Our fifth offering from the spotted-cow OEM performs as a mid-level PC should, but can it set itself apart from the rest of the herd?
As many of you might know by now, [H] Consumer doesn’t "review" systems; we evaluate the experiences they facilitate. We order the system the same as you would and evaluate every aspect of the end-user experience. Not only does this give us a better idea of what hardware an end user actually receives, it also allows us to obtain a more accurate picture of just how each company functions and treats its customers. As fast as PC hardware has become over the years, we think giving a personal computer "5 stars" based on a synthetic benchmark is simply irresponsible. We think service, support, and reliability are much more important factors in today's climate than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
This process allows us to not only evaluate the system, but the OEM that builds it. Our goal is to give you the wide-angle lens view of the computer and the company so that you can make informed and educated decisions about what you purchase or recommend to clients, friends, and family.
As one of the stalwart “Big Three” American computer manufacturers, the California-based company has provided several pervious offerings to [H]ardOCP. Among the systems we’ve evaluated are the 9310XL, an upper echelon machine aimed at the gaming market; the FX400XL, which had a Pentium D processor of the previous generation to our current system; a widescreen desktop replacement NX860X; and the CX200X Tablet PC. We also took a look at Gateway’s economy line of computers in the form of an eMachines T6528 and an eMachines 3418 back in May and June.
Gateway has shown [H] Consumer that it’s a solid, stable, high bang-for-the-buck computer manufacturer, whose customer support has been consistently good. Having said that, none of the systems we’ve looked at has distinguished itself as being particularly outstanding. Other [H] Consumer editors have noted the same thing in their respective analyses of Gateway machines. Different things bothered different editors. With the 9310XL, we didn’t like the bloatware and disaster recovery methods; with the FX400XL, we had a mediocre experience with technical support; and so on and so forth. Gateway has always been just barely off of the mark in every evaluation. Consequently, they have performed solidly, but solidly average.
The DX310X is targeted firmly at the crowded, middle-of-the-road PC market. As such, we have certain expectations about how it compares to other machines at roughly the same price point. We’ve never had an NVIDIA 7300 series card in our offices, so we’re interested to see what it’s capable of. Adding the card was a $59 upgrade over the standard, integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. We’ll see if the upgrade was worth it in our Gaming section.
We’re also looking for our usual hallmarks of quality, including but not limited to the build quality (including the presence or absence of bloatware), upgradeability, technical support, intelligent packaging, and stability. Gateway is a sizeable company that ships a lot of systems, so sheer statistics tell us that there will occasionally be problems. If there are, can their technical support group live up to our expectations while trying to fix them? Gateway has shown us in the past that they stand by their products. We’ll see how they fared this time.
Here’s what we got: