Features

The system we were sent for review is a nearly maxed out FX530 configuration, the FX530XT. Prices start at $4000, but a few extras increase the system as tested cost to around $4400. For that price, you get not only the overclocked QX6700, but you also get a 24" LCD with speaker attachment and all of the other sundry extras like a keyboard and mouse. (We will be providing a separate review of the LCD in the near future.) Here's a quick look at the test system's features.

Gateway FX530XT
Case: Gateway custom BTX case
Motherboard: Intel BTX 975X (custom)
Processor: Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Overclocked (12x266MHz 3.20 GHz 2x4MB shared L2 cache)
Heatsink/Cooling: Custom BTX CPU HSF with dual 120mm fans at front and rear of case
RAM: 2x1024MB Hynix PC-5300 5-5-5-15
Graphics: ATI Radeon X1950 XTX CrossFire (custom)
ATI Radeon X1950 XTX
Hard Drives: 2x150GB Western Digital Raptor 16MB 10000 RPM in RAID 0
Optical Drives: HL Data Storage GSA-H11N 16X DVD+RW
Lite-On SOHC-4836V 16X DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo
Expansion Slots: 2 x PCIe X16 (X16 and X4 or dual X8)
1 x PCIe X1
2 x PCI
Expansion Bays: 4 x 3.5" internal bays
2 x 5.25" external
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi
TV Tuner: ATI Theater 550
Power Supply: 700W Delta Electronics
1 x 24-pin ATX; 1 x EPS12V
5 x SATA
3 x 4-pin Molex
1 x 4-pin mini Molex
2 x PCI-E 6-pin
Operating System: Windows Media Center Edition 2005 SP2b
Front Ports: 2 X USB2.0
2 X 3.5mm Audio (Headphone and Microphone)
2 x 6-pin Firewire
Rear Ports: 1 x Audio I/O Panel (five jacks)
Optical and Coax S/PDIF Out
1 x RJ45 GbE
4 x USB2.0
1 x 6-pin Firewire
Speakers: LCD TDX speaker bar
Monitor: Gateway 24" FPD2485W Widescreen LCD Monitor
Other: 9-in-1 flash reader
Dimensions: 16.5" x 8" x 17.5" (HxWxD)
Weight: 40 pounds

For the most part, the system configuration is an exercise in selecting the best components currently available. Without further overclocking, it is impossible to find a faster CPU on the market today. This processor is backed up by a pair of the fastest hard SATA drives, the Western Digital Raptor 150GB, configured in RAID 0. You also get 2GB of memory and X1950 XTX CrossFire graphics cards. Our particular system added an optional Creative X-Fi soundcard and an ATI Theater 550 TV tuner. Our first impression is that this will be one of the fastest systems currently available, but let's take a closer look at a few areas.

Given the extremely fast processor, 2GB of memory is a good starting point - you can always move to 4GB, but we would recommend a 64-bit operating system in that case. What struck us as slightly off was that Gateway uses somewhat lower performance DDR2-667 memory, rather than going with one of the readily available DDR2-800 modules. We asked about this, and were informed that the Intel BTX motherboard does not support DDR2-800 memory. That seemed a bit hard to believe, so we decided to try installing our own Corsair DDR2-800 DIMMs, which also sport faster 4-4-4 timings.

True to Gateway's word, the system utterly failed to POST, greeting us with beeps from the PC speaker that indicated a memory error. This is most likely a BIOS issue that could be corrected in the future, but basically we have a situation where a manufacturer is using a top performing CPU with less-expensive memory. That's not ideal if maximum performance is your ultimate goal, as performance will be slightly lower (around 2%-5%) than what could have been achieved with better memory. However, faster memory tends to cost quite a bit more than the added performance that it brings, and major OEMs are known for being very cautious when it comes to using higher spec memory modules. In practice, outside of running benchmarks few people are likely to notice the difference between DDR2-800 and DDR2-667 memory. It would be nice to have the option to choose faster memory, but the lack of DDR2-800 support is not the end of the world

All of the other equipment looks to be a good choice for a high-end gaming/workstation PC. You get FireWire 1394a support (three ports), a dedicated X-Fi soundcard, two optical drives, a decent amount of hard drive storage (which can be configured differently should you so desire - maximum hard drive capacity is four 750GB drives, currently allowing up to 3TB of storage), networking (wireless optional), and basically everything you would expect to find in a high-performance enthusiast computer. The one area where Gateway definitely falls short right now, unfortunately, is in the graphics department.

