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Lighting the Flame

Back in March, we reviewed what has to be regarded as one of the most well-balanced and affordable gaming notebooks we have ever seen. The Gateway P-6831 FX offered very good gaming performance, keeping pace with some of the heavy hitting boutique laptop vendors. The truly impressive aspect was that Gateway managed to ship all of this in a notebook that cost only $1300.

Their approach was to mass produce a notebook that offered one of the slower Core 2 Duo processors paired up with one of the fastest mobile GPUs. With most games still bottlenecked by graphics performance - particularly on laptops - this was a great move. Sure, a little bit more CPU power would have been nice (and the follow-up P-6860 did increase the CPU from the T5450 to the T5550), but otherwise the P-6831 FX was an excellent design. Besides, if you really wanted CPU performance, you could always go out and purchase your own T8300 and still come out with a total cost much lower than the competition. The result was that we gave to 6831 our Gold Editors' Choice award.

If there was one serious problem with the P-6831, it was availability. That particular model was only available through Best Buy, and while there appeared to be a reasonable number of laptops at launch, the favorable press and amazing price quickly made it difficult to find any in stock. One alternative was to simply shop online and purchase a similarly configured notebook from Gateway, and although the price was a few hundred dollars more you also got some upgrades. TigerDirect.com also carries many Gateway notebooks, including the P-173X FX for $1350, which bumps the processor up to a T7500.

Six months later, Gateway and Best Buy are teaming up again with an upgraded version of the P-6831. We are still working on a larger laptop roundup, but we felt it would be beneficial to alert our readers to the availability of this amazing value sooner rather than later. We will have additional details as part of the roundup; for now, we present some initial benchmark results and an overview of the upgrades.

Features and Specifications
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  • ezinner - Tuesday, September 30, 2008 - link

    I've been searching for days on this. Gateway has a Broadcom driver and an empty slot next to the Intel wi-fi card. Plus, many reviews have a preproduction model with Bluetooth. Anyone have the part number, cost and where you can buy this so I can hook up a wireless mouse and/or keyboard without needing a dongle? Reply
  • Urbanos - Friday, September 26, 2008 - link

    i've noticed elsewhere on the net that the P-7811 supports 2 harddrives, and some have even had the luxury of enabling raid 0/1. can anyone confirm that? reviewers? Reply
  • jfdmit - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I took my malfunctioning 7811 back to Best Buy today and exchanged it for another. The difference couldn't be starker. Whereas the old one was a crash-happy piece of junk, the replacement machine looks like it was made by a completely different company...a competent one. The performance, stability, and overall quality are first rate. I'm glad I managed to get my hands on one of the good ones at last. Reply
  • jfdmit - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    The statements in the article about the 7811's poor stability are accurate. I bought the machine yesterday, and must say I'm pretty disappointed.

    The first problem I noticed was that the Webcam only works sporadically. It'll activate the first time you click on it after boot, but thereafter it just craps out with a "Graph Render Failure" error message. This is apparently a fairly common problem with the Chicony webcam used by this machine and a number of others (including Toshiba and Acer laptops). I've tried the various solutions proposed on various web forums, but the problem remains unsolved.

    The next (and from my perspective more important problem) is graphics performance. As long as the 7811 isn't taxed too hard, it will work fine with the standard driver. Run games like Spore, Crysis, or Sins of a Solar Empire, however, and you'll suffer through total lockups, bluescreens, and assorted other nastiness. Using the LaptopVideo2Go.com 177.92 with the patched .INF doesn't make any difference. Nor does the 177.98 driver. The lockups can happen as infrequently as every four or five hours or as frequently as every fifteen minutes. Even shutting down every service not essential to running the game makes no difference.

    While, on paper, this looks like a good machine and excellent value for money, it's just too unreliable to be of any use. I'm a keen MMORPG fan, and I have no intention of spending three hours trying to find a pickup group, only to have my PC die the second I get into a dungeon.

    Sorry Gateway, nice try but no cigar.
    Reply
  • atlmann10 - Thursday, September 04, 2008 - link

    Bloatware removal http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/">http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/
    then run the next after download
    http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/Utilities/Syste...">http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/Util...pair_Uti...
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  • atlmann10 - Thursday, September 04, 2008 - link

    Gateway just released a BIOS update for the 7811 FX here's a link

    http://support.gateway.com/support/drivers/getFile...">http://support.gateway.com/support/driv...te%20Ver...
    Reply
  • wakasenshi - Thursday, August 21, 2008 - link

    I am looking at purchasing a Gateway P-7811 FX from Best Buy and I was wondering if the 3 year warranty they offer is worth $379? (They have a few cheaper/different warranty plans available in-store, but the $379 one is all they offer online.)

    In addition, Geek Squad offers an optimization service which essentially wipes out all the trial software (something I am sure I can do myself) but they also go into the registry and clean out some of the hidden resource hogs (something I could learn but presently have little experience in). Geek Squad charges $129 for this service coupled with some antispyware and antivirus programs. They said they spent something like $1.5 million in R&D for this optimization process, but that was from someone trying to up-sell me. How hard would it be for me to learn to do this myself?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 22, 2008 - link

    I did it before testing. I think AV and Firewalls are for people that don't know how to surf safe... you know, use Firefox, don't visit porn sites, and don't download all sorts of silly executables. It's amazing how sluggish even a fast system can feel with AV software running... at least in my experience.

    Anyway, if you want a "clean" boot, run msconfig, go to the services and hide all Microsoft services, and then hit "Disable all". You can probably go to the startup tab and disable all of those as well. Then watch how fast your PC starts up! Just be careful of malicious websites....

    As for the warranty, $379 for an additional three years is a lot, but I often feel consumer laptops aren't really designed to run for more than two years reliably. Considering it's pretty much impossible to find reasonably priced Gateway laptop parts online ($80 for a keyboard, $70 for a cooling fan, etc.), if you don't just want to toss it should something go wrong, I'd grab the warranty. FYI, having Gateway repair a laptop out of warranty is usually a $400 charge I think, plus parts.
    Reply
  • wakasenshi - Friday, August 22, 2008 - link

    Thank you, I appreciate it. Reply
  • okron1k - Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - link

    i'm curious if can configure when purchasing these? for example a different gpu or processor? Reply

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