by Don Pellegrino
Gateway has released the M-6824 notebook which, according to the official marketing material, is targeted as an entertainment notebook. The standout features are the ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics card with dedicated memory and the 3GB of base memory. Gateway hit a sweet spot in the market by providing the best priced machine with a dedicated memory graphics card and 3GB of memory that I could find. The M-6924 is a retail notebook so the specifications should be consistent across the individual machines.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T5250 @ 1.50GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 667MHz FSB
Display: 15.4” widescreen Ultrabright (glossy) WXGA TFT (1280×800)
Memory: 3GB DDR2 667MHz (upgradable to 4GB)
Video: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 XT Dedicated Graphics with up to 892MB Hypermemory (128MB GDDR3 dedicated)
Hard Drive: 250GB 5400RPM SATA
Optical Drive: 8x Multi-Formal Dual Layer DVD+/-RW with DVD-RAM and Labelflash.
Battery: 6-Cell 2600 mAh lithium-ion battery
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Reasons for Buying
Software and hardware requirements have surpased my old machines. So I entered the market with the goal of spending as little money as possible without locking myself out of the hardware requirements of graphic-intense programs. It seems the two criteria that make or break the specifications are base memory and dedicated graphics memory. A quick look at the Apple MacBooks tells the story. Apple will sell me a 13” White MacBook with 1GB base memory and shared memory Intel graphics for $1,099.00. The jump from the MacBook to the MacBook Pro is marked by 2GB base memory and an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 128MB dedicated graphics memory for $1,999.00. The M-6824 has 3GB base memory and an ATI chip with 128MB dedicated graphics memory while costing less than the cheapest MacBook. As a shopping strategy I worked backwards by following the links on NVIDIA’s site for vendors that include NVIDIA chipsets on notebook equipment. As a rule of thumb anything with dedicated graphics memory cost at least $1,500.00 and most of those only had a 2GB base. The M-6824 really stood out from the rest in terms of cost versus performance when looking through the lens of graphics capability.
Where and How Purchased
I made my purchase at the local Office Depot on November 10, 2007. It was on the shelf for $1,049.99, matching the MSRP from Gateway. Office Depot had a $150.00 mail-in rebate promotion going that week so I was able to get a bottom line price of $899.99. Incidentally Office Depot tossed in rebates and discounts on printers and bags with the purchase so I took advantage of a few of those. If you are affiliated with an organization that has contracts with Office Depot you might find you can get 5% or so off through a discount program.
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Build & Design
The machine has garnered a number of compliments for its aesthetics. The sleek black finish has a light black/gray dot embedded pattern that makes it look like a techie piece of technology without being garish. It is a basic plastic case with a smooth plastic veneer that holds fingerprints a bit too well. Even though it is impossible to keep it free of prints it maintains a reflective shine that keeps it looking clean. When I give the back of the lid a press no distortion appears on the LCD, indicating solid protection. The lid is held in place by tension. The lack of a button or clip to depress to open the lid was a bit jarring at first but now it seems right. As I have only had it for a month it I can’t make any predictions on how well the tension system will hold up but it seems to have a tight fit. The keyboard has a metal frame that is flush with the base. A solid piece there might have been a bit better as I fear the metal may have opportunities to bend out or develop discontinuities over time but again no complaints so far. In short the build is simple, solid, sleek and tight.
Weight may be an issue for some users depending on their usage scenarios. When I heft the 6.4 lbs (not including the power supply and cord) I know it is there. This is not an ultra-light notebook. The differentiators I mentioned before come into play here as well. It seems the category of machines that include dedicated memory graphics tend to be on the hotter and heavier side. You may be able to find some around 5.x lbs but a 5 -7 lbs range seems typical, placing the M-6824 in the middle of the road. The solidness of the frame helps reassure me that I am at least getting something for my weight.
A closer look at the included power supply and cord. (view large image)
Gateway’s UltraBright is an anti-reflective LCD screen technology. More on it can be found on ScreenTek’s site. The 1280×800 widescreen display is very bright, crisp and even. I have found the widescreen form factor handy when working with dialog heavy IDEs such as NetBeans. The extra space on the left and right is a good fit for annotating my source code view without crowding it out.
The speakers are quite functional. I have watched a few episodes of Prison Break on it streamed from Fox.com and I found the volume strong enough to place the notebook a good distance away without having to strain myself to hear whispered dialog.
Processor and Performance
Microsoft Windows Vista runs smoothly with the Aero interface enabled. NetBeans loads relatively quickly and the smart code-completion is instantaneous. The Intel Core 2 Duo technology is a great help when I have written myself into an endless loop, as the machine remains responsive despite my errant experiments. Second Life runs smoothly in a maximized window maintaining 30 – 40 FPS. I am also pleased with the responsiveness of Microsoft Office 2007. Vista’s “System Restore – System Protection” feature was bothersome and it was enabled by default. I felt that it was running my drive at an unacceptable level so I disabled it. Once System Protection was disabled the machine became very predictable and responsive overall.
