Gateway M360X and 6510GZ Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (42,397)

by Caroline Bogart, New Hampshire USA

(note, the Gateway 6510GZ is the same as the Gateway M360X.  The 6510GZ is sold in stores while the M360X is sold online at Gateway.com)

Overview and Introduction

The Gateway 6510GZ is Gateway’s retail version of the M360X model. It’s a Centrino built for mobility but is large and powerful enough to be a desktop replacement. I bought this model at a local Circuit City. Having purchased two Gateways already from Gateway.com I know the frustration that is Gateway Corporate (even after replacing my 9550 chassis 4 times it was still not “a lemon”).  Gateway Technical phone Support can be very helpful, but Gateway Technical email support is laughably bad. I chose Circuit City as the lesser of the evil opportunities for buying. The fact is, there is no frustration-free-guarantee, but at least a local big box has people I can talk to eye-to-eye, if need be.

Gateway 6510GZ Specs

  • Dimensions: Height 1.4″, Width 14.1″, Length 10.4″
  • Weight 6.3 lbs
  • Processor Intel Pentium M 1.6GHz Intel 725
  • Display WXGA widescreen Ultrabright 1280×800
  • Screen size 15.4″
  • System bus 400MHz
  • Cache Memory 2MB on die Level 2
  • System Memory (RAM) 512MB
  • Expandable to 2.0GB
  • RAM Type PC2700 DDR
  • Hard Drive Type EIDE
  • Hard Drive Size 80 GB
  • Optical Drive Multiformat DVD+- RW/CD-RW
  • Diskette Drive No
  • Graphics Intel Extreme Graphics 2
  • Video Memory 32MB (up to 64MB)
  • MPEG Yes
  • Modem 56 Kbps ITU V.90
  • Networking Built-in Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network connection (802.11b/g); 10/100 Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 connector)
  • Audio AC 97 2.3 compliant, Speakers Built-in
  • Ports: PCMCIA slots 1 type II, USB 2.0 Ports 4 USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 Firewire Ports 1
  • Battery Type 8 cell Lithium-ion
  • Pointing Device Touchpad with vertical scroll
  • Operating System  Windows XP Home sp2
  • Memory Card Reader 4-in-1 compatible with Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard… works with Digital Cameras…

Reason for Buying



I am a software engineer. I write ASP/ASP.Net/Access/SQL Server/eCommerce applications. At any given time I have 15 browsers, Microsoft Word, an old version of DreamWeaver, the .NET IDE and Outlook running.

I have a Gateway 5550 and until recently I had a Gateway 9550. The 5550 is a workhorse, an amazingly powerful machine for a PII 333 MHz notebook. It has spoiled me, because from a user-experience standpoint the Pentium 4/M/Celeron/Centrino and even the Athlon 64 don’t seem incredibly faster. Faster, yes, but not incredibly faster.

Gateway sold me an incorrect A/C adapter for the 9550. Over the past two years its incorrect plug size has eaten away at the power input jack, a component that is soldered to the motherboard. Hence, the 9550 is being broken down and sold for parts.

I replaced the Gateway 9550 with a Compaq Presario R4000 AMD Athlon 64 4000+, a beautiful machine with one fatal flaw: after all these years with Gateways, I want a Gateway keyboard. The Presario is not that different, but it’s different enough, and the touchpad is too far to the right for my liking. The Gateway Athlon has a new keyboard, so I eliminated that machine from the list. Toshiba keyboards come very close to what I want, with the fatal flaw that there’s an ALT key on the bottom right where the Control key should be. Sony laptops have good keyboard layouts, but the machines have the unfortunate quality of being built by Sony, which at this point in its lifecycle cannot even build a proper phone answering machine. Their Sony notebook displays are awesome but their reliability is legendarily bad.

So the Gateway 6510GZ it is for me, and overall it’s a pretty nice machine.

Where and how purchased

I have dealt with Gateway.com for10 years. The techs are great but corporate is a pain. I had to replace my 9550 chassis four times and couldn’t get Gateway to declare it a lemon. And I’m not afraid to use the credit card company and attorneys general of North Dakota and California. Search the net for Circuit City/Best Buy/CompUSA and you can find plenty of nightmare stories there, as well.

