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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  • Sector7g - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    Ive had this laptop for just over a month now. Cant beat the bang for the buck. I got the last one here in Edmonton for $1350. This was when the price was $1700 in the states I was quite surprised to see such a price difference. Now I don't even see it listed on, I wonder if they stopped selling it here in Canada.

    I have just installed 2 of 3 upgrades, another WD250GB 5200rpm HD in Raid0 and a 2nd 2GB stick of ram. I did not however make a backup DVD as was mentioned, and now am looking for some of the apps that came with it. Is anyone that made one of these back up DVD's able to get me a copy? If you reinstall from the DVD that came with the Laptop does it install the aps that was on there? repartition the hard drive for recovery? I installed with another disk I have for ultimate x86. I have x64 on my desktop and had a few problems, but I don't have 4 gigs ram on my desktop. I'm trying to find a T9300 for less than $350 here in Canada but thats seems hard to do.

    Also my ram index rating in the windows benchmark stayed a 4.5 and did not go up to 4.8 as some have mentioned. It lists 4 gigs ram in the post, but of course displays only 3 gigs ram when in vista as a result of running x86.
  • Tattered87 - Wednesday, April 2, 2008 - link

    I bought this when I was down in Texas on vacation 2 weeks ago, saw what was in it and thought "wow, that's a beast" and then I saw the price tag and my jaw dropped. I immediately went home and found this was by far the cheapest computer with a viable mobile graphics chipset for the performance I wanted if I ever did in fact get a laptop.

    Plays WoW like a champ, and that's pretty much all I got it for; for those who knock it for the processor, it's definitely not bad for what it is, the laptop eats my old northword core 2.4 w/6800nu that I have sitting at work for breakfast. The only thing I can see the laptop really limiting would be strong physics based games, such as Crysis.

    I wasn't even looking for a laptop at the time, but this thing definitely got my attention and I ended up going back the next day and buying the last one in stock. Unfortunately it came with the 1.66 cpu, but it really doesn't bother me since I got what I paid for.

    Speaking of which, a great thanks to the writer of this article for including that it was on sale this week; I like to read reviews of things I buy in a sort of "it was ok to spend all that money since you got a really good deal on it" sort of way, and I ended up going to BB and utilizing their 2 week price match guarantee and got $107.50 back (the $7.50 is from Texas tax going to Illinois tax).

    Overall an excellent review and I highly recommend this laptop to anyone who is considering it. Thanks for the fantastic review and also for saving me some $$
  • ccubsfan94 - Sunday, April 20, 2008 - link

    hey i was looking at this laptop to buy what i mean was is i chose and still waiting to buy but i saw you say the crysis part and i looked at youtube alot and over half the people who showed crysis vids on there was using this laptop (the P-6860 not P-6831 though) just thought to tell you that and it has no lag of what i saw except one guy mad a explosion of 3,000 barrels of oil and couldn't watch or his computer would start lagging a bit Reply
  • QuantumPion - Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - link

    I played with this laptop at Best Buy when it was on sale for like $1150 or so. I have to say, this laptop has an amazing keyboard. Not just for a laptop, it was one of the nicest feeling keyboards I have ever used. It had perfect spacing and a really nice feel, it gives even high-end desktop keyboards a run for their money. This laptop really is amazing for its price, too bad I don't have much use for it otherwise I might buy one :D Reply
  • Docdoc - Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - link

    Superb review! Many thanks.

    I'm in the process of upgrading computers for my house, and I'd like to purchase gaming laptops for their portability.

    Question of the Day:

    The myriad games that were tested are helpful, but there's an elephant in the room that currently has over TEN MILLION subscribers which makes this laptop a very likely culprit for which a gaming computer will be used:

    World of Warcraft

    How would this laptop perform with a 1920 x 1200 external monitor? Any noticeable difference from a 'regular' desktop using a midrange dual core processor and a Nvidia 8800 GT 512MB video card?

    If there's not a noticeable difference between this laptop and a desktop, I'm sold.

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - link

    WoW is extremely *un*-demanding when it comes to graphics. Part of the reason WoW is so successful is that you don't need even a moderately powerful system to run it. You can max out the detail settings on a Radeon 9800 Pro card, based on what I've seen, and still run at 1920x1200.

    This laptop has a GPU that is the mobile equivalent of the GeForce 9600 GT, which is more than capable of running WoW at maximum detail... probably even at 2560x1600, although the video output options won't support that. So, if all you're interested in playing is WoW, you'll be very happy with the performance the P-6831 offers.
  • Donkey2008 - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    To the guy who said laptops are the "losers choice for gaming" - I'm not sure that I agree with that statement, but hey it's the internet so we can all vomit our opinions without actually having to prove what we say.

    I have owned a Dell XPS M170 laptop (Pentium-M 2.0,2GB 533MHz RAM,7800 Go GTX 256MB) since late 2005 and I can still play games like Bioshock, BF2142, World in Conflict and COD4 very easily on med to high settings (Crysis on med, more lowish) on my "ancient" notebook. Oh, by the way, this notebook scores a blistering 3400 in 3DMark 06 (further reducing my confidence that it is a measure of actual gameplay).

    This Gateway should have an equally good lifespan. I don't really see any games being developed that are going to knock this laptop down (seeing as most new games are first and foremost developed for older console tech). Obviously you will have to make some graphic compromises as time goes by, but a $1500 investment (with CPU upgrade) is as good as it gets for the portability/performance it offers.

    The only problem I see is the size (like my M170). I am positive that most mobile gamers like me plug it into an external LCD when at home (or work), so the internal screen is only used when truly mobile (at school, at girlfriends, in the car, etc). For that reason, I think Alienware has hit it on the head with the 15.4" M15x. Small screen, yes, but much easier to fit into a backpack and use at school. The 17" is just way too big to do this and the Alienware is $3000 afterall.

    Gateway would have the one laptop to rule them all if they made a 15.4" version of this under say $1500.

    Anyway, great review. PS - it would be nice if gaming laptops had a movable screen (like the HP 12.1" laptops) so we all don't develop carpal tunnel as we age.
  • GuitarFreak - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    Great review. I think I found my new laptop. I especially like how you can upgrade it. I've got a t9300, a 2GB stick of RAM, and a 7200rpm hdd lined up to go in when I get one :D Reply
  • mdudeja - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    Jarred, could you give a few more details about the LCD, such as backlight bleed and viewing angles? Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link">

    Asus F3kA Seriies, out of the box with 2gigs of Ram, and ATI HD 2600 512 MB Video Card. $899

    I have this notebook. I bought it when it was $1000. I upgraded it to 4 Gigs of RAM, and Run Vista 64 on it. Asus even provides drivers for Vista 64. (Though they tell you they don't support Vista 64)

    I am just curious on the price to performance. I believe the Vid Card in the Gateway is superior, and the processor is as well. But the Asus is very good for gaming comes with a 30 day zero dead pixel warranty, and 1 year accidental damage warranty, and 2 year standard warranty on the rest of the notebook. So the value is extremely good.

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