Windows Experience Index
|Primary Hard Disk||5.2|
Super Pi comparison results:
|Gateway M-6824 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250)||1m 31s|
|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|
The results list the graphics card as “Generic VGA” although the graphics driver is reported as “ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 XT.” I get the impression that the DirectX layer is not handled properly by 3DMark06 in terms of either DirectX 10 or Vista. Therefore these results may not be representative.
Main Test Results
3DMark Score: 1861 3DMarks
SM 2.0 Score: 624 Marks
SM 3.0 Score: 764 Marks
CPU Score: 1262 Marks
Detailed Test Results
Graphics Test 1 – Return to Proxycon: 4.77 FPS
Graphics Test 2 – Firefly Forest: 5.636 FPS
CPU Test 1 – Red Valley: 0.399 FPS
CPU Test 2 – Red Valley: 0.639 FPS
HDR Test 1 – Canyon Flight (SM 3.0): 6.549 FPS
HDR Test 2 – Deep Freeze (SM 3.0): 8.729 FPS
Everest Home Edition Version 2.20.405
Memory Read Benchmark: 4355 MB/s
Memory Write Benchmark: 1700 MB/s
Memory Latency Benchmark: 99.5 ns
Heat and Noise
The heat is not noticeable unless I am right up against the fan and it is able to run very quietly. If there was not a pretty blue light to indicate hard drive access I would never know there were moving parts. While the ergonomics people recommend against placing laptops on laps, I have done so comfortably with the M-6824. Evan after a few hours the base and palm rests are still cool. The key seems to be keeping the fan exhaust unobstructed. This is located on the left of the base and angled down. The air that is forced out is lukewarm but not problematic. Noise is undetectable as it is always less than ambient. As I sit in conference rooms and lecture halls the sounds of the building’s forced air systems is the dominant noise. This is a nice feature when using the notebook for taking notes as it won’t interrupt the speaker with a spin-up of the fan or hard drive.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Thanks to the firm build the keyboard is solid. The keys are responsive and there is no detectable flex when keyboarding. Gateway did not include an equivalent of IBM’s TrackPoint “pointing stick” input so users are left with just the touchpad. It is of the two-button variety so scrolling is supported virtually rather than directly. Virtual scrolling is done by using a specific area of the touchpad to scroll by gesture. It seems like a neat idea but I have not gotten the hang of it yet myself. The touchpad is responsive and works well.
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Input and Output Ports
The M-6824 comes with an incredible selection of I/O and it stows them away gracefully along the sides of the base. The positioning of the webcam at the top of the lid and the built-in microphone make for a comfortable video enabled Skype experience.
Digital Media Reader: 5-in-1 Memory Card Reader
Modem: 56k ITU v.92 with fax via RJ-11 port.
Ethernet: 10/100 Mbps via RJ-45 port.
802.11a/b/g. No IR or Bluetooth.
3 USB 2.0 ports.
1 Headphone / SPDIF audio-out port.
1 HDMI V1.2 connector.
1 VGA port.
1.3 megapixel webcam.
Right side view. (view large image)
Left side view. (view large image)
Front view. (view large image)
Rear view. (view large image)
One 6-Cell 2600 mAh lithium-ion battery is included. It seems to support approximately 2.25 hours of continuous light use on the balanced power plan with wireless enabled. If the machine is allowed to take a few naps it can last through a three hour meeting while still being there for note taking or reference material periodically.
Operating System and Software
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium is included and the machine runs it smoothly. I am split on how I would rank the rest of the Gateway inclusions. On a good note the 250GB hard drive is large enough for me to accept the 10.4GB dedicated to a recovery partition. The documentation is included on the hard drive as two well-written PDF files and it advertises that the BIOS can be used with the recovery partition to restore the system to factory condition. While I hope to never need this it is a relaxing feature.
On the down side Gateway includes a good bit of Adware and “utilities.” Immediately annoying was that the McAfee firewall prevented Vista from synchronizing the clock with an Internet time server. This conflict brings the consumer’s adage of the VCR clock to a whole new level. A novice user may find some value in these things but I spent the first few hours of ownership exercising Vista’s Uninstall features. Even still I find my Start menu littered with various Adware icons for AOL and NetZero.
I have not had an opportunity to try a Linux distribution on the M-6824 yet. If any readers experiment with a Linux install please post to the forums as I would hear of your experiences.
Gateway offers a one year parts and labor limited warranty. As the M-6824 is a retail model the authorized retailer version of their warranty is applicable. It can be found online. If you are a prone to dropping things and are worried about self-inflicted problems Office Depot also sells additional coverage products at the time of sale.
The M-6824 supports the next generation of software applications. It does it smoothly and at a great price. While marketed as an entertainment notebook the 3GB of base memory and the ATI chip with 128MB dedicated graphics memory pull together to give a nice Microsoft Windows Vista Aero experience that will benefit anyone who doesn’t want to be locked out of the next generation of graphical user interfaces. The elegant black design, solid form and quiet performance make it a comfortable piece of technology that you can fit into your personal or professional routine.