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Gateway P-6831FX Gaming Notebook
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Date: Jul 02, 2008
Section:Mobile
Author: Michael Lin
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Introduction & Specifications




In the last six months we've seen a wide variety of cost effective, yet powerful, video cards hit the market. First came NVIDIA's superb GeForce 8800 GT last October which, despite being introduced at an upper mid-range price point, provided top-notch performance not far off from the best cards of the day at nearly 1/3 the price. The 8800 GT was followed closely by the launch of the thrifty GeForce 9600 GT just a few months later which provided similar performance for even less. Then, last week, ATI fired back with the excellent Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 video cards which retail at the same affordable mid-range prices but provide strong performance that is eclipsed only by the most monstrous and expensive cards currently available. Indeed, building a capable gaming computer hasn't been this cost effective in years and at this time we have an unprecedented number of solid video card choices in the mid-range price segment.

Unfortunately, nearly all of the action has been on the desktop. While notebook graphics have received a few updates in the last year, relatively little progress has been made in terms of performance in the mid-range. Since its debut last May, the
GeForce 8600M has been the poster child for mid-range mobile graphics. Until recently, it was the graphics card most commonly seen in multimedia and gaming inclined mid-range notebooks. This is unfortunate since the GeForce 8600M has shown that it simply isn't an ideal gaming card and it can't begin to compete with the superb mid-range desktop video cards of today. The introduction of the GeForce 9600M series and the Mobility Radeon HD 3600 series greatly expanded the number of graphics card choices available for mid-range notebooks, but unfortunately performance has not improved much over the previous generation.

The result of this stagnation in the mid-range mobile graphics segment is that gamers will need to upgrade to a high-end GeForce 8800M equipped notebook in order to enjoy gaming performance similar to a mid-range gaming desktop system. While there are quite a few manufacturers building 8800M equipped notebooks, almost all of them are high-end products that demand top dollar for the pleasure. Gateway's "P-Series FX" line-up of 17" gaming notebooks seems no different at first glance. However careful inspection of product specifications reveals that their most junior P-Series FX model weighs in at just $1,349.99, a decidedly mid-range price point. Yet it's still powered by a GeForce 8800M, just like the rest of the otherwise high-end FX notebook line-up. This GPU choice alone potentially makes the junior P-Series FX model one of the best gaming and multimedia machines in the entire mid-range notebook price segment, so we couldn't resist taking a closer look.




Gateway P-6831FX Gaming Notebook
System Specifications - As Reviewed
Processor
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T5450 (1.67Hz,2M L2 Cache,667MHz FSB)

Operating System
Windows Vista Home Premium

Memory
3GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM @ 667MHz

Screen
17" WXGA+ (1440x900) Ultrabright

Graphics Card
512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS

Communications
Gigabit LAN Controller
56k ITU v.92 ready Fax/Modem
Integrated 802.11a/b/g/n
Built-in Bluetooth™ V2.0+EDR

Camera
Integrated 1.3 MP web camera

Audio

HD 2-channel Audio
Built-in speakers and microphone


Hard Drive
250GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive

Optical Drive
Multi-format, Dual Layer, DVD-R/RW with DVD-RAM and LabelFlash Technology

Power
9-cell 7800 mAh Li-Ion Battery
120 Watt AC Adapter


Weight & Dimensions
Width: 15.75" (400 mm)
Depth: 11.75" (298 mm)
Height: 1.3"-1.7" (33 mm - 43 mm)
Weight: 9.2 lbs (4.2 kg) - includes 9-cell battery

External Ports
3 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin
1 x HDMI v1.2 Port
1 x eSATA
1 x 4-pin Firewire port
1 x RJ11 Modem port
1 x RJ45 Ethernet (
10/100/1000
) port
1 x 5-in-1 card reader
1 x ExpressCard 54mm slot
1 x headphone port (S/PDIF)
1 x stereo line-in (microphone) port