My reasoning for buying at Circuit City was this:

1. I can get farther in person than over the phone (hence Circuit city won over Gateway.com)

2. Circuit City offers accident insurance (hence Circuit City won over Best Buy)

Circuit City had the machine for $1249. I told the Circuit City salesman that Best Buy was selling the same machine for $1049. The salesman got me that price almost immediately, and he was very friendly about it.

The sticking point was finding the Gateway warranty. Should I need warranty service down the road, I don’t want to fight with Circuit City or anyone else. Without knowing what the contract says, it’s impossible to know my rights. Circuit City backs up the dead pixel policy of whatever the manufacturer warrants. The big box stores collude with the manufacturers to hide the manufacturer warranties. After all, the Circuit City technicians know which warranties apply, so clearly someone knows what a Gateway warranty looks like. I’m not referring to the standard language, I’m talking about the battery and screen policies.

We could not find the Gateway pixel and battery policies. A warranty is a contract, and the computer makers are getting away with asking you to agree to a contract that you absolutely cannot find. I’m pretty sure that that’s illegal. Remember, ask for a copy of the store and the computer maker warranties. Several salesmen and associates helped me look for the Gateway pixel policy. We never found it. Finally the manager offered to write the pixel guarantee on the receipt itself. With one exception I’ll describe below, these were the friendliest, least sleazy computer sales guys I have ever met.

The salesman who had created my ticket was leaving for an appointment. I ended up with a different salesman, one who had helped me search Google Groups for the Gateway warranty. He commented that my salesman was leaving the company and wouldn’t benefit from the sale, and then he wiped out the other guy’s data and re-input it under his badge. Not only was this amazingly slimy, it wiped out my $1049 price. The manager re-wrote the ticket and I ended up paying $1023 for the computer and $325 for 25 months accident and Circuit City warranty coverage. I configured the M360X online: While not completely apples-to-apples, the closest equivalent M360X was $1116 before accident and warranty coverage.

I’m completely satisfied with the price paid, and except for this one bizarre act, I think the Circuit City guys were amazing. They were helpful, very pleasant and totally on my side about wanting to see the contracts before I purchased the machine.

Form and Design

The Gateway 6510GZ is a 15.4″ widescreen with the Ultrabright TFT WXGA display. I’m having a hard time understanding what the big deal is about the Ultrabright. I can see myself when the screen’s unlit. I can’t see anything when I take the machine outside.

The machine itself is about as heavy as my 9550, which is heavy, but I have never minded that. I carry the machine to Panera, not the airport. The box is sturdy and closing the lid makes a tight click. The case is sturdy brushed metal. The keys are standard white on black. The touchpad is directly under the space bar, where it belongs. The machine has some neon lighting on the power button and wireless indicators, a cutesy futuristic touch that I like. I have a super neon’ed out external USB drive and I think the neons look nice together.

Gateway M360X Top view (view larger image)

Left side view of Gateway M360X (view larger image)

Back side of Gateway M360X (view larger image)

Right side of Gateway M360X (view larger image)

Screen

The screen is a mirror when dark and pretty hard to get right when lit. I started out not being able to see anything clearly: the type was too small and the pictures were fuzzy.

Glossy Screen = Mirror when the screen is off (view larger image)

There are numerous Intel Graphics display settings. How I actually got the display to work is still a mystery to me. I upped the font size and rebooted, then downed it back to 96 dpi and rebooted. I also reset the Intel Graphics Controller Properties (Gamma, Brightness and Contrast). These were all annoying changes that didn’t help, but somehow on the second reboot everything settled into a very enjoyable display.

The widescreen is cool, but the Gateway 9550 was very wide and the 6510GZ doesn’t seem that different. The max resolution is 1280 x 800, which is much less height than I’m used to, but it really does seem to work well once I browse for a while.

Speakers

I have no interest in laptop speakers and my ability to report whether the 6510GZ speakers are worthwhile is small. I can’t make out lyrics to most songs on any speakers. I’m always surprised when I put on headphones and hear the lyrics to songs for the first time. So go to the store and judge for yourself, my opinion is not worth expressing.

Processor and Performance

The Gateway 6510GZ comes with an Intel Pentium M 1.6 GHz “725” processor with a 400 MHz frontside bus and 2MB of level 2 cache. The machine comes with two 256 MB PC2700 SODIMM DDR RAM sticks which I will up to a total of 1 GB or 2 GB down the road.

