Gateway MD7818u Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (54,840)

The Gateway MD7818u is part of a new affordable notebook line that shares most of its components with the high-style MC series. This notebook offers many of the same features as its more expensive brother; like the touch-sensitive hidden multimedia keys, classy styling, and excellent build quality. To lower the cost Gateway removed some features that not everyone needed, like the leather palmrest, all-glass display, and backlit keyboard. Does this new notebook still impress us as much as the MC7803u? Read our review to find out.

Gateway MD7818u Specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T6400  (2.0GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 2MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM (2x2GB)
  • 15.6″ Ultrabright WXGA (1366×768) glossy finish
  • Intel 4500MHD Integrated Graphics
  • 500GB 5400RPM Seagate 5400.6 Hard Drive
  • 8x Multi-Format Dual Layer DVDRW and DVD-RAM with Labelflash
  • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5100 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
  • Ports: 4 USB, Kensington Lock Slot, Modem, LAN, 2 Headphone/Mic, HDMI, VGA, SD Card Reader, ExpressCard/54
  • Power: 8 Cell Lithium Ion 48.84Whr (2.2AHr) Battery, 19V 65W AC Adapter
  • Size: 1.3″-1.70″ (H) x 15.28″ (W) x 10.43″ (D)
  • Weight: 6lbs 12.4oz actual
  • Warranty: 1 Year standard
  • Retail MSRP: $799

Build and Design
Sharing the same body as the MC series notebook, the new MD series looks nearly identical inside and out. The only visible queues that someone familiar with both models would notice is the lack of quick launch program buttons on the left side of the keyboard, no leather palmrest, lack of backlit keyboard, and missing all-glass display. Internally they share the same chassis and alloy unibody and depending on the configuration it may or may not have a MXM dedicated graphics card. The body is built extremely well with a very durable feel and little flex. Fit and finish is excellent with no noticeable defects on our review unit.

The design is excellent, looking more like a designer notebook than previous Gateway models. The higher quality of the materials used combined with the modern design helps give this notebook a look that is usually only shared with models costing two or three times more. I like the contrasting silver and chrome trim around painted or brushed metal surface. The black glossy surface works well with the touch sensitive media buttons, completely hiding them with the lights turned off.

Display
The 15.6” WXGA display is above average with a strong backlight for easy viewing in bright environments and great color saturation thanks in part to the glossy finish. The backlight is fairly strong with my preferred brightness setting being about 50-60%. Backlight evenness is average with only a hint of bleed through the bottom edge of the panel. Contrast is excellent at the optimum viewing sweet spot, but does get washed out slightly if you tilt the screen forward or back. Under normal day-to-day use I found the limited tilting movement of the display to be inconvenient. Most displays can be tilted back to the point of almost making the screen flat with the keyboard, but the way the hinge is designed on the MC and MD series notebooks you are limited to about 20 degrees of backward movement. Viewing angles were in line with most notebooks, with a wide horizontal viewing range but limited vertical viewing. As you tilt the screen forward the screen starts to look washed out, and leaning it back colors darken and invert.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is very comfortable to type on and is spread out well over the 16” frame of the notebook. Individual key thickness feels less than other notebooks from the odd flat shape of the key top, but it is much easier to type on than a Sony/Macbook style keyboard. Key presses are very smooth, with only a light touch needed to trigger a key. Audible feedback is minimal, with only a small click with each full press.

The large Synatpics touchpad is responsive and a breeze to move around on with a lightly textured matte finish. Sensitivity was great, easily tracking my finger with no discernible lag. The surface area is larger than most notebooks, but still falls short to the gigantic touchpad surfaces found on Apple notebooks. The buttons are wide and easy to hit with the side of your thumb while they give a mild soft click with shallow feedback.

One thing I find amazing on the MD and MC-series notebooks is the illumination on/off button they include. Using this button you can toggle the keyboard backlit (on the MC-series), turn off the touch sensitive media keys (disables them), and turn off everything else including the hard drive activity and power light. If you hate blinking or shining LEDs nothing beats a feature like this. If you are watching a movie the only source of light left is the screen.

