by Kevin O’Brien
Affordable and gaming notebook don’t always belong in the same sentence, but that is just what you find with the new Gateway P-7811 FX notebook. This notebook will set you back only $1,399, but with that small sum you get a WUXGA LCD, NVIDIA 9800M graphics, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a notebook that can competently play Crysis. This review covers all aspects of this budget gaming rig and in whether it deserves a spot at your next LAN party.
Gateway P-7811 FX specifications:
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 3MB L2 cache)
- NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS with 512MB of GDDR3 discrete video memory
- 17.0″ WUXGA Ultrabright TFT Active Matrix (1920 x 1200 max. resolution)
- Genuine Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit) SP1
- 4GB (4096MB) DDR3 800MHz Dual Channel Memory (2 x 2048MB modules)
- 200GB 7200rpm Serial ATA hard drive w/ 16MB Cache
- 8x Multi-Format Dual Layer DVDRW with DVD-RAM featuring Labelflash Technology
- Integrated 1.3 Megapixel Web Cam
- 9-cell 11.1v 7800mAh battery, 120w power supply
Build and Design
The design and layout of the Gateway P-7811 FX notebook is laid back, but with just enough lavishness to show that it isn’t your average consumer notebook. The main body is covered in a carbon fiber design trimmed with silver, with the “FX” logo held inside a silver checkerboard banner. The keyboard and palmrest is outlined with orange strips of plastic, as well as the notebook body itself which is split in half with orange trim. I have to admit that I have been a fan of the Gateway FX notebook designs, mostly because of the black finish and brightly colored accents.
Build quality is above average, with excellent fit and finish, and fairly durable feeling plastic pieces making up the body of the notebook. The body does have some mild flex when holding it by a palmrest, but I have yet to see a 17″ notebook that didn’t. Localized flex is minimal in the palmrest and keyboard, giving you a solid surface for long hours of gaming, or late-night term paper completion (sometimes even in the same evening). The paint quality is above average, although the glossy surface isn’t immune to heavy scratches if you aren’t careful.
Users wanting to upgrade components down the road will enjoy the easy access panels on the bottom of the notebook which revel all user-upgradeable parts. No “Warranty Void if Removed” stickers were found, which shows Gateway trusts us enough to know we won’t destroy the notebook if we decided to increase ram or hard drive capacity.
The glossy WUXGA panel found on the Gateway P-7811 FX notebook is breath taking, and one of the better 17″ panels I have seen in quite a while. Colors are spectacular, black levels are great, and brightness is more than adequate for more than well-lit environments. I don’t want to say it works the best outside in the sun, as most glossy displays don’t. Viewing angles are great, with a broad vertical viewing range before colors start to become inverted or washed out. Horizontal viewing angles are nearly 90 degrees, showing an almost perfect screen up until the point where you are looking at the front cover of the display.
Brightness adjustment is average and I would almost prefer a notch or two dimmer for nighttime viewing. In a dark room without any lights on the screen is still pretty bright. No dead pixels were found on our review model, and backlight leakage was minimal at best.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard with number pad is easy to use and gentle on the fingertips once you get used to the layout. While I usually adapt quickly to most new keyboards, this one had a steeper learning curve. Key presses gave decent feedback, and required mild pressure to fully click. The texture of the keys was almost glossy, with a very slick black paint. While I don’t usually complain about the keys themselves, the reflective nature of the keys was prefect to wash out the letters with a bit of overhead light. Keyboard support was strong, showing little flex under moderate pressure.
The touchpad is larger than most and very spacious for the pointer finger sliding around the surface. On the small touchpad on my ThinkPad, I usually follow the edges of the touchpad, while on the P-7811 I rarely grazed the border in normal use. The surface is a fine matte finish that is easily to slide across under most conditions, and sensitivity control was excellent. The touchpad buttons are very large and have shallow feedback with a solid click.
While many notebook manufacturers are moving towards touch sensitive multimedia bar buttons around the keyboard, Gateway is sticking with the tried-and-true clickable buttons for all but the volume controls. While it might not be as easy as barely grazing the surface to activate a button, it does prevent accidental triggering.
The Gateway P-7811 FX has one of the best performance to price ratios we have ever seen, and for the features you get a deal that no other notebook comes close to matching. This notebook offers an Intel P8400 Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 200GB 7200RPM hard drive, and an NVIDIA 9800M GTS graphics card for $1,399. With this setup the notebook packs quite a punch, nearly reaching 9,500 in 3DMark06, as well as an impressive 6,800 in PCMark05. While these synthetic benchmarks give you a good idea when comparing systems side by side, below we have a couple real life examples of what this hardware can do in games:
Portal ran very well on this notebook, and at the native 1920×1200 resolution of the notebook and all settings maxed, it peaked at over 130FPS. Looking through portals dropped the framerate to 90FPS, but that is still plenty of speed for fast gameplay. Lowering the resolution down to 1280×800 made the framerates jump to 293 in low action and 120 through portals.