The 4200 RPM hard drive connects through an EIDE (ATA-5) channel. If investigation proves that the channel won’t bottleneck a faster drive I will get the Hitachi 5200 or 7200 RPM.

Between the RAM and hard drive I suspect the machine will feel fast enough. Right now I’d say I’m not that impressed. There are few machines that — from a user point of view — feel faster than my Gateway Solo 5550.

My test for perceptual laptop speed is to launch Adobe Reader. I saw it come up in 2 seconds on a Compaq Presario R4025US Athlon AMD 64 once, but I think it had to have been in cache, as subsequent Athlon AMD 64 Adobe Reader tests didn’t yield that result. Most disks really churn loading those Adobe libraries, and the 6510GZ is no different. Adobe Reader loads in about 10 seconds.

I loaded Pinball and it came up immediately. I hope you gamers aren’t laughing too hard. I didn’t buy a laptop for gaming, but then I wouldn’t buy anything except a non-computerized mechanical pinball machine for my entertainment needs, so I’m no judge.

Benchmarks

We use the program Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark.  Below is a comparison chart of how the Gateway 6510GZ with it’s 1.6 GHz processor stacked up to other notebooks when running this calculation:

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Gateway 6510GZ / M360 (1.6GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 02s
Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 40s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

 Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  IBM T43 (1.86GHz) Gateway
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 3.33 MB/s 3.1 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 27.19 MB/s 23.75 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 23.4 MB/s 20.5 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 10.88 MPixels/s 9.51 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1914.17 MB/s 1825.06 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 2.82 KB/s 2.35 KB/s
 File Decryption 54.11 MB/s 47.45 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 2496.87 KB/s 2169.86 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.27 Pages/s 4.82 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 51.71 FPS 43.77 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 159.19 FPS 63.49 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 868.44 FPS 360.89 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 727 3DMarks NA
CPU Score 3414 CPUMarks NA
Gaming Tests
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 3.3 FPS NA
GT2 – Firefly Forest 2.2 FPS NA
GT3 – Canyon Flight 3.4 FPS NA
CPU Tests
CPU Test 1 1.18 FPS NA
CPU Test 2 2.9 FPS NA

 HD Tune Benchmarks
 Minimum Transfer Rate 13.2 MB/sec
 Maximum Transfer Rate 28.8 MB/sec
 Average Transfer Rate 22.3 MB/sec
 Acess Time 18.3 ms
 Burst Rate 76.8 MB/sec
 CPU Usage 4.2%

Battery
 

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is my raison d’etre. I want the bottom left to have Control, Window, Alt. I want the bottom right to have ALT and CONTROL keys, followed by the arrow keys. The top right should be a Delete key. The Home, Page Up, Page Down and End keys should fall vertically across the right side. The escape key should be at the top left. The 6510GZ has these keyboard qualities. The Gateway 6510GZ keyboard touch is stiffer than the 9550 or 5550 models. It is stable and well put-together. It is crisp but requires muscle; I’d prefer it were a little looser.

Gateway 6510GZ/M360X keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)

The touchpad is perfect. I tried dozens of touchpads and I believe that Gateways have the best feel. Be sure to checkout the multitude of touchpad options. The 6510GZ touchpad is smooth and responsive, but not as smooth as the 9550 or 5550 touchpads. It’s much smoother than touchpads from other brands.

Wireless

The Gateway 6510GZ comes with an integrated 802.11b/g wireless card. The card found the Circuit City and my home Linksys routers with no problems.

Battery

The proprietary (Sanyo) 8-cell battery is a huge affair that takes up the width of the machine. Gateway also sells 6 and 12 cell batteries. The 8-cell advertises 4 hours if you’re not burning CD’s, which is plenty for my needs. The function operations include the ability to turn off the wireless card, which helps save on battery use.

Operating System and Software

The 6510GZ comes with Windows XP Home, BigFix, Microsoft Works, Picture It, Cyberlink PowerDVD, the Google toolbar, Microsoft Money 2005, Adobe Reader, Norton Internet Security 2005 and Nero Express. I upgraded to Windows XP Pro without blowing away the hard drive. To see my learning curve with Nero CD burning, Slipstreaming SP2 onto a Windows XP Pro disk and upgrading XP Home to Pro, see:
http://www.notebookreview.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=18831

You have to burn your own recovery CD’s (Start/Programs/System Recovery/Recovery media creator). It takes 5 disks; the machine comes with 6 blanks. What’s not obvious is that this is a one-time process, so don’t screw it up! You can also burn application and driver CD’s (Start/Programs/System Recovery/Create my Drivers-Applications CD(s)) using the built-in utilities.

