What's hot: Good graphics power, nice looking machine.
What's not: Not much of a useful software bundle, some bloatware.
Reviewed April 21, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The Gateway NV series notebooks are the 15.6” and 17.3” models that offer competitive specs at competitive prices. The newest 17.3” NV79 models feature Intel Core i3 and Core i5 processors at a starting price of $649. Measuring 16.23 x 11.02 x 1.0/1.42 inches with weights starting at 7.3 pounds, the Gateway NV79 comes in a wide range of configurations that include ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 dedicated graphics and a Blu-ray Disc drive option. Compared to the truly large 18.4” desktop replacements like the Toshiba Qosmio X505 and the Fujitsu LifeBook NH570, the Gateway NV79 is more moveable and portable if you are used to carrying a heavy backpack. Like most Gateway laptop series, the NV79 comes in different colors, though currently only the black and red ones are available.
We look at the Gateway NV7901u (black) model for this review, and it’s identical to the NV7902u (red) in all other aspects except the color. The Gateway NV7901u runs on the Intel Core i5-430M processor at 2.26GHz with 3MB L3 cache and a 1066 MHz FSB. The notebook comes with 4GB DDR3 1066MHz memory, a 500GB SATA drive and a multi super dual-layer DVD drive. The NV7901u/NV7902u models are powered by ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics with 1GB of dedicated DDR3 VRAM and up to 3GB of shared system memory. The notebook can hold its own when playing demanding FPS games, and we will show you the gaming details and a video below.
The Gateway NV7901u comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Microsoft Works 9. Gateway includes its own Recovery Management software and back up software as well as a webcam tool and Launch Manager. An MS Office 2007 60-day trial software and Norton Internet Security 2010 60-day trial are also onboard.
Design and Ergonomics
Gateway has been using the same notebook design on all its laptop lines except the very large P series notebooks. The shiny cover with chromed edges worked on the smaller Gateway LT2118u netbook and it works well here on the NV79 series. The brushed chrome edging and hinge are eye-catching, and the Gateway badge decorates the shiny patterned cover. Like many Sony notebooks, the Gateway NV7901u has a barrel hinge with the power button on the right hinge end cap. The 17.3” widescreen TFT LCD display has 1600 x 900 native resolution, and it has good brightness and color saturation. The screen also has excellent viewing angles.
The Gateway NV7901u has a roomy keyboard with a dedicated number pad. The keys are large and completely flat, but they have good travel and the typing experience is good. The multi-touch trackpad is off center to the left and instead of the mouse buttons, the Gateway gives you a thin strip of mirror-like mouse rocker that’s not easy to use. It’s not difficult to use because the rocker style is different from the conventional two-mouse button setup, it’s because the rocker is very thin. The mouse rocker does however rise above the palm rest which helps you find it while touch typing. Four LED lights live above the keyboard (hard drive, caps lock, num lock and Bluetooth status) and seven touch buttons live next to the LEDs to provide quick control access to the speakers, wireless, Gateway MyBackup tool and more.
Horsepower and Performance
The Gateway NV79 is the top of the line in Gateway’s NV series of laptops. The NV7901u and the NV7902u are the same system in different colors, as we mentioned. Gateway is fond of giving unique model numbers to track different colors on the same systems (not fun for us reviewers or consumers). The Gateway NV79 runs on the Intel Core i5-430M CPU at 2.26GHz with 2.53GHz Turbo Boost. That’s the same CPU that powers the 18.4” Toshiba Qosmio X505 and the 18.4” Fujitsu NH570. The Gateway has two SODIMM slots and it comes with 4GB DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM. You can upgrade it to a max of 8GB memory easily with convenient access to the DIMM slots beneath a screwed-on door (clearly marked) under the laptop. The Gateway NV7901u comes with a 500GB SATA drive which is on par with most 17-inchers and 18-inchers currently on the market. The notebook has a Super Multi double layer DVD drive that has good speed for DVD playback and file transfers. If you fancy a Blu-ray Disc/DVD player, then check out the Gateway NV7920u/NV7919u models.
While you score a Blu-ray Disc option with the NV7920u you will lose an attractive graphics option that the NV7901u and NV7902u offer: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 dedicated graphics with 1GB graphics memory. For users who want to process videos and play graphics intensive games, the ATI graphics are a must. We even slaughtered a few baddies in several FPS games to bring you our gaming video and gaming performance report below.
We put the Gateway NV7901u through PCMark Vantage X64 benchmark tests and provide the score comparison with the Toshiba Qosmio X505-X860 and Fujitsu LifeBook NH570, both systems running on the same CPU. Competing with the Gateway’s ATI graphics, the Qosmio X505-Q860 has NVIDIA GeForce GTS 360M graphics while the Fujitsu LifeBook NH570 has the NVIDIA GTS 330M. So we also ran 3Dmark 06 on these systems and provide scores for comparison. The third set of scores is the Windows 7 Experience Index.
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results:
PCMark Suite: 5852
Memory Suite: 3939
TV and Movie Suite: 3656
Gaming Suite: 5031
Music Suite: 5586
Communication Suite: 4853
Productivity Suite: 4784
HDD Test Suite: 3276
Fujitsu LifeBook NH570:
PCMark Suite: 5196
Memory Suite: 2913
TV and Movie Suite: 3635
Gaming Suite: 4671
Music Suite: 4344
Communication Suite: 4158
Productivity Suite: 4620
HDD Test Suite: 3156
The Gateway NV7901u runs most productivity software smoothly including MS Office apps, IE, Adobe Reader for PDF files and Windows Media Player for movie and music playback. Built-in apps like the webcam application and other utilities run well on the Gateway. Streaming content over Wi-Fi was also very smooth in our real life tests: Netflix movies played at 25 fps which was very watchable, and Hulu played at a cool 30 fps which isn’t an easy task for many notebooks.
