We were impressed by Gateway’s NX860X notebook back in August 2006, so we decided to order the updated XL version with all the trimmings to see what this gaming laptop can do. Though it’s not as fancy as some notebooks from other integrators, it offers more bang for the buck than any notebook we’ve evaluated.
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 how fast it ran 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.
We’ve had quite a history with The Cow Company, having evaluated six of its systems previously. And most of its systems have done rather well in the eyes of [H] Consumer, with no system garnering lower than an “8” verdict. Though Gateway has never totally blown us away with its systems, it’s never let us down to the point where we would not recommend it as a company. Throughout all of its evaluations so far, it’s been amazingly consistent in its ability to provide high-quality systems at an affordable price, with decent-to-excellent tech support.
In fact, Gateway has been so consistent that we recently named it Best Tier One Integrator in our first annual Best of the Best awards article.
We recently looked at Gateway’s Core 2 Duo-based gaming machine, the FX510XG, which performed well, but we were let down by the company’s lackluster tech support. Its midrange DX310X also handled itself quite well given its ho-hum specifications and was a great all-around experience. We were also impressed with its desktop replacement notebook, the NX860X, which is the predecessor to the notebook we’re evaluating this time around.
The main differences between the NX860X and the “XL” version are that the XL has a Core 2 Duo compared to the Core Duo in the NX860X, and the XL’s extra gigabyte of memory for 2GB total. The XL also has a higher-resolution display and a faster GPU with the 7900 GS compared to the 7600 GS in our previous system.
This is a desktop replacement notebook, and as such it is loaded to the gills with high-performance hardware. Its primary selling point is its huge 17” display, which is quite large for a notebook. It sports a widescreen 16:10 aspect ratio and should be awesome for movies and general use.
The large display should also help in gaming performance, along with the NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS video card. Though it’s not a top-of-the-line configuration in terms of gaming power, we expect the XL to be capable of handling all of the games in our testing queue. However, we know going in that there’s no way the 7900 GS card is going to be able to run most of our games at the native resolution of 1920x1200. Hopefully, notching down the resolution won’t affect the image quality.
Since it’s a desktop replacement notebook, and not a thin-and-light or semi-portable device, we’ll be looking at battery life, heat output, and overall performance. Since this notebook costs the same price as a lot of desktops on the market and sports a Core 2 Duo processor, it should offer comparable performance to a desktop PC.
We also get to make an interesting comparison with this article, as our recent Dell XPS 1710 carried essentially the exact same hardware profile. The price spread between the two machines is close to $1,000, so we’re interested to see what one offers over the other.