Friday, August 15, 2008

Gateway P-7811FX

by John R. Delaney
Price as Reviewed: $1,399.00

Gateway shook up the gaming notebook market earlier this year by pairing a high-end graphics card with a middle-of-the-road processor in the P-6831FX. The system was so popular that Best Buy temporarily jacked up the price by a few hundred dollars. The P-7811FX continues the same winning formula with new components: Nvidia’s blazing GeForce 9800 GTS graphics card, complete with 512MB of video memory, and a new Intel Centrino 2 processor, the 2.26-GHz P8400. Add in a flashy (almost garish) design and a high-definition display, and you have one of the best value-price rigs of 2008.

P-7811FX Design

Using the same design and color scheme as the P-6831FX, the P-7811FX is done up in a glossy black finish with a copper and silver trim. At 15.8 x 11.8 x 1.7 inches and 9.2 pounds, it’s a cool-looking chassis without too much bling. A checkerboard pattern and FX logo grace the lid, which opens to reveal a stunning 17-inch, high-resolution (1920 x 1200) widescreen display.

The full-size keyboard is spacious and comfortable and features a full numerical keypad, both of which are surrounded by copper trim. Sandwiched between two average sounding speakers are a flush-mounted, orange-backlit media player control panel and a sliding volume control. The touchpad was responsive and is conveniently positioned to provide easy access to the keyboard without requiring too much wrist movement. Nestled between two mouse buttons is a biometric fingerprint reader.

Multimedia and Connectivity

The 1080p screen on the P-7811FX provided crisp imagery and reasonably wide viewing angles, but you may want to keep ambient light to a minimum as the glossy coating tends to be a bit too reflective. We watched a DVD of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The movie looked great and showed no noticeable motion blur, but the speakers were merely adequate. We listened to Eric Clapton and J.J Cale’s “The Road to Escondido” and felt the bass was lacking. A subwoofer would have helped.

The 8X DVD multi-drive features LabelFlash etching technology, which is nice for making your own custom labels, but we’d gladly trade that for a Blu-ray optical drive. However, you do get a nice selection of I/O connections, including HDMI and FireWire ports, three USB ports, a VGA jack, and an eSATA port, which makes it easy to back up the 200GB (7,200-rpm) hard drive to an external device. A 5-in-1 card reader and an ExpressCard/54 slot round out the connectivity offerings.

Embedded in the upper bezel are a 1.3-megapixel webcam and microphone, which can be activated using Gateway’s Camera Assistant Software (included). The webcam proved more than adequate for video chats and quick e-mail snapshots.