Included Accessories and Extras

Phone/modem cable
Manual & Quickstart Guide
Recovery DVD
Microsoft Works 9.0
Microsoft® Money Essentials
Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 (60-day complimentary trial period)
Norton Internet Security™ (60-day live updates)


Warranty And Support
1-year parts & labor limited warranty
1-year battery pack warranty




Price: $1,349.99 USD (as configured here)







 



Unlike the rest of the P-Series FX models, the P-6831FX can't be ordered from Gateway's website, nor can it be customized. It's only available at BestBuy in a single fixed configuration. Thankfully, it's fairly well equipped and you get a lot of bang for your 1,350 bucks. The P-6831FX is powered by a 512MB GeForce 8800M GTS, a very capable video card. The 17" screen only sports a somewhat low resolution for its size of 1440x900, but this may actually be a blessing in disguise. A lower resolution means you'll seemingly get even more gaming performance out of the GeForce 8800M than you would with a screen capable of a higher 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 resolution.

In order to keep costs down, Gateway has equipped the P-6831FX with a relatively low-end Core 2 Duo T5450 processor, one of the slowest of the mobile Core 2 Duo's. Thankfully the processor is the weakest link in the whole system and nothing else is notably lacking. While the T5450 is a perfectly fine office productivity and basic multimedia processor, we're a little worried about how it will perform in today's games. As you'll see in our benchmarks on the following pages though, our fears were relatively unfounded, at least when it came to gaming.
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Design & Build Quality




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.

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Software & Accessories




The P-6831FX comes with a lot of readng material. There is a Starter Guide, Setup Guide and a Reference Guide. The Setup Guide contains instuctions about basic operation and diagrams to show you where all the buttons and ports are. The Starter Guide is an extremely brief introducion to Vista, Internet Explorer, e-mail, Windows Media Player, Norton Internet Security and system recovery. Finally, the Reference Guide is a beefy manual that covers all the bases in relative detail. If that wasn't enough, a rather large handfull of ads are also included for good measure, along with a little business card that reminds you to register your new notebook with Gateway. In this mess of flyers and manuals, you'll also find the recovery DVD in a clear plastic sleeve. Other than the AC power adapter, the only included accessory was a length of phone cord.

     


Booting up the P-6831FX for the first time reveals quite a busy desktop. On first boot-up we were greeted by a number of pop-up windows asking us to configure various things like the pre-installed Norton Internet Security suite. Finally, after getting through all that, we're left with what you see in the screenshot below. While we wouldn't say the P-6831FX was clogged with bloatware, it certainly came with a lot of "extras".

The desktop has shortcuts for eBay, Gateway Connect, MS Office 60-day trial, and AOL. These are easily despensed with. In the taskbar, we found Gateway Camera Assistant, BigFix Client Edition (automated patching software), Google Desktop, Napster, and SpareBackup. The pre-installed Gateway Camera Assistant also has an auto-hiding sidebar that you can't see in the screenshot below. It resides on the left side of the desktop, opposite the Google Desktop bar on the right. Other pre-installed software include Nortan Internet Security, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Office 2007 60-day trial and Google toolbar. Overall, it isn't the most bloated bundle we've seen but it's certainly not ideal. Luckily most of these pre-installed programs are easy to get rid of if the user doesn't need them.
 




The P-6831FX also comes with the Gateway Games Console application. It's a simple game browsing service built and powered by Wild Tangent. The service allows you to play a variety of popular casual games. The P-6831FX came with full access to a large number of games ranging from puzzles to basic 3D shooters. Most of these games are flash or Shockwave based. There are also a number of downloadable games and tons of game demos. While these aren't blockbuster titles, the Games Console is a nice addition if you're into casual games.

The actual Games Console software is well laid out and easy to navigate. Everything is accessed from four tabs and the pages are presented within the main viewport. However, many of the buttons and options are actually links to webpages which open in your default browser.
 

  

  



Overall, the Gateway Games Console software works well and is a nice addition, but many power users probably won't be too interested in the games being offered. After all, if your into casual games, you wouldn't need a GeForce 8800M equipped gaming notebook.

