Gateway P-171XL FX Edition Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (53,972)

by Kevin O’Brien

The Gateway P-171XL FX Edition is a high-end gaming notebook from Gateway, offering the Intel X7900 processor, a 17″ WUXGA LCD, NVIDIA 8800M GTS Graphics Card, and two 7200rpm drives running in RAID 0. This package comes inside relatively sleek and high gloss notebook case.

This notebook has the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo X7900 (2.80GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 4MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • 3GB DDR2-667 dual-channel RAM
  • 17.0″ WUXGA (1920×1200) matte finishe
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800M-GTS graphics card with 512MB dedicated memory
  • 400GB Total HD space in RAID 0 configuration (200GB Hitachi 7k200 x 2)
  • HD DVD-ROM/DVD Super Multi (+/- double layer)
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Ports: 3 USB, Kensington Lock Slot, Modem, LAN, Headphone/Mic, Firewire, HDMI, eSata, VGA, SD Card Reader, ExpressCard/54
  • Size: 15.75 x 11.5/12.25 x 1.5″
  • Weight: Notebook 9lbs 4.5oz, AC Adapter 1lb 10oz
  • 120w AC Adapter
  • Warranty: 1 Year standard


(view large image)

Design

The Gateway P-171XL FX Edition notebook has a sleek 17″ design that that is thinner than many other 17″ gaming notebooks, even 15″ notebooks like the Alienware m15x. The slender design is followed by a beautiful high contrast black and orange color scheme, topped off with chrome accents. The notebook has soft tapered edges, giving the notebook a very soft feel in your hands. This type of design also helps when inserting the notebook into cases, where rounded edges don’t snag on fabrics or zippers.

I really enjoy the color scheme of this notebook, as I prefer darker designs in general compared to all white or shiny notebooks. This Gateway has a faux carbon fiber gloss finish, where the weave pattern is so light it has more of a metallic black look. The keyboard has a metallic orange trim piece, followed by a larger brushed metal trim piece that is also used for the media keys. The metallic orange trim is also found around the ports on the side of the case, where it wraps around the entire notebook. Chrome is also around in bits and pieces around the notebook, including the display hinges, logo trim, and power switch.


(view large image)

Build quality

Build quality is average, with some flex felt around most areas of the notebook. Almost all of the flex can be found in areas that use the glossy black plastic, which includes the screen cover, palm rest, and screen bezel. The screen has a good amount of flex, both in twisting motion and bowing if you press down on the cover. The palmrest also has a lot of flex that you can feel above the ExpressCard slot and hard drive bay.

The only area of the notebook that really feels solid and rigid is the sides and bottom of the notebook case, which use a different matte plastic material.

Going beyond the chassis flex, the glossy finish does seem durable with its scratch resistance properties. With some high gloss notebooks, backpacks and normal use will scuff the notebook surface. None of these blemishes were found on the notebook at the end of the review, so I would say it held up pretty well.

Display

The display on the Gateway P-171XL FX Edition is a WUXGA (1920×1200) matte style LCD. The screen was very good, in both viewing angle range and brightness. Colors were excellent, but did have a washed out look to them because of the matte finish. That choice usually comes down to user preference though, as glossy finishes can make colors look better, they will also attract a ton of reflection.

Backlight uniformity was average, and with some light colors (white, grey) appeared to be brighter towards the center of the screen, and dimmer towards the edges.

I found the screen to be very pleasant in games, with no screen refresh problems that may have led to ghosting in fast moving scenes. One game in particular that has many fast moving scenes is Portal, where the player might be flying through a section of a level. During these sections I found the display to be excellent.


(view large image)

(view large image)

(view large image)

(view large image)

 

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the Gateway P-171XL FX Edition was excellent, with nice key action, as well as key spacing. I found it very comfortable to type on, as well as using it for mild gaming. Layout was perfect, although I had a small gripe with the function key and control key layout on the left side. At times I found myself pressing function instead of control for crouching.


(view large image)

The touchpad was very spacious, but nowhere near as obnoxiously large as the touchpad found on Apple notebooks. The touchpad printed surface had a small section on the right for vertical scrolling, but you could resize or disable that in the Synaptics touchpad control panel.
Sensitivity on the Synaptics touchpad was perfect, and required no adjustment out of the box. The settings do allow you to increase or decrease sensitivity if you want to though.
The buttons for the touchpad have shallow feedback, only providing you with small audible clicks when pressed. I would have preferred something with a longer and smoother action, but not all notebooks are designed that way.

Gaming and Performance

For many gaming notebook reviews, I tend to spoil myself with a day just dedicated to gaming and fooling around in general. For the Gateway P-171XL FX Edition it was no different, with most of my time spent with Portal and Crysis.

