touchpad is clearly marked and immediately responsive for page scrolling. The touchpad buttons have deep, cushioned feedback and responded well to normal pressure. That said, the touchpad buttons did make loud "clicks" when pressed … which may prove annoying to some users (or office coworkers).
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As mentioned previously, the media buttons on the M-6816 are integrated above the notebook’s keyboard in a brushed-metal multimedia control panel. The media buttons are actually located under the smooth-cut "tooth" pattern in the metal and respond instantly to light pressure. These buttons allow you to instantly start Windows Media Player, watch a DVD, listen to a CD or music file, or control iTunes with ease. A touch-sensitive volume adjustment is located to the right of the media buttons and lights up with blue LED back lighting when pressed.
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Performance and Benchmarks
Gateway chose to offer the M-series in a range of configurations based around the Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 (1.5GHz) processor. While the T5250 with its 2MB of L2 cache and 667MHz frontside bus provides excellent performance for an entry-level consumer notebook, it would have been nice to have faster (Core 2 Duo "Santa Rosa") processors with twice the cache and 800MHz frontside bus as an option for people who need faster multimedia encoding or image editing.
The Intel X3100 integrated graphics with up to 384MB of dynamically allocated shared memory provides enough video horsepower for an average consumer machine. The primary benefit of integrated graphics is extended battery life and reduced heat. However, many 15.4" notebooks in the same price range are offering entry-level dedicated graphics cards. For example, a similarly configured HP dv6500t is available for $918.99 with nVidia GeForce 8400M GS graphics … which provides at least twice the video/graphics performance compared to the Intel X3100 chipset.
In any case, the M-6816 is an everyday consumer notebook and not a "gaming machine" so the lack of dedicated graphics isn’t a deal killer. In fact, the reduced weight and heat as well as increased battery life should be considered as reasons for wanting integrated graphics.
One odd specification related to performance is Gateway’s use of older PATA hard drives in the M-series notebooks. Although these older drives don’t severely limit everyday performance in any way, it’s odd that Gateway chose PATA drives over the SATA type hard drives seen in most current notebooks. In any case, the hard drive did not cause any issues with our synthetic benchmark tests, as seen below.
Super Pi comparison results:
|Gateway M-6816 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250)||1m 24s|
|LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||1m 00s|
|HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 58s|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500)||0m 54s|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 59s|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 58s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||1m 01s|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 59s|
|HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100)||1m 09s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||0m 59s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)||1m 03s|
|Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)||1m 24s|
|Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 34s|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52)||2m 05s|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)||0m 59s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
PCMark05 comparison results:
|Gateway M-6816 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||3,480 PCMarks|
|LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB)||4,702 PCMarks|
|HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||4,522 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,925 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,377 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,987 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
3DMark05 comparison results:
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|Gateway M-6816 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||784 3DMarks|
|LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB)||4,752 3DMarks|
|HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||2,157 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||2,840 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||910 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||3,116 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100)||916 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||871 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3D Marks|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||1,791 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,092 3D Marks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
3DMark06 comparison results:
|Gateway M-6816 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||529 3DMarks|
|LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB)||2,776 3DMarks|
|HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,055 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,329 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||532 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,408 3DMarks|
|Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU)||1,069 3DMarks|
|Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||2,344 3DMarks|
|Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB||2,183 3DMarks|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)||1,831 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
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Input and Output Ports
Overall, Gateway includes the standard fanfare of ports on the M-6816. If anything can be considered lacking in this section it is the limited number of USB ports. Most notebooks in the 15.4" notebook class provide four or more USB ports for connecting accessories and external drives. Gateway only provides three USB ports. The rest of the port selection includes:
Front view: Microphone in and headphone out jacks. (view large image)
Right side view: Optical drive and a single USB port. (view large image)
Left side view: Ethernet, two USB ports, heat exhaust, 5-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard 54 slot and wireless on/off switch. (view large image)
Rear view: Modem jack, Kensington lock slot, VGA out, and DC power jack. (view large image)
The built-in speakers on the M-6816 are average for a consumer 15.4" notebook, and by that I mean to say the speakers are not particularly impressive. Both of the small speakers located above the keyboard produce a "tin can" sound quality with plenty of highs, some reasonable mid range and absolutely no bass. On the bright side, the speakers are located in a good position to direct sound up and toward the user. The sound quality is perfectly fine for Windows alert sounds and website music. Unfortunately, anyone listening to music files or viewing movies on this notebook will want to use headphones or external speakers for superior sound quality.
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On that note it’s worthwhile to mention that the audio out port on the M-6816 is located on the front directly below the touchpad buttons. This is a great location for a headphone connection but is less than ideal for using external speakers. The audio output was clean (there was no static or cracking in the sound coming from the headphone jack).
Heat and Noise
The M-6816 does an excellent job of controlling both internal heat and noise. The cooling fan was rarely louder than a whisper even on the high setting. The massive copper heatsink visible through the air vent on the left side of the notebook likely contributes to the M-6816’s ability to keep temperatures under control. CPU temperatures peaked at no more than 52 degrees Celsius during benchmarks and hard drive temperatures averaged less than 40 degrees Celsius. The palm rests never became too hot during our tests and the left palm rest spiked at no more than 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottom of the notebook remained reasonably cool … never exceeding the upper 90s. The hottest temperature reading we took during our review was the fan exhaust temperature during benchmarking, which reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit in our office (77 degrees room temperature). Bottom line, the M-6816 stays cool.
The top view with Fahrenheit temperature readings. (view large image)
The bottom view with Fahrenheit temperature readings. (view large image)
Battery life on the M-6816 with the standard 6-cell battery was only average. With the screen brightness set to full, wireless on, and Vista power settings set to "Balanced," the Gateway powered down in just more than two and a half hours (2 hours and 18 minutes). With power management set to "Power Saver" and screen at half brightness the battery lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes while browsing the web. We hoped the M-6816 would do better in terms of battery life thanks to the integrated graphics, but this wasn’t the case.
The Gateway M-6816 is a solid consumer notebook with plenty of power for everyday use. The quality 15.4" glossy display, durable build, sizable hard drive, and reasonably cool temperatures help make the M-6816 a real value. The Core 2 Duo processor and solid 2GB of RAM mean this Gateway has enough performance to keep the average user quite happy … as long as you don’t care about playing the latest video games.
Bottom line, the Gateway M-6816 is an excellent value in the 15.4" consumer notebook class. That said, for a little bit more money you can find similar notebooks with dedicated graphics cards for reasonable gaming performance.
- Good performance for everyday use
- Nice screen
- Solid, stylish construction
- Minimal heat and noise
- Glossy plastics around screen and on palm rests are prone to fingerprints
- Only three USB ports … unacceptable on a 15.4" notebook
- Annoying pop-up web camera control panel