Introduction

It's a given fact that computers have been getting smaller since the days of vacuum tubes and ENIAC. What was once a glorified calculator that took up a space the size of a football field can now fit in something the size of your watch. Tasks that used to take months to compute on a mainframe can now be calculated in minutes on a midrange desktop system. Even in a relatively short period of time, we still see progression so that your top-end desktop gaming powerhouse from two or three years ago can be surpassed by a modern laptop.

That's all well and good, but a big problem a lot of people have with gaming notebooks is that their size relative to typical laptops is rather large, making them less convenient to carry around. Relatively short battery life is another drawback. But perhaps the biggest drawback is a very simple one: price.

We recently looked at the Dell XPS M1730, which is arguably the fastest gaming notebook currently available. With its 8800M GTX SLI graphics chips and overclockable Penryn X9000 CPU, you get performance that surpasses most desktops from 18 months ago, or if you prefer performance that will match a reasonably configured midrange desktop system. If you put together a Core 2 Duo E8400 system with something between GeForce 9600 GT 512 SLI and 8800 GT 512 SLI graphics, you should have roughly comparable performance. The problem is that such a desktop system can be assembled for less than $1500, whereas the powerful XPS M1730 costs about three times as much.

What would be really nice is if we had a viable midrange gaming laptop alternative — something that offers reasonable performance for under $1500. We're not talking about any of the junk shipping with integrated graphics, or low-end stuff like GeForce 8400 or even 8700M GT. And while they're reasonably fast, even single GPU 8800M GTX notebooks like the AVADirect (Clevo) M570RU start at over $2000. How about a laptop with graphics performance that can at least match the GeForce 9600 GT? After all, the 9600 GT can be had for a mere $150 and it doesn't seem to consume that much power; how hard can it be to put something like that into a laptop?

In fact, it's not really all that difficult, and NVIDIA launched exactly that sort of chip in late 2007 with the GeForce 8800M GTS. It has 64 Stream Processors, just like the 9600 GT. Most of the gaming laptops have opted for the more powerful (and more expensive) 8800M GTX with its 96 SPs, so we were quite interested to see exactly how much performance you give up by going with the 8800M GTS. Unfortunately, we can't really do an apples-to-apples comparison here, because Gateway didn't stop at cutting down the GPU. In the system we received, they also trimmed the CPU performance quite a bit, dropping all the way to a 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5450. That certainly means CPU performance isn't going to match up well against something like a 2.8GHz X9000; what we want to find out is whether it can still provide adequate performance.


If you've ever looked at buying a gaming notebook, you have likely been very disappointed in the offerings that cost less than $2000. In fact, up until Gateway dropped the P-6831 FX on the mobile gaming market, we honestly haven't seen anything that would even qualify as a good midrange gaming notebook. Gateway didn't just break a $2000 price barrier, however. Available at locations like Best Buy for a mere $1350 (and currently with a $100 rebate), the P-6831 FX completely redefines the midrange gaming notebook. Let's look at how they managed to do this.

Gateway P-6831 FX Overview
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  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Can anyone who has gotten the T5550 proc go to Gateway and enter your serial number and then check out the documentation and let us know if they only list the T5450 info or if they give you the T5550 info?

    I'm trying to figure out if I've got the T5450 or the T5550 before I open the box... of course the box says T5450 and when I enter my serial at gateway I only get the T5450 documentation as well. I also called gateway tech support and that person basically told me that he showed no records of any of these laptops getting the T5550 proc... but he seemed a little "off" to me though and that's of course an incorrect statement.

    TK.
    Reply
  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    ^^^ also though, I've read on the net (so take with some salt) that gateway released a patch because vista was incorrectly ID'ing the proc as a faster one... is there any merit to this... could we all have the T5450 but it's being miss-ID'd? Reply
  • Che - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    My box does say T5450, but I ran CPU-Z and it does identify it as the faster processor. I'll check the serial number later for ya. Reply
  • Che - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    I entered my serial # and it does state it was a T5450. Ship date March 08 Reply
  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Thanks for doing that... I decided to just open my box.. figured I'd be upgrading the CPU anyway later... and... got the faster T5550. ;)

    So I guess there really is no way to know what you've got until you turn on the PC.

    My PC has a ship date of March 13th and I got the T5550 @ 1.83Ghz... of course now my wife is jealous so we had to buy one for her as well. Her ship date was March 4th... haven't opened the box yet... but will report what she has when we do. Both computers were bought at Best Buy.
    Reply
  • teknomedic - Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - link

    quick update...

    My wife's laptop with a ship date of March 4th ended up having the slower T5450 proc... Also, both laptops have a strange "buzz" or audio distortion of the right speaker while playing some games (mostly Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath).

    Also, I find the proc debate mute now since the P-6860 is coming out... if you can wait a week or so everyone here should now buy the P-6860... it's still only $1349 but gets a few nice upgrades such as the faster T5550 proc, 4GB RAM and a 320GB HDD with Vista 64bit.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    ASUS makes good notebooks, and the F3kA you linked is reasonable. Still, the 8800M GTS is probably 2 to 3 times more powerful than the Mobility HD 2600. You can run the Quake 4, Crysis, UT3, and Bioshock gaming tests quite easily if you want to compare. Same goes for CINEBENCH, 3DMark, and PCMark.

    I think the ASUS might be a better laptop in terms of battery life (it depends on the battery size), but the GPU, CPU, and LCD are all worse than the P-6831. $900 is a fair price for what you get, though.
    Reply
  • Fant - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    I wished Anandtech would have compared the performance of this gateway to a few other laptops such as the $1500 Dell XPS M1530 which comes with c2d, 4gb, 8600Mgt as well as a MBP running XP (via bootcamp) since it also comes with c2d and 8600MGT. Reply
  • ap90033 - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    Wow 8600M GT? I had one of those Dells, I SENT IT BACK. It was HORRIBLE for gaming. Seriously, it would be embarrassing for the Dell... Reply
  • predatorramboxxx - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    all of them now have 1.83 or 1.86 check notebook review if you do not believe me.
    mine came with 1.83 from bestbuy

    Reply

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