It's the biggest screen possible that impresses when comparing home theater setups, but it's the 13.3-inch display size that seems a favorite of manufacturers building ultra-slim, status-symbol notebooks. There are the Apple MacBook Air and HP Voodoo Envy 133 at $1,799 apiece; the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 at $2,029; the new Dell Adamo (technically a 13.4-inch diagonal due to its 16:9 aspect ratio) at $1,999. And now there's the Gateway UC7807, a sleekly styled 13.3-incher priced at ... $800. That can't be right, you say? OK. It's $690 at Amazon.com and J&R.
As you can guess, Gateway positions its first 13.3-inch notebook as a good-looking compact for travelers who can't afford to pay the luxury tax. The "good-looking" part is certainly true: While what Gateway calls its "glossy moonstone" lid collects plenty of fingerprints, opening the notebook reveals a handsome brushed-metal body with an eye-catching circular touchpad, red-backlit multimedia controls (play/pause, stop, next/previous, and a volume slider), and shiny cylindrical hinge, the left end of which serves as the on/off button.
At 9.4 by 12.6 by 1.5 inches, it won't hog your entire briefcase, and it's not too unwieldy to pass the pick-it-up-with-one-hand-while-open test. But it's more of a competitor to mainstream machines like the Dell XPS 1330 -- and even that 13.3-inch portable is more than a pound lighter -- than it is Gateway's answer to the MacBook Air.
Up-To-Date OutputOffice Depot shoppers will find a low-end UC7308 configuration with an Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU, but the UC7807 carries Intel's Core 2 Duo T6400 -- a 2.0GHz dual-core processor with 2MB of Level 2 cache -- along with 3GB of DDR2/667 memory, stopping short of the system's maximum 4GB for the sake of the preinstalled 32- rather than 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium.
You also get a 250GB Hitachi hard drive and a nifty slot-loading Optiarc DVD±RW drive. The latter shares the system's right side with two USB 2.0 ports. A third USB port is at the left, along with microphone, headphone, and Ethernet jacks and both VGA and HDMI video outputs for driving an old monitor or modern HDTV set, respectively.
The 13.3-inch LCD's native resolution is 1,280 by 800 pixels. There's a 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen and an SD/MMC/Memory Stick flash-card slot below the system's front edge. Intel's 802.11a/g/draft-n wireless adapter is standard, but Bluetooth is absent.
|Next page: the touchpad|
Aside from its weight, my biggest disappointment with the Gateway was its touchpad. Not that it doesn't work fine, because it does -- just like a square or rectangular one, with a smooth response and rocker-switch pair of buttons below (set flush with, rather than recessed from, the notebook's front edge).
But if you're going to have a round touchpad, why don't you let users twirl a finger around the circle to scroll up or down? Alas, the UC uses the same Synaptics driver bundled with scores of ordinary laptop touchpads. Count it an opportunity lost.
On a more positive note, the system doesn't miss an opportunity to satisfy touch typists -- the keyboard is full-sized (the keys' square-tiled rather than plateau-crowned design actually makes the span from A through apostrophe a quarter-inch wider than my usual desktop keyboard), with Ctrl and Delete keys holding down their proper positions in the bottom left and top right corners, respectively. Except for half-sized cursor arrows with the usual doubling up with a Fn key to deliver Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys, you'll find no compromises, but a smooth typing feel.
Also pleasing is the Gateway's screen, as long as you keep the backlight cranked up to its top or next-to-top setting (that's not a knock on Gateway; it's what I find myself saying about every conventionally cathode-backlit LCD now that brighter and whiter LED-backlit flat panels are flowing into the mainstream). The 1,280 by 800 resolution makes fine text and flashy videos alike look sharp, with clear colors.
The UC7807 gets a B for battery life. BAPCo's MobileMark 2007 productivity simulation lasted just over and our own word-processing and Web-surfing sessions lasted just under three hours, though our more disk-intensive software-installing and music- and video-playing stints regularly ended after two hours plus 15 or 20 minutes.
Fast Enough for the Daily Grind
Convenience and portability, not benchmark-blasting speed or fast-frag gaming, are the Gateway's goals. Its Intel GM45 integrated-graphics chipset and Graphics Media Accelerator 4500 display adapter are fine for killing time with World of Warcraft or Spore, but you can cross high-octane games like Crysis or Call of Duty off your list -- running at 1,024 by 768 resolution, the poor thing barely crawled at 5 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3.
But the UC7807 loaded programs and switched among applications snappily enough, and completed productivity-oriented benchmarks such as SysMark 2007 Preview without staggering (score: 93). Its CrystalMark and PCMark05 scores were 65,253 and 4,367, respectively. Windows Vista's own Experience Index rates the Gateway a 3.2 on its 5.9-point scale, with graphics proving the weakest link compared to relatively hearty hard disk, CPU, and memory subscores.
So where does that leave the UC7807? As a compact (alas, more compact in size than in weight), sharp-looking, capable traveling companion for tight budgets. It's not quite as cool as it looks, but it gets the job done.
On a 5-star scale:
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Article courtesy of Hardware Central.