Customer Support

Three rules for dealing with Gateway:

1. Don’t buy from Gateway.com. They do not believe there is such a thing as a lemon, and fighting a company on the phone is more frustrating than fighting a company in person.

2. The Gateway.com support web pages will not recognize a big box store serial number. If you want to ask Gateway tech a question by email, enter anything in the serial number field and write the serial in the comments box.

3. Don’t ask Gateway.com Email Tech Support for help. They will always be incorrect. The phone tech support guys are great, but you’ll never reach them with a big box store serial, so give up and write your question to the NotebookReview.com forums.

Here’s the Gateway warranty page: http://www.gateway.com/about/legal/warranty.shtml
If you ever find their pixel policy, please let me know.

As I mentioned, it’s impossible to get a proper copy of the Gateway warranty. Know what you’re buying. Do not settle for a pamphlet. A contract will never use the word “etc.” Get the Terms & Conditions of any warranty.

I bought the Circuit City Advantage, which supplements the Gateway 1 year warranty. I bought the Circuit City Accident Insurance, which we call “drop kick insurance,” since it covers everything, including drop-kicking the machine out of frustration.

Furthermore, if you buy on American Express they extend the Gateway (not Circuit City) warranty after the Circuit City Warranties expire. It’s confusing enough to warrant a diagram, so here we go:

Gateway network operating system support 30 days (day 1 to day 30)
Gateway defect warranty 1 year (day 1 to day 365)
Circuit City Advantage 25 months (day 1 to day 760)
Circuit City Accidental 25 months (day 1 to day 760)
American Express Manufacturer Extension (clones Gateway defect warranty) Starts when all other coverages end,  lasts for the length of the original manufacturer warranty (1 year) and covers for same terms as manufacturer original warranty, ergo this starts on day 761, ends day 1126 and covers whatever Gateway covers (and if I ever find out what that is, I’ll let you know)


Complaints

As much as I love the Gateway keyboard, this one is still stiffer than I’d like. I can see a lot of reflection in the monitor but all of the widescreens are like this. The display started out with some serious fuzziness, but once I got the display right (through some display futzing and a miracle), I was happy with the screen. Gateway technical support was dead wrong on the upgrade path questions (“wipe out your hard drive and if the recovery CD’s don’t give you back Nero than buy the upgrade from gateway.com”). Not being able to obtain warranty info is unacceptable (web site: call “800-846-2000”; phone support: “see the web site”). The hard drive is a typical 4200 RPM, which I’ll replace with a 7200 rpm if the temperature is not too high and channel speed is not too limiting. I only care about the business (warranty, technical support) complaints. The physical aspects of the computer are fine for my needs.

Praises

I’m astounded at the helpfulness and total lack of sleaze (with one major exception) from the Circuit City guys. The computer is very acceptable for my software engineering and web site development needs. If I can sit in Panera on battery for a few hours than I’ll be pretty happy.

Conclusion

The M360Z/6510GZ 1.6GHz Centrino Pentium M has room for upgrades, but right off I don’t see the need to implement them. SQL Server, the .NET IDE and IE all start with a small lag, nothing any other machine doesn’t show me. I have yet to see a notebook (even the Presario R4000 2.4GHz Athlon 64 with a 5400 RPM drive and 2GB RAM) pass the “launch the Adobe Reader before I pass out from boredom” test. If it’s feasible I will upgrade the hard drive to 7200 rpm before adding to the 512 MB RAM or worrying about a higher-end processor.

This machine is perfect for keyboard-oriented software heads. I don’t care about gaming or sound quality so I am abstaining from commenting on these areas. The battery life is long enough, the applications come up in a reasonable time, the boot time is faster than any machine I’ve had and this is my first notebook CD burner so I’m probably overly-impressed with the toy aspect of being able to burn CD’s in my backyard.

Overall I’m happy with the machine. It feels solid and is a reasonable buy at $1023 plus $325 for the warranties.

Pricing and Availability


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