AMD and Intel Mobile Rematch: Gateway NV5933u vs. Acer 5542by Jarred Walton on June 18, 2010 1:14 AM EST
Gateway NV5933u Overview
The Gateway NV5933u is the updated Intel version of the NV58 we looked at last year. In place of the 2.0GHz Core 2 T6500 processor and GMA 4500MHD graphics is the new i3-330M with HD Graphics. Performance in both cases is substantially higher than the previous incarnation, and the addition of a Blu-ray drive with a drop in price is impressive. Outside of those upgrades, the NV59 is identical in appearance to the NV52 and NV58.
|Gateway NV5933u Specifications|
Intel Core i3-330M
(2x2.13GHz + HTT, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
|Memory||2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)|
Intel HD Graphics
(12 Shaders, 500MHz base, 667MHz max Core/shared memory)
|Display||15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)|
|Hard Drive(s)||500GB 5400 RPM (Hitachi HTS545032B9A300)|
|Optical Drive||4x Blu-ray Combo (Optiarc BC-5500H)|
Gigabit Ethernet (Broadcom BCM57780)
802.11b/g/n (Atheros AR928X)
2 stereo speakers with headphone and microphone
|Battery||6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 48Wh battery|
Flash Reader MMC/MS Pro/SD/xD
Headphone and microphone
2 x USB 2.0
4x Blu-ray DVDRW combo drive
2 x USB 2.0
|Back Side||Cooling Exhaust|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
|Dimensions||14.66" x 10.19" x 1.02-1.46" (WxDxH)|
|Weight||5.84 lbs (with 6-cell battery)|
|Warranty||1-year basic warranty|
$549 from Best Buy
Note: 320GB HDD on that model
In terms of features, the NV59 matches the 5542 in every area. Again, there's a Bluetooth Fn key combination but no hardware. If you want extras like FireWire, eSATA, ExpressCard, or USB 3.0 you'll need to shop elsewhere, but the NV59 does represent the entry-level Intel laptops quite well. Honestly, the price is much lower than most of the competition, especially with the Blu-ray drive. Searching on Google, the next cheapest i3-330M laptop we can find comes in at $600. Gateway seems to recognize this, as the updated NV59C (with different styling but otherwise similar features) looks like it will cost $150 more—though you do get a 2-year warranty with the NV59C.
You can read our comparison of the NV52/58 for comments on the design, as nothing has changed from that aspect. You get a glossy exterior and matte keyboard/palm rest, with a glossy LCD. The keyboard is different from the Acer 5542, however, and it's a case of one step forward and one step back. The touch of the keys is better in my opinion, but the keys are still tightly spaced. The number keyboard also moves the Plus key up top, the Enter key is in the bottom-right, and the Zero is a half-size key. Dedicated Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys are also missing unless you disable Numlock, making the 10-key almost superfluous. While the keyboard feels better for touch typing, I end up preferring the 5542 because of the layout issues. The LCD is also similar to the 5542, with a low contrast 1366x768 resolution panel. The Acer 5542 uses a Chi Mei panel while the NV59 uses a Samsung panel, but they look about the same and we're pretty confident that Acer and Gateway use a panel lottery so there's no guarantee which panel you'll get.
In a radical change from the last Intel IGP, the latest Intel HD Graphics with the latest Intel drivers actually close the gap with the HD 4200. The new HD 4250 should maintain a slight lead, and we don't expect either company to dramatically improve performance until the next generation IGPs come out. However, we do have to give Intel credit for investing some extra time in their drivers of late. Three months back, half of the games we tried on the Intel HD Graphics failed to run properly—GRID, DiRT 2, Fallout 3, and both Mass Effect titles were among the problematic games. The May driver release fixed most of our problems, and the latest Intel drivers fix the graphical corruption in Mass Effect 1/2. We wouldn't be surprised if other titles still have issues, but we ran some of our previous gaming benchmarks and didn't encounter any issues (other than Fallout 3 requiring a hacked D3D DLL in order to run, as it otherwise refuses to even try running in Intel graphics). If Intel can keep improving their graphics drivers, the showdown between Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion will be very interesting. We haven't seen any major improvements in IGP performance for a while—outside of the NVIDIA G320M in the latest MacBook, but that's a dead end since it only works with older Core 2 processors.
As a whole, the Gateway NV5933u package is quite impressive. Not only is it the least expensive i3-330M laptop we can find, but you get a Blu-ray combo drive as an added bonus. Performance in general applications is much higher than the Athlon II M300, with the Turion II M600 closing the gap outside of heavily threaded benchmarks. Battery life also favors Intel, though not by as much as the last time we looked at AMD and Intel laptops, and we no longer have the graphics performance deficit to complain about. AMD laptops are still cheaper, and when the NV59 disappears from Best Buy we'll likely see the price for similar laptops jump $100. At the current pricing, though, the NV5933u is a great deal with the biggest complaint being the keyboard layout—and that's something you can adapt to. The bigger competition is going to be AMD's updated lineup, and with prices closer to $550 this particular laptop still looks like it has a lead. As long as stock remains, we recommend the NV59 as a great entry-level multimedia platform.