Other pre-installed software like the Gateway Camera Assistant are also fairly well built and easy to use. The Gateway Camera Assistant is a basic interface for the built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam. It can take pictures, record video and add some basic visual effects. The pre-installed Spare Backup utility provides a simple way to create and restore backups of data while the BigFix utility tries to keep your computer up to date with patch and update information as well as basic diagnostic tools. 

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Usage Experience




For a full week, we incorporated the Gateway P-6831FX into our daily routine, substituting it for our usual laptop of choice. We lugged the P-6831FX with us around town on a daily basis and attempted to get into as many usage scenarios as we could think of. From reading HotHardware while sipping lattés and typing up this article to gaming in the library (with headphones, of course) and watching movies on the subway, we tried it all and feel we're ready to report our findings.



Throughout our week of testing, we found the P-6831FX to be a a very sturdy notebook. While it's quite a bit bigger and heavier than we would have liked for commuting, it was fairly manageable and it didn't lead to any serious bouts of back pain. This definitely isn't the best choice for the frequent traveler, but if you must travel, the P-6831FX isn't the worst choice either. However, the P-Series FX notebooks are really built for gaming and we certainly did plenty of that during our testing.  As you'll see in the benchmarks on the upcoming pages, the GeForce 8800M under the hood had no trouble with anything we threw at it.  

We found the largely plastic chassis to be surprisingly tough. It survived the bumps and bruises of the public transportation system and in a week of commuting we didn't manage to put a single scratch on it. The P-6831FX also stayed planted on our desk during more intense gaming sessions, thanks to four grippy rubber feet that eagerly latched onto most flat surfaces.

 

Upgrading Options

The bottom of the P-Series chassis has two removable panels that cover all of the user serviceable internals. The top panel hides the CPU, chipset, RAM and network cards. A single large heat-pipe connects the CPU and chipset to a heatsink assembly at the back of the notebook which is cooled by a low-profile blower fan. The two DDR2 SO-DIMM slots are located right under the CPU and two mini-PCI slots are located to the left of the memory. The P-6831FX comes with a 802.11g network card, leaving the second mini-PCI slot open and up for expansion. We liked that the CPU is so easily accessible since perhaps some users may wish to upgrade the Core 2 Duo T5450 to a more powerful chip. It is worth noting that the graphics card is not accessible unless you completely disassemble the notebook.
 

     



The second panel hides the two 2.5" hard drive bays. Each hard drive bay is occupied by a thin, removable metal tray that the hard drives fit into. To install a drive, the metal tray must first be removed and installed on the hard drive. Then the assembled tray slides into the drive bay. The P-6831FX only comes with a single 250GB drive, leaving the second bay open and ready for upgrading.


Keyboard & Touchpad

The keyboard is surrounded by a thick orange band and features full-sized keys complete with a full numpad. Key layout is fairly typical for a notebook. Unfortunately Gateway has placed the Fn key on the edge of the keyboard where the Ctrl key normally would be. We much prefer that the Fn key be placed between the Ctrl key and the Windows key on notebooks. The rest of the layout is fairly good with a full-sized Enter and Backspace key. 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 it's just as functional.
 




Overall we found the keyboard to be fairly good but the keys did exhibit a slightly "spongy" feel. However, this wasn't a problem during gaming and we found key response to be quite good. The touchpad on P-Series notebooks is fairly large, with two large buttons underneath. We found the touchpad to be a good size and easy to use. The buttons also gave good feedback and were easy to depress.


Display

The P-6831FX is equipped with a 17" widescreen LCD with a native resolution of 1440x900. This isn't a very high resolution for a 17" notebook screen and we've certainly seen much higher resolutions on other gaming notebooks. We found that the lower resolution did limit the amount of desktop real-estate we had to work with, but the screen fared much better in games. A higher resolution screen would provide a crisper, more detailed image, but we didn't find the P-6831FX's screen to be lacking in that regard. One disadvantage of using a higher resolution is the performance penalty that is incurred since the video card needs to drive that many more pixels. The P-6831FX's rather modest resolution is quite easy on the GeForce 8800M GTS under the hood and we experienced excellent gaming performance, as you'll see in the benchmarks.