Performance
System performance was still in line with the MC7803u in every category except gaming. Offering a very similar configuration minus the dedicated graphics card the MD7818u handed day to day activities with ease and when it was time to sit back and relax it performed flawlessly in decoding HD movies and streaming video. The MD7818u has the newest 45nm Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor, giving it a mild bump in performance over the 64nm T5800 processor with the same clock speed. If you aren’t interested in gaming, integrated graphics offers better battery performance, so that is something worth considering. The newer system also offers a larger hard drive for increased media and program storage, which also happens to be quite a bit faster than the previous 5400rpm Hitachi drive.  The faster Seagate 5400.6 drive bumped average transfer speeds up by 14MB/s with a peak transfer speeds up 17MB/s.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Gateway MD7818u (Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 @ 2.0GHz)
37.893 seconds
Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz) 41.246 seconds
HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz) 39.745 seconds
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569 seconds
HP Pavilion dv4t (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972 seconds
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.628 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Gateway MD7818u (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel 4500MHD) 4,535 PCMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 3,998 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 3,994 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 5,173 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Gateway MD7818u (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel 4500MHD) 924 3DMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 493 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 1,599 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 2,211 3DMarks

*All 3DMark06 benchmark tests are set at 1280 x 800 screen resolution.

HDTune storage drive performance results:

Ports and Features
The MD7818u is packed with external ports, but missing some common features like eSATA and Firewire. With four USB ports, I would have gladly sacrificed one for an eSata port, or even an eSATA/USB combo port.

Port List:
•    VGA and v1.3 HDMI
•    Four USB
•    Modem and LAN
•    Two Headphone and one Microphone jacks
•    Multi-Card Reader and ExpressCard/54
•    Kensington Lock Slot and AC Power


Front: Two headphone and one microphone jacks


Rear: Display hinge


Left:Kensington lock slot, AC power, VGA, HDMI, LAN, modem, two USB, ExpressCard/54, multi-card reader


Right: Optical drive, two USB

Speakers and Audio
Speaker performance was average with bass and midrange lacking due to the small speaker driver size. The front firing speaker design was annoying at times, getting blocked by your pants or shirt; muffling the sound coming out.

This notebook offers two headphone jacks that allow you to share a movie or some music with another person. The audio output from the jacks is great, and peak volume levels were above my comfortable listening levels.

Heat and Noise
Gateway overbuilt the cooling system on the MD series notebook, since it is designed to handle high performance components including dedicated graphics. With only integrated graphics being utilized the system barely broke a sweat during heavy loads like benchmarking. Fan noise was minimal even at what could be considered its highest speed, needing an ear up against the fan grill to hear it spinning. The very cool external temperatures listed below are shown in degrees Fahrenheit.

Battery Life
Gateway lists the battery for the MD7818u has being 48Wh, far under what we found the included battery to be in our review units. Our system had a fully charged capacity of 71Wh, roughly 48% larger than its official specification. With the system set to the Vista “Balanced” power profile, screen brightness at 70%, and wireless active the system was powered on for 4 hours and 52 minutes before it shutdown at 3% remaining. If the system was equipped with a battery rated at 48Wh the estimated time would have been closer to 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Conclusion
The Gateway MD series notebook rated very well in our testing with good performance and great build quality. The styling is nearly identical to the higher MC lineup, but offering a more budget friendly starting price as low as $649 depending on configuration. The design is stunning for a low-cost notebook, with clean lines and a very elegant layout. Hidden touch-sensitive multimedia keys and an option to completely disable all indicator lights are some of the features that really make this notebook stand out. If you love the styling of the Gateway MC notebooks but don’t want to fork over as much money, the MD series is an excellent alternative.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • Great styling with impeccable fit and finish
  • Good battery life from the battery supplied in our review unit
  • Excellent cooling system

Cons:

  • Limited screen tilt angle from hinge design
  • Tips the scales compared to other 15” notebooks




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