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Maximum PC Staff Jun 30, 2009

Gateway FX6800

At A Glance

Multithreading

Quieter and faster than many far more expensive PCs.

Single Threading

MicroATX board limits your expansion capabilities.

Who says a gaming PC has to break the bank?

Gateway’s trademark cow is long dead, but that doesn’t mean the company can’t be its quirky old self—something the FX6800 gaming rig illustrates perfectly. With its itsy-bitsy, microATX board, “I don’t care about appearances” wiring, and moderate price, you’d think the box would be easily outclassed by the custom, hand-built PCs we see every month. Well, think again.

The FX6800’s secret is under the hood. While the majority of the machines we’ve tested lately are still running overclocked Core 2 Extreme CPUs, Gateway reached for the midrange Core i7-940. The top-end CPU may be the speed king, but we seriously wondered if a stock-clocked, 2.93GHz Core i7-940 could even hang with those 4GHz Core 2 Extreme rigs.

The results were surprisin. While the FX6800 didn’t clean anyone’s clock, the Core 2 Quad boxes didn’t exactly blow the lowly $3,000 Gateway out of the water, either. For example, the radical, oil-cooled, nearly $11,000, Hardcore Reactor that we reviewed in March was only six percent faster in our Premiere Pro CS3 test and 10 percent faster in Photoshop CS3. Perhaps even more embarrassing is the Reactor’s score in our ProShow Producer and MainConcept tests. Both benchmarks are multithreaded and thus we saw the eight-core (four real, four Hyper-Threaded) FX6800 acing the Reactor by 31 percent in ProShow Producer and achieving near dead-even scores in Main Concept. The performance gap was shocking considering the 1GHz clock gap and massive price difference between the two machines.

In gaming, the FX6800’s single ATI HD Radeon 4870 X2 card couldn’t compete with the competition’s CrossFire and SLI configurations, though. In Crysis, the 4870 X2 saw frame rates in the 34fps range. The tri-SLI Reactor ran in the 53fps range.

Just because the FX6800 comes with only one videocard doesn’t mean the machine can’t run CrossFire. It’s true that you lose two slots going from ATX to microATX, but the board in the FX6800 features two x16 physical slots, so a second X2 card could be mounted. The Delta PSU in the rig even features a harness to support a second graphics card, but we don’t know if it can deliver the needed juice.

There are some other nice touches in the FX6800. The top-mounted media reader features a copy button that automatically copies files to the PC. We like the FX6800’s storage config, which features Intel’s speedy 64GB X-25M SSD drive and a 1TB Seagate Barracuda. Not great, but not bad. We particularly like the two additional, easy-to-access drive bays in front. Slide open a door, and you can insert two 3.5-inch SATA drives to act as backup. Further adding to the convenience, Gateway has a backup button that activates Vista’s built-in backup application.

There’s a lot to like about the FX6800. It’s not Kick Ass–worthy, but it’s pretty affordable, and it won’t leave you embarrassed, even if you compare it to last month’s fire-breather. The FX6800 is a little like driving your dad’s AMC AMX against an exotic car in a street race. The other car may be louder and flashier, but it still can’t pull away from your funky ’70s ride.

Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-940 (2.93GHz)
MOBO
Custom microATX using Intel X58 chipset
RAM 6GB DDR/1333
Videocard
ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2
Soundcard
Integrated
Storage
Intel 80GB X25-M, 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11
Optical
HL-DT-ST GH15F DVD burner
Case/PSU
Custom / Delta 1000 Watt
Benchmarks

Zero Point
Gateway FX6800
Premiere Pro CS3 1,260 sec
644 sec
Photoshop CS3
150 sec
113 sec
ProShow
1,415 sec 614 sec (+130%)
MainConcept 1,872 sec
1,204 sec
Crysis 26 fps
34 fps
Unreal Tournament 3
83 fps
122 fps

Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We run two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, LG GGC-H20L, Sound Blaster X-Fi, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.

THE VERDICT

Gateway FX6800

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