Unfortunately, the screen quality wasn't the best. While backlight bleed was minimal, the screen's useful viewing angle is very limited. Like most LCD screens based on TN panel technology, the P-6831FX's screen suffered from poor vertical viewing angles and the horizontal viewing angles aren't anything to write home about either. However, the screen is very quick and we never noticed any ghosting or streaking. Images and video remained crisp and clear even during was fast-moving action. Overall, the screen won't win any awards for image quality or color accuracy, but it is plenty capable of presenting a good gaming and multimedia experience for a single person siting directly in front of it, and for this type of notebook, that is all it really needs to do. 


Speakers & Sound Quality

Gateway P-Series notebooks sport a pair of stereo speakers at the top corners of the notebook, near the lid hinges. Due to the limited space and poor acoustic properties of notebooks, most of them have poor audio playback capabilities and the P-Series is no exception, although it manages to come out significantly above average. The sound quality isn't good enough to entice serious audiophiles to forgo an external speaker setup completely, but it will provide relatively enjoyable playback while you're on the go.

During our testing, we listened to a lot of music and we found the P-6831FX's speaker sounded very hollow and there was a definite high-end bias. This is very common with notebook speakers. Bass was nowhere to be found and the mid-range was barely there. However, unlike most notebooks, the P-6831FX didn't sound small or "tinny" and the highs weren't as harsh as on other notebook speakers. The very noticeable lack of bass also made movies and some games less enjoyable, but once again, you're unlikely to find significantly better sound quality on any notebook.

Overall, you'll probably want to invest in a good pair of external speakers or a nice set of headphones for everyday use but the built-in speakers will work in a pinch for a quick YouTube video or two. 


Heat & Noise

Surfing the web or performing other less demanding tasks, the notebook remained whisper quiet and cool to the touch. Under heavy load during gaming and benchmarking, the GPU fan on the left side of the notebook did eventually ramp up to a higher speed and produced noticeable noise, but it wasn't too loud unless you were specifically listening for it. After several hours of benchmarking the right side of the palm rest, to the right of the touchpad, did become fairly warm to the touch. However it wasn't so hot as to be uncomfortable.

The GPU cooling vent on the left side of the notebook produced a constant stream of warm air at all times. The area is hot enough to heat up a book we placed near the vent. After about half an hour, the entire book was warm to the touch, on all sides. When the system is under load, the stream of air exiting the notebook increases significantly in temperature and intensity, however the user is unlikely to notice unless they use their mouse left-handed, in which case it could become a problem. The CPU cooling vent at the back of the notebook also produced a stream of warm air, although it is much more subdued compared to the GPU vent.  Overall, the P-6831FX is a fairly well behaved notebook, producing neither too much heat or noise.

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Test Setup & 3DMark06 CPU




The Gateway P-6831FX was left "as delivered" for the duration of benchmarking. This represents the configuration that the consumer would receive the system in. Nothing was installed or altered, with the exception of the necessary benchmarking software. We decided to compare the P-6831FX to the Dell XPS M1730, ASUS C90S, Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4 and Toshiba Satellite A305 for points of reference.


