- Great build quality and design
- Solid graphics performance
- Decent battery life
- No eSATA
- No FireWire
by Kevin O’Brien
The Gateway NV-series is a line of affordable multimedia notebooks offered in both AMD and Intel configurations. They offer a 15.6″ screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, designer looks, and low power consumption to help with extended battery life. The NV-series starts as low as $529 and easily fits into most budgets. In this review we see how well the AMD-based NV5214u performs in our multimedia tests, and if it deserves a spot in your home or office.
Gateway NV5214u Specifications:
- Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 64-bit)
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 2.1GHz QL-64 (1MB Cache, 667MHz FSB)
- 15.6″ HD WXGA Ultrabright LED-backlit Display (1366 x 768 resolution, 16:9)
- Atheros Wireless 802.11a/g/n
- 4GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM
- 320GB 5400rpm Toshiba Hard Drive
- 8x DVD-Super Multi Double-Layer Drive
- Integrated High-Def Webcam
- Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 14.6″ x 9.8″ x 1.0-1.5″”
- Weight: 5lbs 11.6oz with 6-cell battery
- 65W (19V x 3.42A) 100-240V AC Adapter
- 6-cell (10.8v 4400mAh 48Wh) battery
- 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty
- Price as configured: $529.99
Build and Design
Gateway has done an excellent job designing all of their newer notebooks, which are leaps and bounds above models we saw one or two generations ago. The new designs look classy, like something you could see a business professional using just as much as a student starting their first year of college. The notebooks have clean lines, well thought out color schemes, and subtle curves where required. Opening up the NV-series notebook we see the traditional wire-mesh speaker grills are gone, replaced with two narrow slates. The touchpad buttons looks more like an accent strip than a functional component, with a simple reflective bar with the Gateway logo printed in the center. The touchpad itself is slightly recessed, giving a soft edge to the surface to let you know where the edges are without looking down at it. Even though the Gateway NV-series might be considered a budget notebook, has the look and feel of a machine that costs twice as much.
Build quality is very good in most areas of the NV, with the only weaker area being the screen lid. The lid could be stronger, since it does show some minor panel distortion when you squeeze the back of the display. Outside of that one area the NV is extremely solid and well-built. The palmrest and keyboard have no hint of flex when pressed firmly … the same can’t be said about even some of the higher-end business notebooks. The friction/spring latched screen stays closed in all positions while being held with one hand, which helps keep dust and foreign objects out of the notebook during transport. Paint quality is also very good, with a durable clear-coat finish that seems to resist most scratches and scuffs. The high-traffic interior areas have a smooth matte finish that helps reduce smudging and gives the notebook a cleaner appearance.
Upgrading the notebook can be easily accomplished by removing a single Tetris-style panel from the back of the notebook, giving you access to the RAM, hard drive, and wireless card. No components have “warranty void if removed” stickers on them. In our particular configuration with 4GB of RAM, I think the only component that might be swapped out is the hard drive for a faster model. The motherboard shows signs of a second mini-PCIe slot, which could be for WWAN in some models, but it is not soldered into our review machine. The processor was not visible or accessible through the upgrade panel, meaning you would have to fully dismantle the notebook to find it.
Screen and Speakers
The 15.6″ screen has the newer 16:9 aspect ratio, which sacrifices some vertical height in place of increased horizontal resolution. It supports 720p content scaled up, and 1080p content scaled down, since it is between both resolutions at 1366 x 768. The screen appears to be of decent quality, but has a limited vertical viewing range, and has a noticeable blue or cool tint. The glossy finish helps give colors a vibrant appearance as well as improving contrast over similar matte-finish displays. The panel appears evenly lit, with no noticeable dim or brightly lit areas. It offers bright LED backlighting, clearly visible in bright office conditions, but slightly underpowered for outdoor viewing. Vertical viewing angles are good for about 15-20 degrees of lean forward and back before colors start to distort. Horizontal viewing angles are good for about 60 degrees before the brightness of the screen is overpowered by reflections off the glossy finish.
The speakers sound average for a larger notebook without a built-in subwoofer. They lack good bass and midrange reproduction, with most of the audio being higher notes. Peak volume levels are fine for filling a small room with music, but external speakers would be a better option. Since this model supports digital audio out over HDMI, hooking it up to a home theater system is the best speaker option. For private listening headphones are a must-have accessory.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Gateway uses the entire width of the 15.6″ chassis to include a full-size keyboard with number pad, without sacrificing the size of any primary key. The keyboard uses a Chiclet-style design without the internal bezel framework, with no cupped surface for centering your fingertips. For blind touch-typing this can be slightly difficult to adjust to at first, but once you get your bearings it isn’t too bad. The keyboard is comfortable to type on, without needing a lot of pressure to activate an individual key. The typing surface is very rigid, holding up to forceful typing without any flex. Fit and finish were excellent as well, with accurate key placement and no support irregularities. Viewing directly across the keyboard from the side edge, the keys were perfectly lined up without any noticeable ripples.
The touchpad is an ALPS model with good sensitivity and very little lag. The touchpad surface has a fine matte finish that is easy to glide across, even if your fingers are sweaty. The size of the surface was more than adequate for the size of the notebook, although it was less than the average Apple notebook with their gigantic touchpads. The touchpad button is a seesaw style single-button, with the left and right side clicking separately. The clicking area is on each side of the Gateway logo, with the center being unclickable.
Ports and Features
Port selection is average for a 15″ notebook, offering four USB ports, HDMI, VGA, LAN, modem, and audio jacks. eSATA would have been nice to see considering the available space on the chassis, or even a USB/eSATA combo port, but since this is a budget notebook, it is not uncommon to see certain features left out. For digital camera users Gateway included a SDHC-card reader.