Gateway struck a nerve with its original low-cost FX P-series notebook, which gave gamers an affordable way to get good frame rates from a portable PC. The company applied the same formula to its new P-7811 FX and again comes up with a winning combination of hardware that’s sure to please budget-minded gamers.
Gateway has the right formula for budget mobile gaming.
What’s so great about this FX? First, there’s Intel’s new 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile P8400. This chip is similar to other 45nm mobile CPUs, but it runs on a 1,066MHz front-side bus on the new PM45 chipset, which supports DDR3. Gateway also stuffs 4GB of DDR3/1066 into the unit.
The notebook also features the new GeForce 9800M GTS, which is essentially a higher-clocked version of the GeForce 8800M GTS that offers 64 stream processors, a 512MB GDDR frame buffer, and a 256-bit memory interface.
Of course, you can’t stuff all this hardware into an ultraportable machine. With its 17-inch panel, the P-7811 FX weighs in at 9.2 pounds. That’s a lot to schlep around, but other gaming notebooks, such as Dell’s XPS M1730, weigh in at more than 10.5 pounds. The P-7811 FX is fairly thin, and if we had to carry it somewhere a few times a week it wouldn’t kill us, but it certainly isn’t a road warrior’s rig.
The P-7811 FX’s performance certainly doesn’t disappoint. In nongaming applications, it compares well to notebooks that are far more expensive, including Apple’s $2,500 MacBook Pro and Dell’s $2,000 XPS M1530. In gaming, it destroys both those models, as well as all others featured in our August notebook showdown. We can’t compare the P-7811 FX directly to the Alienware Area-51 m15x we reviewed in June because we’ve changed our benchmarks since then, but we believe the Area-51, with its faster GeForce 8800M GTX GPU and Core 2 Extreme X900 CPU, would best the P-7811 FX. On the other hand, the Gateway costs a fraction of the Area-51’s price.
So what’s the downside? For starters, the speakers. For a notebook this size, we expect booming audio—the P-7811 FX’s output is just average. We’re also not fans of the trick-or-treat color scheme, which strikes us as garish. And the DVD eject button is poorly placed. It’s easy to accidentally press it while picking up the notebook. Finally, we have a problem with the power cord’s right-angle plug. One of the most common failure points in a notebook PC is the port where the power plug is attached, and much more stress is generally put on a right-angle power plug due to its orientation. Just repositioning the plug torques the power port.
Still, there’s a lot to like here. The original FX was a big hit, and this follow-up, with its HDMI and eSATA ports, great performance, and low price, is sure to follow suit. Who is this notebook for? Clearly not anyone concerned with mobility. As we noted, you don’t want to carry this beast every day. But for a gamer who has limited space options, the FX is a hell of a notebook and a hell of a deal.
Ed note: Due to a vendor error, the Gateway P-7811 unit does not actually include Bluetooth nor the fingerprint reader at the $1400 price point.
Gateway P-7811 FX
Superb gaming performance for a superb price.
Too heavy to regularly lug around; mouse buttons feel creaky.
Gateway P-7811 FX
Intel 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile P8400
200GB Seagate Momentus (7,200 rpm)
GeForce 9800N GTS
74 sec/18 sec
9.2 lbs/10.5 lbs
Gateway P-7811 FX
Premiere Pro CS3
1, 860 sec
Best scores are bolded. Our zero point notebook uses a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GB of DDR2/667 RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a GeForce Go 8600M, and Windows Vista Home Premium.