HotHardware's Mobile Test Systems
Covering the bases

Gateway P-6831FX

Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 (1.67GHz)

3GB DDR2-667

512MB NVIDIA
GeForce 8800M GTS

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

250GB Hard Drive
5,400 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home Premium

17" WSXGA+ Display
(native 1680x1050)
Dell XPS M1730
Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900
(2.8GHz)

2x1GB DDR2-667

Dual
256MB NVIDIA
GeForce 8700M GT

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

2x200GB in RAID0
7,200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home Premium

17" WUXGA Display
(native 1920x1200)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 (2.1GHz)

3GB DDR2-667

Dual 256MB NVIDIA
GeForce 8600M GT

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

2x160GB Hard Drives (no RAID)
7,200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate

17" WSXGA+ Display
(native 1680x1050)
 
 


 
ASUS C90S

Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66GHz)

2x1GB DDR2-667

512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

160GB Hard Drive
7,200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate

15.4" WSXGA+ Display
(native 1680x1050)


Toshiba Satellite A305


Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 (2.1GHz)

3GB DDR2-667

512MB NVIDIA
Mobility Radeon HD 3650

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

2x200GB Hard Drives (no RAID)
5,400 RPM/4,200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home Premium

15.4" WXGA Display
(native 1280x800)
 


Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 CPU Performance Module
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

To start out our testing, we began with a focus on CPU performance, utilizing FutureMark 3DMark06's CPU performance module. 3DMark06's test is a multi-threaded "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems. This test consists of different 3D scenes that are generated with software and hardware GPU renderers, which is also dependant on the host CPU's performance. In its CPU tests, the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the central processor.  GPU rendering tests employ a mix of SM2.0, SM3.0 and HDR techniques and effects.





The Gateway P-6831FX isn't off to a particularly good start, coming in last in our first benchmark. This isn't surprising however, since the P-6831FX's Core 2 Duo T5450 is the slowest processor out of all of our comparison notebooks. At only 1.67GHz, with 2mb of L2 cache, the T5450 is one of the slowest mobile Core 2 Duo processors available.

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Futuremark PCMark Vantage



For our next round of benchmarks, we ran the complete Futuremark PCMark Vantage test suite.

"The PCMark Suite is a collection of various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD test sets with the focus on Windows Vista application tests. Tests have been selected to represent a subset of the individual Windows Vista Consumer scenarios. The PCMark Suite includes CPU, Graphics, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and a subset of Consumer Suite tests."

 
 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 'Memories', HDD and Communications

The PCMark Vantage "Memories" suite includes the following tests:

Memories 1 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU image manipulation and HDD picture import
Memories 2 - Two simultaneous threads, GPU image manipulation and
HDD video editing
Memories 3 -
Video Transcoding: DV to portable device
Memories 4 -
Video Transcoding: media server archive to portable device

 



The P-6831FX comes in last place in the PCMark Vantage Memories test. The DDR2-667 memory under the hood of the P-6831FX isn't uncommonly fast and in combination with the slow processor results in a relatively unimpresive showing.
 


The Vantage HDD suite includes the following tests:

HDD 1 - HDD: Windows Defender
HDD 2 - HDD: game HDD
HDD 3 - HDD: importing pictures
HDD 4 - HDD: Windows Vista start-up
HDD 5 - HDD: video editing
HDD 6 - HDD: Media Center
HDD 7 - HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player
 


 

The P-6831FX's sluggish 5400RPM hard drive lands it in second last place. Hard drive performance on the P-6831FX was not observed to be very good during regular usage. Copying files and installing programs seems to take longer than it should, even when the 5400RPM hard drive is taken into consideration. Load time in games was a bit longer too, but it wasn't that noticeable during our testing.
 


Vantage Communications suite includes the following tests:

Communications 1
- Three simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Data compression, Web page rendering: graphics content, 1024x768, windowed
Communications 2 - Three simultaneous threads. Web page rendering: open various news pages from IE 7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one, Data decryption: CNG AES CBC, HDD: Windows Defender
Communications 3 - Windows Mail: Search
Communications 4  - Two simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA - to simulate VOIP

 




Once again, the P-6831FX comes in last place. This time by a relatively significant amount. Its slower processor is the likely the culprit in this case. Data transcoding can be a fairly CPU intensive operation and the 1.67GHz T5450 powering the P-6831FX isn't able to keep up with the much faster processors of the other notebooks tested here.

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Futuremark PCMark Vantage Continued



We continue our test coverage with more modules from the comprehensive PCMark Vantage suite of benchmarks.