It's no secret that NVIDIA has reclaimed the performance crown with their G80 (GeForce 8800 series) graphics cards. What's more, these are the only currently shipping DirectX 10 offerings on the market. In some cases, a single 8800 GTX is able to match the performance of X1950 XTX CrossFire, but if you want the absolute fastest performance possible in games right now you can run two 8800 cards in SLI mode. The problem is, SLI requires an NVIDIA chipset on the motherboard, and the Gateway system uses an Intel 975X chipset. The net result is that Gateway is charging $900 in graphics upgrades (relative to the 7600 GS graphics card included on the base FX530 models), but for that price we would much rather have a pair of GeForce 8800 GTS cards.

We asked about this, and were informed that Gateway basically had a choice of either preparing for the Windows Vista launch or spending time validating the new 8800 hardware, and they opted for the former. Whether that's actually correct or not is an important. The simple fact is that right now, the FX530 is not going to be the fastest gaming system on the planet - in some cases not even close. What's more, we did verify whether or not a GeForce 8800 GTX could fit into this system. It's a tight fit, and it required a bit of wrangling, but we did manage to install an EVGA 8800 GTX into the lower X16 slot. The top X16 slot cannot be used, because the 8800 GTX is a dual slot design and there's no open mounting bracket at the rear of the case for the second slot cover. The NVIDIA driver control panel reported that the lower X16 slot was operating at X4 speeds, so that's another performance penalty. In essence, if you're serious about gaming, we would either wait and see what Gateway has to offer in the future in the way of updated graphics cards, or else we would look to another system vendor.

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  • Tuvoc - Saturday, February 17, 2007 - link

    Thanks for that.
    Presumably there was no evidence of throttling while you were testing ? I'm surprised at 1.45v on air at 3.2 that it stayed cool enough. Maybe the BTX case design helps a lot

    I have an Intel Quad Core on an ASUS P5N-E SLI 650i which you've reviewed. With vcore on auto (which os presumably the default 1.35v), CPU-Z reports as low as 1.20v under full load, from a starting value of about 1.28 (vdroop on this board is a little higher than normal as you found in your review). But the difference between the Gateway 1.45v BIOS setting and the CPU-Z figure of 1.238v is extreme...

    Now if only I could get a proper coretemp program to monitor temps under Vista x64..... (I mean proper core temps, not ASUS Probe temps..)
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, February 10, 2007 - link

    I know it is already overclocked to 3.2GHz, but it would have been nice if you reported the core-temperatures and found out how much further it would overclock. Assuming of course the options were available in the BIOS for further overclocking and over-volting. Reply
  • anandtech02148 - Saturday, February 10, 2007 - link

    Lianli Case would be luxury and modular. you can take out parts just so to fit a 8800gtx.

    $4000 to spend, there's a riches that this Gateway can only show with a quad cpu. no fancy rams or mobos.
    Reply
  • Genx87 - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    Yup that's a Gateway. I hate their cases btw.

    Reply
  • bamacre - Saturday, February 10, 2007 - link

    Yeah, me too. I think as far as OEM's, Dell has the best cases, hands down. Reply
  • Vidmar - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    One thing I didn't see mentioned in your article is that all Gateways are now being built (assembled) in the USA. Also all Gateway support is located in the USA as well. I think these two points are major pluses for that company. Reply
  • Vidmar - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    Ahh now I do see a bit on the support "Finally, Gateway also makes a point that they now offer 100% North America based phone support, so that should generally keep the communication barrier down to a minimum".

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Crassus - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    Revisiting the AMD Quad FX-74 power draw under load:

    When I looked at those numbers, suddenly a scene from one of the Harry Potter movies popped up in my mind. It's Harry waving his wand at something shouting "Ridiculous". In this case, it's a FX-74.

    For the record: I run a X2 and am pretty happy with it, and I'm not going to swap it out anytime soon.
    Reply
  • shortylickens - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    This baby uses my companies memory. Reply
  • Operandi - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    For $4,000 that is pretty blah looking box compared to an XPS or a Lian Li for your custom build.

    Also in regards to the PSU. Delta make very high quality units, much better then 90% of the "enthusiasts" class PSUs at any rate.
    Reply

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