by Derek Duncan, Missouri USA
I’ve never owned a laptop before. I’m a student and wanted a notebook small enough to place on a desk in lecture halls, but not so drastically small that I couldn’t see the screen well. So when I sat down to think of what I wanted in a laptop, a few things came to mind for my needs:
- Long battery life (3.5 hrs+)
- Light weight (under 5.5 lbs)
- Nice look
- Good performance
- Around $1,000
Those aren’t lofty requirements, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find a laptop that contains all of these aspects. My choices came down to four laptops: the HP dv1000, Fujitsu S6231, Apple PowerBook and the Gateway 3520GZ (or Gateway M210 if purchased directly from Gateway).
The Fujitsu and PowerBook were priced a little bit out of my range, an iBook didn’t have the specs I was looking for, I could get a much better PC laptop for the same price. So it came down to the dv1000 or the 3520GZ. I went to Best Buy to try them both out. Both are very nice looking laptops, with the Gateway being slightly larger, though both notebooks sport 14.1-inch widescreen displays.
This review is not meant as a comparison, but you’ll see why I chose the 3520GZ/M210 over the dv1000 and other similar notebooks after reading through
Gateway 3520GZ / Gateway M210 Specs:
- Pentium M 725 (1.6 Dothan)
- 512MB PC2700 DDR RAM (expandable to 1.25GB)
- 60GB 4200RPM hard drive
- Integrated Intel Extreme 2 graphics with 32mb shared memory
- Multiformat DVD+/-RW/CDRW (8X DVD/24X CDRW)
- 14.1-inch Ultrabright WXGA TFT widescreen display
- Intel PRO/Wireless LAN (802.11b/g)
- Weight 5.25 lbs
- Purchase Price: $1099 at Best Buy
Upon first look at the 3520GZ, you’ll notice that the interior is a lot less cluttered than something like the dv1000, with no labeling where USB ports or VGA ports are. It looks really clean cut with the silver finish and black keyboard. There are five tiny icons that light up blue when in use along the bottom of the unusually small touchpad, with the power button on the top right of the machine. You can turn off the blue backlights by simply holding the Function+F1 key. The battery fits flushed with the bottom of the system, although it seems to stick out through the back.
The 3520GZ features a full-size keyboard and solid construction. When you close the lid, there’s no wiggle-room. One nice aspect is the two headphone jacks in the front like the dv1000, so two people can listen at a time.
The 3520GZ feels well built, it is probably prone to scratches due to the outside of the lid being painted silver, but it definitely does not feel cheap. One might question it’s durability, as compared with an IBM or Apple built laptop, but those notebooks are priced accordingly and hopefully you’ll take care of your purchase and keep it in good condition anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s just say this laptop feels more sturdy than the dv1000 when I checked it out.
One odd thing is that the speakers are actually on the bottom of the laptop. Why Gateway decided to do this is beyond my comprehension.
The 3520GZ measures just 1.2″ high, 9.7″ wide and 13″ long. It’s slightly bigger than the dv1000, but weighs just 5.25 lbs. Although you could get lighter notebooks, for the price of this one, around 5 lbs is the best you’re going to do.
I’ll say this about the 14.1-inch Ultrabright widescreen display – it’s gorgeous. It’s a lot less reflective than the dv1000’s screen in my opinion. It’s still a bit reflective, but not annoyingly so. And viewing DVD’s on this screen is a charm. And even though you don’t think you’ll notice the extra space on the widescreen display, I got on my 17″ LCD on my desktop after using the 3520GZ and the desktop appeared MUCH smaller. Once you go widescreen, you’ll never go back.
This laptop can multitask with ease due to it’s 512MB RAM, although 32mb is shared with the graphics. I burned a dvd in just around 15 minutes with it’s 8X DVD burner. The one thing I was skeptical about was the integrated video, but it runs surprisingly well. I don’t game, but you might think you need dedicated graphics, but if you don’t game or utilize 3D-heavy programs, you won’t even notice the lack of a dedicated graphics card. Personally I don’t know why anybody would want to game on a small laptop that’s supposed to be a lightweight machine. But it’s definitely adequate for everyday use.
The 60GB hard drive is good for the price. 256MB RAM is actually on the motherboard, so you’ll only be able to add 1GB more for a total of 1.25 (just like Apple). Wish you could access both, but the 1.6 Dothan processor makes up for it. Another thing about the RAM, it’s actually PC2700, but the motherboard only supports 266mhz, according to the Gateway specifications website, so I’m a bit fuzzy on if the motherboard will take advantage of the higher speed.
I feel the keyboard and touchpad input is a very important factor when deciding on a laptop, as you’ll spend all of your time using these two features. The keyboard feels very solid. It feels more responsive than other laptops I’ve tried. The touchpad is smaller than most every other touchpad I’ve seen on a notebook. A portion is set aside for scrolling. The buttons are small rounded bars and the right-click button seems very tiny, that will take some getting used to.
This was probably the most important aspect of a notebook to me. I’ve seen smaller laptops with shorter battery life. But the 3520GZ will not disappoint. I consistently get around 4 hours with wi-fi on while I’m surfing the net, listening to music, even viewing a few mpeg movies. You can turn off wi-fi with the Function+F2 button. I viewed an hour and 30 minute dvd with wi-fi on at times and still had 53% battery left. You can turn screen brightness down as much as you’d like and it’s still comfortable viewing. I think Gateway promises around 4.5 hours average and there’s no reason to think that this machine can’t deliver on that claim.
The AC adapter is smaller compared to other AC adapters. And it’s light enough that when you carry it with you, you won’t notice the extra weight.
The 3520GZ speakers are not good. They are just the same as any other laptop s speakers, minus the dv1000. With them being placed on the bottom, I don’t think Gateway cared either. There is a volume control on the front of the notebook for easy access while viewing DVDs or listening to music. But I just plug in my headphones and go from there. In fact, you’ll notice how average the speakers are until you plug in a good pair of headphones.
There is lots of room for expansion here. You can replace the hard drive, upgrade the memory, though still just to 1.25gb. You can connect the notebook to an external monitor and with three usb ports and firewire, this can be a digital media center. Though all three usb ports are right next to eachother on the right side. Also built-in is a media card reader for various flash memory cards.
With this notebook being released the end of November, it’s hard to tell if there’s any bugs to report. I haven’t found any as of yet. No clock issues or high pitch noises yet. With all the features you get in a notebook, you can’t beat this one for the price. Gateway might have just found a winner in the notebook department.
Pricing and Availability
- 14.1″ widescreen
- Above average keyboard
- Long battery life
- DVD Burner
- Large hard drive
- Small touchpad/buttons
- Maybe prone to scratches
- Integrated graphics