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 Gaming, Productivity, Music and Overall

Courtesy, Futuremark:  "Gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment for all ages. Today’s games demand high performance graphics cards and CPUs to avoid delays and sluggish performance while playing. Loading screens in games are yesterday’s news. Streaming data from an HDD in games – such as Alan Wake™ – allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action. CPUs with many cores give a performance advantage to gamers in real-time strategy and massively multiplayer games. Gaming Suite includes the following tests: "

Gaming 1 - GPU game test
Gaming 2 - HDD: game HDD
Gaming 3 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU game test, Data decompression: level loading
Gaming 4 - Three simultaneous threads, GPU game test, CPU game test, HDD: game HDD




The PCMark Vantage gaming tests have significant CPU intensive components. While the graphics card does play a role here in this module, it isn't a graphics specific test. This explains why the P-6831FX did so poorly. Despite having a fast graphics card, the slow processor let the P-6831FX down, landing it in last place.




Vantage Productivity suite includes the following tests:

Productivity 1 -
Two simultaneous threads, Text editing, HDD: application loading
Productivity 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, HDD: Windows Defender
Productivity 3 - HDD: Windows Vista start-up
Productivity 4 - Three simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, Windows Mail: Run Message Rules, Web page rendering: simultaneously open various pages from IE7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one



The Vantage Productivity test suite tests the system's processing, storage and memory systems. This is unfortunate since none of these are the P-6831FX's strong points. It comes in last place by a rather wide margin.



 

Vantage Music suite includes the following tests:

Music 1 - Three simultaneous threads, Web page rendering – w/ music shop content, Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player
Music 2 - Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless
Music 3 - Audio transcoding: MP3 -> WMA
Music 4 - Two simultaneous threads, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player
 




The P-6831FX technically comes in last in the music module, but it is basically tied with the Toshiba A305. The music module involves a lot of audio transcoding, which is a processor and memory intensive task.




The overall PCMark Vantage score is a weighted average of all of the modules in the Vantage suite calculated in total "PCMarks".  Here are the results:





Since the P-6831FX came in last place in nearly every single module, it's not surprising that it would come in last for the overall score. So far we've seen that the P-6831FX is poorly equipped for standard productivity tasks. Up next are some gaming benchmarks, the P-6831FX's strength. Hopefully it does better than what we've seen so far.

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Gaming Performance



For our first gaming-related benchmarks, we'll look at the Gateway P-6831FX's performance in Futuremark's 3DMark06. We also briefly looked at the P-6831FX's performance in Company of Heroes and Prey.

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06


3DMark06
3DMark06 is the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.




Here we see a very different story compared to our PCMark Vantage results. The GeForce 8800M GTS finally gets a chance to show us what it can do and it doesn't disappoint. The P-6831FX came in second for the overall score and it also secured the highest score for the Shader Model 3.0 test. The single GeForce 8800M GTS managed to outperform the Toshiba X205, which is equipped with dual GeForce 8600M GTs in SLI. This is just a preview of things to come.


 Real-world Gaming Performance
 Prey & Company of Heroes Performance

Company of Heroes and Prey were both configured to a high graphical detail setting. Every graphics setting was either turned on or set to "High". Anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering were disabled. The P-6831FX was tested with an external monitor using the HDMI output. This was done since the P-6831FX's screen does not support the resolutions we needed for comparison with the other notebooks. Check out the next page for benchmarks of the P-6831FX at it's native resolution of 1440x900.





Prey is our first real-world gaming test and the P-6831FX posts an amazing score, coming in at first place at both resolutions. Even at a resolution of 1680x1050, the P-6831FX managed to crank out nearly 90fps. Needless to say, Prey is definitely playable on the P-6831FX.





The P-6831FX performed very well in Company of Heroes. It significantly outpaced all of the other notebooks at 1680x1050, including the dual GeForce 8700M GT equipped XPS M1730. While the stress of the higher resolution causes the dual 8700M GTs to take a steep performance hit, the GeForce 8800M GTS is barely effected. Keep in mind that the P-6831FX has the slowest processor of the lot, to really appreciate how powerful the GeForce 8800M GTS under its hood is.

