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Micro-review: Gateway P-7811 FX gaming laptop

About a week and a half ago, I picked up the Gateway P-7811 FX at Best Buy for $1250 (on sale -- current price ~$1450). Here's the specs:

Processor Platform
Intel Centrino 2
Intel Core(TM)2 Duo
Processor Speed
Display Type
WUXGA TFT widescreen (1920 x 1200)
Screen Size
System Bus
Cache Memory
3MB on die level 2
System Memory (RAM)
Type of Memory (RAM)
PC-6400 DDR3
Hard Drive Type
Serial ATA (7200 rpm)
Hard Drive Size
Optical Drive
Double-layer DVD±RW/CD-RW
NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS
Video Memory

I bought the laptop because it comes with DDR3 RAM, and has a GeForce 9800M GTS 512MB video card -- and because I paid less than half the price of something comparable from Dell, Toshiba, or HP.

In a word, it's awesome. I'll probably gush a bit, so I'll get the "dislikes" out of the way first. It's pretty heavy, though as "desktop replacement" laptops go it's about average. It's got some garish orange trim, and the indicator lights for WiFi, hard drive, etc. are a bit too bright. The media buttons (play, stop, track skip, etc.) are oddly cut from the bezel and don't "click" when you push them, but I don't use them much anyway. The volume control is a touch strip, which takes a bit of getting used to, but is actually kind of cool IMHO. The touchpad is... a touchpad, nothing to see here. It's got a full numeric keypad, and the keys have nice travel to them. The arrow keys live under the Enter key, but don't get in the way.

The performance blows me away. It ships with Vista Home Premium x64, and I just benchmarked at an "Experience Index" of 5.2 without any kind of tweaking or driver updates. I've been running a bunch of Source-engine games (TF2, HL2 episodes, etc) and they run like butter at maximum resolution. I've got the Supreme Commander demo -- no problem. I don't have anything that's *really* cutting edge, but I haven't found a game to throw at it that it won't handle with gusto.

Long story short, I love it. It's a steal of a deal, and I don't know what more I could ask for.
Yeah, many people took advantage of the $1250 sale. Thing about the Gateway gaming laptops is that they offer pretty much the best performance per dollar out of any gaming notebook. Of course, they cut back on certain things like the screen (luckily this one uses the WUXGA one, instead of the previous model which used the WXGA+), build quality, and not using a top of the line processor, but gaming performance is amongst the best. They also save money by using the second best GPU, instead of the best. (well, in this case, 3rd). 9800m GTS is, only a little bit slower than the 9800m GT, and costs a fair amount less. Out of the 9800s, the GTS is probably the best bang for the buck, followed by the GT and then the GTX.

Anyway, it's overall a really solid laptop if you want cheap mobile gaming. I've always been skeptical about build quality, but as long as you don't throw it and abuse it, you'll be fine. Out of it's competitors, I'd say the X305 isn't very different (but it's ugly), and the Sager NP5796 is faster and better built but costs a lot more.

Anyway, good decision you made. Glad you managed to grab that sale. But whatever you do, don't play Crysis. Although it can easily handle it, try WUXGA with 4x AA and very high in DX10 mode. Razz Would make a fun slideshow. Trust me, that poorly coded game will make any laptop look slow.

Enjoy your new rig!
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