Crysis with all settings on high, and the resolution set to 1280×800 managed a consistent 29-31FPS throughout the beginning of the demo, even while engaging adversaries. If you turned back the settings to medium, framerates peaked as high as 63 FPS during low action scenes and dropped to the low 30’s during action. The game felt perfectly playable, although don’t expect the same results pushing 1920×1200.
wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.
wPrime comparison results (lower scores means better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|Gateway P-7811 FX (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz)||33.366s|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz)||27.416s|
|Acer Aspire 6920 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz) ||44.457s|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Windows Vista 64)||28.978s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) ||34.628s |
|HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz) ||39.745s |
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) ||43.569s|
|Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) ||37.485s|
|HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) ||40.759s|
|Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz)||58.233s|
|Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||38.343s|
|Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.299s|
|HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)||40.965s|
|Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)||76.240s|
|Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.705s|
|HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||38.720s|
PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores are better):
|Gateway P-7811 FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GTS 512MB)||6,815 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB)||6,587 PCMarks|
|Acer Aspire 6920 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) ||4,179 PCMarks |
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB)||6,921 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) ||5,173 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|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||5,412 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||4,616 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
3DMark06 comparison results:
3DMark06 represents the overall graphics performance of a notebook. (Higher numbers indicate better performance.)
|Gateway P-7811 FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GTS 512MB) ||9,355 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB)||4,127 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB) ||8,791 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB)||4,205 3DMarks|
|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|
Ports and Features
Port selection on this gateway notebook is average for a 17″ notebook, and has a bit of room for improvement. I can’t complain too much considering the hardware you get, but only three USB ports is weak for a 15″ notebook, even worse for a 17″ gaming notebook with quite a bit of unused space. Multimedia savvy individuals will enjoy the HDMI connection for outputting gameplay to a larger screen, as well as the eSata port for extra movie and entertainment storage.
One fairly awesome feature this notebook has is a direct access button to enable or disable ALL of the external lights around the notebook. This includes the multimedia keys, power and harddrive activity lights, and even the AC power and charging lights. With a simple FN+function key press you can disable all the distractions on your notebook, which is great for movie watching.
Speakers and Audio
The onboard speakers were leaving much to be desired, sounding like earbuds cranked up to max volume. Peak volume levels were pretty low with all settings maxed and bass and midrange were very weak. While it might work out just fine for watching to occasional movie on Hulu, I would really push for headphones so you can actually hear all that is taking place on screen. Headphones also give you more privacy while enjoying audio, which helps out those around you.
Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the notebook is pretty good, but don’t expect it to stay perfectly cool during gameplay. The palmrest and keyboard warm up quite a bit in performance mode when gaming, even while the fans kick up some speed. During normal conditions case temperatures are pretty run of the mill, but the fan noise can get annoying. This notebook has quite a hyper cooling system that likes to speed up for a fraction of a second, then drop in speed, then repeat 50 times. If Gateway would come out and release a firmware fix that would put a delay on the fan speed I would be overjoyed. It is not that the fan is loud, but the constant changing in pitch will drive you up the wall in no time.
Battery life with the screen brightness set to 60%, wireless enabled and active, and the notebook on the Windows Vista “Balanced” profile was 3 hours and 10 minutes. For 17″ gaming notebook this is fairly impressive, and should give plenty of time for a bit of use inside or between classes.
The Gateway P-7811 FX is easily the best bang for the buck gaming notebook sold right now. For a hair under $1,400 you have a portable gaming rig that can play Crysis at 30FPS at a decent resolution, and play nearly all other modern games with decent frame rates. On top of that you get a great glossy WUXGA display and reasonable battery life.
For the above reasons, this notebook easily wins an Editor’s Choice award for September 2008. While it might not have the highest performance out of any gaming notebook we have tested, it easily wins out at the much lower price point. Gateway sure has a knack for building affordable gaming rigs, and being sold in lot of retail locations such as Best Buy is just the icing on the cake.
- Stunning display
- Awesome 3D performance, largely from the NVIDIA 9800M GTS
- Low selling price (only $1,399!)
- Cool color scheme
- Hyper cooling system
- Could have more USB ports -->