These tests were all conducted with the P-6831FX hooked up to an external monitor to achieve the resolutions we are testing at. Next, we'll see how it performs at it's native resolution.

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Gaming @ 1440x900



In our second set of gaming-related benchmarks, we'll look at the Gateway P-6831FX's performance at its native resolution of 1440x900 as well as with Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic filtering enabled.


 Real-world Gaming Performance @ 1440x900
 Prey, Company of Heroes & Crysis Performance


 




At the P-6831FX's native resolution, the GeForce 8800M GTS provides a bit more performance compared to 1680x1050. At the highest image quality we tested with anti-aliasing set to 4x and anisotropic filtering maxed out at 16x, the P-6831FX was still able to achieve a very good average frame rate of 86.4 fps. The game was perfectly playable and looked great.



We also experimented with Company of Heroes at 1440x900. We benchmarked the whole range of anti-aliasing settings for Company of Heroes. The P-6831FX performed very well at all settings and remained very playable even at 16x CSAA. Image quality was great and the game ran fairly smooth. However we did notice occasional stutter when scrolling around the battlefield. We attribute that to the slow processor or perhaps the hard drive, rather than dips in frame rate. 

Lastly, we spent some time in Crysis. While the GeForce 8800M GTS seems to have enough power to run Crysis smoothly at 1440x900 with image quality set to high, the P-6831FX was let down a bit by the relatively slow Core 2 Duo T5450 that comes with the P-6831FX.



We really felt the processor bottleneck in Crysis and we noticed a lot of stuttering, especially at the High image quality level. However, if you're willing to sacrifice some image quality, the P-6831FX will run Crysis at a playable frame-rate.  Overall, the native resolution of the P-6831FX seems like a good fit and all of the games we tried, with the exception of Crysis at high settings, ran well and looked great.

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Battery Performance




Battery Info & Performance
Transitioning Testing to MobileMark 2007

Rounding out our testing, we ran MobileMark 2007 to assess the notebook's overall battery life while running a series of applications through a testing script. 

We are using the standard benchmark settings from Bapco, along with a few other minor system tweaks. The screensaver was disabled and the volume was set at approximately 20%.

MobileMark 2007 utilizes the following applications

* Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0

* Adobe Illustrator CS2

* Adobe Photoshop CS2

* Apple QuickTime 7.1
* Intervideo WinDVD 8

* Macromedia Flash 8

* Microsoft Office 2003 Pro

* Microsoft Project 2003

* Winzip 10.0



The P-6831FX's bulky 9-cell, 7800mAh battery nearly earns its keep in the MobileMark 2007 battery test. It managed to provide about an hour and 48 minutes of battery life, which is fairly respectable for a notebook of this size. Battery life isn't nearly as important for a desktop replacement model like the P-6831FX, but it's nice to see that nearly two hours of battery life is on tap should it be needed. Unfortunately battery life while gaming would be significantly lower, in the sub 1 hour range. The P-6831FX's 120 watt AC power adapter is of an above average size and not very convenient to lugg around, but you'll need it if you plan on gaming for any meaningful length of time.

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Performance Summary & Conclusion





Performance Summary:  The P-6831FX produced excellent scores in all of our gaming related benchmarks. Not even the Dell XPS M1730 with its dual GeForce 8700M GT's in SLI could outperform the single GeForce 8800M GTS powering the P-6831FX. Though Dell has since upgraded the M1730 with dual GeForce 8800M GPUs as well. It is obvious that the P-6831FX's performance is bottlenecked by the low-end processor, but it still managed to produce amazing benchmark scores in our gaming tests. None of the other the mid-range notebooks in our test came close to the P-6831FX when it came to gaming.