Portal

Performance in this game was excellent, with smooth sailing even at the native 1920×1200 resolution of this screen. With settings maxed and Anti-Aliasing set to 2x, the notebook stayed between 54 and 60FPS during most scenes. I did see drops down into the 30FPS range while looking through portals though.

Crysis

Crysis being the performance resource hog that it is, did not perform well on this decently equipped gaming notebook. At the resolution of 1280×800 with all settings set to low, the notebook got on average 23FPS. This was not a constant speed though, as many action areas brought the framerate into single digit levels. I swear that game will still have problems running on gaming notebooks built 10 years from now.

Overall system performance inside Windows Vista was stellar, as its X7900 and RAID 0 drive setup made the machine very snappy. No lag was found opening menus, installing applications, or surfing the web. The dual Hitachi 7k200 drives ate high disk transfers for breakfast, and laughed at most benchmarking applications. Disk transfer rates were similar to highend SSDs, with only access times being lower.

Most off the shelf benchmarks on this system ran very well, and produced the following results:

WPrime 32M comparison results

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook Time
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, Windows Vista) 30.359s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, Windows Vista) 31.108s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Windows Vista) 42.085s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7400@ 2.16GHz, Windows XP) 41.40s
HP dv6000z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.00GHz, Windows Vista) 38.913s
Sager 9260 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E6700@ 2.66GHz, Windows XP ) 33.718s
Dell Precision M70 (Intel Pentium-M 780 @ 2.26GHz, Windows XP) 78.992s

PCMark05 comparison results:

PCMark05 represents the overall system performance of a notebook. Higher numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS) 7,749 PCMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 5,865 PCMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 5,261 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 5,377 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

3DMark06 represents the overall graphics performance of a notebook. Higher numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS) 8,801 3DMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 3,775 3DMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 2,934 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 2,930 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks

HDtune results:


(view large image)

HDTach results:


(view large image)

Speakers

Audio performance was above average, with the speakers able to pump out sound at high enough levels that I had to turn it down a bit when gaming late at night to not offend neighbors in my apartment building. High and midrange audio was excellent, but low frequency was mostly gone. For a dorm room setting this notebook would be an excellent choice, being able to entertain a few guests without problem.

Ports and Features

Front: Wireless On/Off


(view large image)

Rear: CPU Exhaust, AC, Modem


(view large image)

Left: Kensington Lock Slot, 2 USB, GPU Exhaust, Optical Drive


(view large image)

Right: ExpressCard/54, SD-Reader, Headphone/Mic, Firewire, 1 USB, LAN, HDMI, eSATA, VGA


(view large image)

Webcam

The 1.3MP camera on this notebook gave an average image, but had a glaring flaw in low light situations. The bright blue LED that indicates that the webcam is functioning bleeds through the inside of the case into the lens of the webcam, and give you a blue blob on the lower part of your image.

Image quality not counting the blue on the bottom of the image did seem very poor, even on a 640×480 image the pixels looked very blocky and blown up.

Battery and Power

Time off of the AC Adapter is a bit over 2 hours and 20 minutes with screen brightness around 40-50%, and on the balanced power profile. Users should expect no more than an hour when gaming, as it puts the system under a much greater load than casual like browsing the web or typing a document.

Our review notebook had an odd problem with battery power, where the notebook would crash 3-4 minutes into games when being run off batteries. As I researched the problem, I found out that the reported temperature varied wildly between AC and battery power. On AC power while the GPU was under full load, the reported temperature was 66C. On battery power the reported temperature jumped up to an insane value of 98C, which was some sort of reporting error. This in turn inflated the temperature high enough to trigger the critical shutdown limit, and the notebook would spontaneously power off with a “click” mid-game. Since this was all software/bios and not a heat output problem, I really hope Gateway releases a patch to correct the problem.

Heat and Noise

For average use, the Gateway P-171XL FX Edition does get pretty warm compared to your average non-gaming notebook. Heat tended to build up gradually all over the notebook, without any real hotspots that stuck out.

Now when gaming the playing field changes and you do get hot spots on the bottom near the GPU and CPU. Another area of heat while gaming is from the main exhaust vents on each side, but if you can limit your arm from hanging off the side it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


(view large image)

(view large image)

 


Conclusion

Pricing in at $2,999, our Gateway P-171XL FX Edition review model is priced towards the middle of the gaming notebook segment, with the Toshiba X205 coming in at $2,000 and the Dell M1730 starting at $3,538 for a system with similar capabilities. For consumers looking at purchasing one of these models, it really comes down to user preference, on what brand they trust the most, and what design you want to carry around to show off at class. The Gateway offers very good hardware and performance for the price, and is a worthy contender against gaming notebooks.

Pros

  • Fast all around with a great GPU, CPU, and hard drive combo
  • Great color design
  • Great Keyboard and Touchpad

Cons

  • Flexible plastic around screen and palmrest
  • Some software issues relating to power profiles


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.