Sporting a 17" widescreen LCD, the Gateway P-Series definitely fits into the "desktop replacement" category. Weighing in at 9.2 lb with the standard 9-cell battery, the P-Series is fairly heavy even for its class, but a thickness of 1.3"-1.7" means it isn't particularly bulky compared to other 17" gaming notebooks. While the hard numbers may say otherwise, the P-Series certainly didn't feel quite as big as other gaming notebooks we've encountered in the past, like the Dell XPS M1730. Our initial impression was that the P-6831 is quite slim and manageable. The impression of thinness is enhanced by the P-Series' chassis design which is a fairly conventional flat design with rounded edges, as opposed to the wedge designs commonly used by Toshiba or the blocky, almost muscular design of the XPS M1730.
The gaming oriented FX branch of the P-Series feature a black paint job with orange and silver highlights. The lid is decorated by a horizontal silver band with an orange 'FX' logo in the center and a silver-flake Gateway logo in the corner. The silver band features a detailed woven pattern vaguely resembling carbon fibre. The perimeter of the notebook is decorated by a single orange line that wraps around the front, left and right sides of the notebook. The paint job is glossy and reflective with an obvious "plastic" look to it. That isn't to say the notebook looks cheap, but you definitely won't mistake it for having a metal shell. Another advantage is the extreme fingerprint and smudge resistance of the paint, although dust will happily collect here and is quite visible.
Connectors and inputs are spread out around the notebook. On the left side are two USB ports stacked on top of each other with plenty of clearance in between to allow for two thick USB drives to be plugged in simultaneously. Next to them is a standard Kensington lock port. Also on the left side is the graphics card cooling vent and the optical drive. A third USB port can be found on the right side of the notebook, along with a 4-pin Firewire port, eSATA port, HDMI port, VGA-out port and the ethernet port. The headphone and microphone connectors can also be found on the right side. To the left of these connections is an 8-in-1 card reader and an ExpressCard slot.
The standard battery is a hefty 7800mAh lithium ion unit. The large 9-cell battery juts out from the back of the notebook by nearly a full inch. To the left of the battery is the processor cooling vent and the AC power and modem ports are located to the right. When tethered to the wall, the FX is powered by a 120W AC adapter.
A silver button on the front of the notebook operates the lid clasp and two blue LEDs to its left indicate power and battery status. To the right of the clasp button is a toggle switch for the notebook's internal wireless card. The notebook lid is fairly sturdy and can be opened with one hand without the unit lifting from the desk. There is a very small amount of flex in the lid but it is nothing to worry about and fairly standard for a notebook of this size. The hinge is fairly smooth and not too tight, although it isn't the best design we've encountered. The lid is held closed by two clasps which lock onto two hooks located at the top of the lid, above the screen. When closed, the lid is very secure and there is no room for play or flex.
The inside of the notebook is black, like the exterior, and it features the same orange highlighting. Except for the palm rest area at the bottom, the entire interior of the notebook is covered in dark brushed metal. The palm rest area is black plastic that's been decorated by a faint woven pattern similar to the pattern on the notebook lid. Our review unit came with a large sticker on the palm rest advertising the notebook's video card and gaming ability, along with an image of the main character from Gears of War. The sticker is very easy to remove and doesn't leave any residue, or you can leave it on. Located under the touchpad are a row of orange activity lights that display the status of the wireless card, hard drive activity as well as caps, num and scroll locks. Stereo speakers are located at the top corners of the notebook, above the keyboard and near the screen.
The keyboard is surrounded by a thick orange band. The keyboard features full-sized keys complete with a full numpad. Key layout is fairly typical for a notebook of this type. The keys themselves are coated in shiny black paint with bright white letters. The paint used for the letters reflects light very well and they are very visible, even when the only light source in the room is the notebook's screen. The effect isn't quite as good as a true backlit keyboard, but its just as functional.
Located above the keyboard is a row of multimedia shortcut keys that control multimedia playback as well as volume. The keys are backlit with orange LEDs and, for better or worse, they feature a design reminiscent of the buttons on the Motorola Razr. Unfortunately, like the Razr, the buttons have terrible feedback. In fact, there isn't any tactile feedback to speak of. The buttons don't "click", or make any sound and there is no way to tell if they have been activated. While this isn't ideal, it shouldn't be a huge issue since the buttons control multimedia playback and you will usually see the effects of your input immediately.
To the left of the Razr-esque button strip, are two standard buttons which thankfully do provide good tactile feedback. These buttons are also backlit with orange LEDs. The first is the power button and the second is a shortcut for Windows Media Center. The Media Center button can be pressed when the system is off which will turn it on and launch you right into Media Center as soon as Vista finishes booting. On the right side of the multimedia buttons is a small touch-sensitive strip that controls volume which worked quite well. Unfortunately this touch-strip isn't backlit but its close proximity to the top of the notebook means it should be well lit by ambient light from the screen.
Overall, the P-6831FX is aesthetically pleasing and it doesn't appear bulky or unwieldy. The build quality is good and the materials felt sturdy and of high quality.