The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics scored higher than the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 330M (Fujitsu LifeBook NH570) but lower than the GTS 360M (Toshiba Qosmio X505) in benchmark tests. Real life gaming tests confirmed this scenario as we put the notebook through FPS titles like Battlefield Bad Company 2, CoD Modern Warfare 2 and Crysis. Battlefield BC 2 cut scenes ran at 26 fps on average and 30 fps on most missions. Modern Warfare 2 played at anywhere from 30 fps to over 50 fps which is to say the gameplay was very smooth. Crysis though gave the Gateway some trouble not only in performance but also Direct X 10 was less stable and crashed the game a few times. When we ran Crysis with all performance and graphics quality setting at Medium, Crysis played at 25-30 fps and felt smooth in most missions; but when we set all qualities to High, the game played at 14-16 fps which made most missions unplayable. Luckily with Crysis, Medium vs. High in graphics quality settings doesn't affect the in-game environment and object details that much.
Here is a video demo showing how the machine handled these games with frame rate info turned on. We also provided game settings at which we played these games when we recorded the video demo:
Battlefield Bad Company 2 settings:
Resolution: 1600 x 900
Overall Quality: Medium
CoD Modern Warfare 2 settings:
Resolution: 1600 x 900
Aspect Ratio: Auto
Screen Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Sync Every Frame: No
Specular Map: Yes
Depth of Field: Yes
Soften Smoke Edges: Yes
Bullet Impacts: Yes
Texture Quality: Automatic
Resolution: 1680 x 945
Anti-aliasing quality: Off
Objects Quality: Medium
Shadows Quality: Medium
Physics Quality: Medium
Shaders Quality: Medium
Volumetric Effects Quality: Medium
Game Effects Quality: Medium
Postprocessing Quality: Medium
Particles Quality: Medium
Water Quality: Medium
Sound Quality: Medium
The Gateway NV7901u runs at cool temperatures when handling most productivity software, DVD playback and streaming movies. Gaming however raises the core temperatures and GPU temperature. After a few hours of playing games listed above, the Core temperatures went up to 60 degrees Celsius and the GPU temp to 50 degrees with the GPU fan deployed at 30%. Those actually are acceptable numbers when gaming.
Ports and Slots
The Gateway NV79 offers plenty of ports including 4 USB ports, VGA out, Ethernet RJ45 and Modem RJ11 jacks, an HDMI port, a mic jack and headphone/ SPDIF jack. The Gateway also has a multimedia card reader and a PCI ExpressCard slot behind the same screwed-on door under the notebook that offers access to the DRAM. Under the same door, you will also find an additional SATA hard drive slot. There is a security lock on the left side hinge tip but there is no fingerprint scanner.
The Gateway NV79 comes with a 6-cell rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery that’s 4400 mAh in capacity. The notebook should last you 3 and a half hours for web surfing, working on documents and pictures and playing music. In our real life battery tests, the Gateway NV7901u lasted 2:15 hours playing a DVD using the built-in optical drive; it lasted 2:10 hours streaming movies over Wi-Fi from Netflix and 1:50 hours streaming movies from Hulu. The Gateway comes with a 100W auto sensing AC charger that’s 100-240V, and the notebook takes less than 2 hours to fully charge.
For the budget minded users, the HP Pavilion dv7t and the Gateway NV79 are godsends. The Gateway NV7901u offers a large display, the newest Core CPU, a built-in DVD drive and strong dedicated graphics power, all under $1,000. Sure it’s over 7 pounds, but the notebook looks modern and it’s pretty thin for a 17.3” beast.
Pro: Good graphics power, nice looking machine.
Con: Not much useful software bundle, some bloatware.
Display: 17.3” widescreen TFT LCD display, 220 nits, 1600 x 900 native resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, native support for 720p content. VGA port onboard. ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with up to 4GB HyperMemory (1GB of dedicated DDR3 VRAM and up to 3GB of shared system memory) and Mobile Intel HM55 Express chipset.
Battery: 6-cell 4400 mAh Lithium Ion battery, 14.4V. Power supply: 100W (19V DC, 5.27A) Auto-sensing, 100-240V. Claimed usage time: up to 3:50 hours.
Performance: Intel Core i5-M430 at 2.26 GHz (2.53GHz with Turbo Boost Technology), 3MB L3 cache, 1066 MHz FSB. 4GB DDR3 1066MHz memory, 8 gigs max. Two main memory slots, both may be occupied. 500GB Serial-ATA drive.
Size: 16.23 x 11.02 x 1.0/1.42 inches. Weight: starts at 7.3 pounds.
Drives: 8x DVD-Super Multi Dual-layer drive.
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, webcam with built-in mic.
Ports and Slots: 4 USB, eSATA port, VGA, Ethernet RJ45,RJ-11 modem/fax port, mic input port, headphone and S/P DIF combo jack, HDMI port, multimedia reader and ExpressCard 34mm/54mm slot. Multi-media card reader works with Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Multi Media Card, Secure Digital and xD-Picture Cards.
Audio: Stereo speakers, Dolby Home Theater.
Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Microsoft Works 9 included, also Windows Media Player, IE8 and Microsoft Silverlight preinstalled. Gateway Recovery Management software and Gateway MyBackup solution included. Third party software includes Adobe Reader, CyberLink PowerDVD and Power2 Go. MS Office 2007 60-day trial software and Norton Internet Security 2010 60-day trial included.