Unfortunately the picture is quite different in productivity and CPU intensive tasks. It was easily outclassed in nearly every module of PCMark Vantage and performance in 3DMar06's CPU module was also quite poor. The P-6831FX also feels a little sluggish in Vista which is noticeable during simple tasks like web surfing and word processing. However, this is to be expected given the P-6831FX's low-end processor. 

Overall, the P-6831FX provided top-notch gaming performance unmatched in its price range. Unfortunately the P-6831FX isn't so much a well-rounded performer and processor performance left much to be desired. While the P-6831FX can handle basic productivity tasks without too much trouble, it's definitely out of its element a bit when it isn't running games.



 


We have spent a lot of time with the Gateway P-6831FX since receiving our review unit and we've thoroughly put it through it's paces. We found it to be an excellent notebook. The build quality is certainly very high and except for the odd fingerprint smudge, our review unit still looks like we just took it out of the box for the first time. Like other 17" notebooks, the P-6831FX is quite bulky and the chunky 9-cell standard battery which protrudes from the rear of the notebook by nearly an inch certainly doesn't help the situation. Battery life is mediocre given the notebook's size and specifications.

However the most interesting aspect of the P-6831FX is its unique combination of hardware and price point. Gateway smartly balanced the high cost of the GeForce 8800M GTS graphics chip with a cheap low-end processor to produce an affordable gaming notebook that is head and shoulders above other products in the sub-$1500 price range, as we saw in our benchmarks. While the P-6831FX is certainly bottlenecked by the entry-level processor, its GeForce 8800M GTS is a monster compared to mid-range mobile graphics chips like the 8600M GT and it has more than enough raw power to make up for the processor's shortcomings when it came to games. The fact the P-6831FX was able to outperform a XPS M1730 powered by a high-end Core 2 Extreme X7900 processor and dual GeForce 8700M GTs in SLI in our benchmarks, is proof of the P-6831FX's gaming prowess.

Unfortunately the P-6831FX isn't an especially versatile machine out-of-the-box. While it kicks serious butt in games, it's weak processor prevents you from tackling CPU intensive tasks and the low screen resolution hampers productivity. Thankfully all of these issues can be remedied with a few easy end-user upgrades like the use of an external screen via the P-6831FX's VGA or HDMI outputs, and a processor upgrade for increased computational ability. A Core 2 Duo T8000 series mobile processor can be found for between $200-$300 and will provide the number crunching power the P-6831FX is sorely lacking. Installing the processor is also fairly straight forward thanks to the excellent accessibility of the CPU socket. Even with a
$300 Core 2 Duo T9300 processor upgrade, the P-6831FX is still just $1650, which is several hundred cheaper than most other similarly equipped gaming notebooks.

Gateway has produced a very unique product with the P-6831FX. A mid-range notebook with high-end gaming performance that is simply unmatched at this price range. While the P-6831FX does have it's share of shortcomings, none of them encroach on it's primary function of providing excellent gaming and multimedia performance, which it does extremely well. We believe the Gateway P-6831FX represents the one of  best values in gaming notebooks currently and is left with slim competition in the sub-$1500 price range, when it comes to raw gaming performance. We would easily recommend to anyone interested in a gaming notebook to take a good look at the P-6831FX and we're happy to award it our Editor's Choice award.
 

 


On a side note, while we were busy evaluating the P-6831FX, Gateway updated their entire P-Series line-up. The P-6831FX has been upgraded to the P-6860FX and besides its new model number, it also gained a new processor, the slightly more powerful Core 2 Duo T5550 @ 1.83Ghz, an extra gigabyte of memory for a total of 4GB and a 320GB hard drive (upgraded from 250GB). The best part is the price remains unchanged at $1349.99.  These upgrades make the P-6831FX (or should we say P-6860FX?) an even better deal than it already is.

 

 

  • Unmatched Value
  • Best Gaming Performance For The Price
  • Good Build Quality
  • Plenty of Features
  • Room For Upgrades
  • Relatively Weak Processor
  • Screen only 1440x900
  • Poor Deal For Non-gamers



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