Citius, Altius, Fortius

The core of the P-7811 is largely the same as the P-6831, at least when looking at the outside. If you want a quick look at the laptop, the appearance is unchanged from the P-6831. Dig into the internals and we find a slew of changes. For one, this is one of the first Centrino 2 laptops that we've tested. While the Centrino name is largely marketing, there's no arguing with the success that Intel achieved with the brand. Centrino 2 essentially consists of an upgraded chipset, one of the latest Penryn processors with a 1066 FSB, and one of the two new Intel WiFi chipsets. Centrino 2 isn't inherently a major upgrade over Centrino, but the P-7811 does change virtually every internal component compared to the P-6831. Below are the feature lists for both laptops.

Gateway P-6831 FX Specifications
Processor Core 2 Duo T5450 (1.67GHz 2MB 667FSB)
Chipset Intel GM965 + ICH8-M
Memory 1x1024MB + 1x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WXGA+ (1440x900) UltraBright
Hard Drive 250GB 5400RPM 8MB Cache
Optical Drive 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW
Networking Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 4965AGN WiFi
Bluetooth v2.0
Audio Intel 2-Channel HD Audio
Battery 9-Cell 86WHr
Front Side Front LCD Latch
WiFi On/Off switch
Left Side 2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive (DVDRW)
Kensington Lock
GPU Cooling Exhaust
Right Side VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 2.0
Mini FireWire
Headphone/Mic Jacks
5-in-1 Flash Reader (MS, MS Pro, MMC, SD, xD)
Back Side Power Connector
56K Modem
CPU Cooling Exhaust
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
Dimensions 15.75" x 11.75" x 1.3"-1.70" (WxDxH)
Weight 9.2 lbs (single HDD)
Extras 1.3MP webcam
1 x 2.5" HDD bay available
Warranty 1-year standard

Gateway P-171XL FX Specifications
(Only changes relative to P-6831 are listed)
Processor Core 2 Extreme X7900 (2.80GHz 4MB 667FSB)
Chipset Intel GM965 + ICH8-M
Memory 2x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) Matte
Hard Drive 2x200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2 in RAID 0
Optical Drive HD-DVD/8x DVDR SuperMulti
Extras Fingerprint scanner
1.3MP webcam

Gateway P-7811 FX Specifications
(Only changes relative to P-6831 are listed)
Processor Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz 3MB 1066FSB)
Chipset Intel PM45
Memory 2x2048MB DDR3-1066
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) Glossy
Hard Drive 200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2
Optical Drive 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW
Networking Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Intel WiFi Link 5100
Extras 1.3MP webcam

As mentioned, the new chipset and processor plus the updated wireless adapter are all part of the Centrino 2 branding, which on its own doesn't mean a lot. What's noteworthy is that instead of the T5450 or T5550 (1.67GHz or 1.83GHz respectively, both with 2MB cache and a 667MHz FSB), users now get a P8400. The letter at the front of the processor model number is an indication of the performance family. Right now, the "T" family is your standard Core 2 Duo mobile processors, "L" models are low power processors, the "U" family are the ultra low power chips, "E" processors are the normal desktop models, and "X" are Extreme Edition CPUs. With the launch of Centrino 2, Intel now introduces the "P" family of mobile processors. At first you might think the "P" in P8400 has more to do with the use of a 1066 FSB than anything else, but there are also 1066 FSB parts in the "T" family; the primary difference between "T" and "P" is the TDP (thermal design power). The P8400 comes clocked at 2.26GHz with 3MB shared cache, with a TDP of 25W compared to the 35W of the "T" series mobile Penryn chips. That means it should hopefully offer better battery life, as well as higher performance due to the faster front side bus (at least where clock speed is equal).

The next major upgrade is the use of the GeForce 9800M GTS instead of the now outdated 8800M. The 9800M comes in three flavors: GTS, GT, and GTX; these chips have 64, 96, and 112 SPs respectively. While there are slight differences in core and memory clock speeds, the net result is that the 9800M GTS is roughly equal to the 8800M GTS, and the 9800M GT is roughly equal to the 8800M GTX.  It's not entirely clear whether there was a process technology shift between 8800M and 9800M, or if the new parts are just rebranded 8800M chips.  Regardless, we do see quite a few performance changes with the 9800M GTS compared to the 8800M GTS, which we will get to in a moment.

Another interesting upgrade is the use of DDR3 memory instead of DDR2 memory. This may not actually improve performance much, but the lower operating voltage should help battery life. One of the major complaints we've had with DDR3 on the desktop is that prices were initially extremely high; desktop DDR3 is now at the point where it is starting to become reasonable for the high-end without breaking the bank, but what about on laptops? Since the P-7811 comes as a complete package, we don't have specific information on the price of DDR3 SO-DIMMs, but the total cost remains largely unchanged compared to the earlier P-6831/6860, so we have little reason to complain. Gateway also ships the systems with 2x2GB memory, so unless you're interested in finding 4GB SO-DIMMs you won't have to worry about memory upgrades.

Going along with the increased memory, the P-7811 also comes with Windows Vista 64-bit instead of 32-bit. There are still a few applications that may have difficulty on 64-bit operating systems (Ed: Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I'm talking about you!), and the difference between 3GB of memory on a 32-bit OS and 4GB of memory on a 64-bit OS is very small at best - the added memory space tends to be offset by the increased memory requirements of 64-bit code. Provided you don't intend to use an application that has difficulty in a 64-bit environment, however, we certainly approve of the move to 64-bit operating systems. Besides, how are we going to start getting 64-bit applications if no one runs 64-bit operating systems? (Ed: Yes, I'm feeling a bit bitter about certain 64-bit trends; Adobe, I would really like a 64-bit version of Photoshop!)

The only remaining change that is likely to be immediately noticeable is the upgrade to the LCD panel. If you're like me and you enjoy running a high resolution LCD, the WUXGA (1920x1200) panel will certainly be a welcome addition. If your eyesight isn't great you might have preferred Gateway stick with their WXGA+ (1440x900) panel, but in that case we'll just have to agree to disagree. Besides, you can always run the higher resolution panel at a lower resolution - albeit with some blurriness caused by not running at the native LCD resolution.

The other changes aren't as significant but are still worth a quick mention. There's a switch from a 250GB 5400 RPM drive to a 200GB 7200 RPM drive, and obviously we have the new chipset and wireless adapter that come as part of the Centrino 2 platform. Wrapping all of the changes up, we have a launch price change from $1350 to $1450. You could've convinced some of us (i.e. me for one) to spend the extra $100 just for the higher resolution LCD, so all of the other upgrades we mentioned are merely icing on the cake.

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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?
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • atlmann10 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Bloatware removal">
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  • atlmann10 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Gateway just released a BIOS update for the 7811 FX here's a link">
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • wakasenshi - Friday, August 22, 2008 - link

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

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

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