Introduction

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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  • ap90033 - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Yes it comes with a Vista Home Premium DVD.... Reply
  • win32asmguy - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I bought one of these yesterday at Best Buy after they put it on sale for $1249 again.

    It does indeed have a real Vista re-install cd. The CD also includes none of the extra bundled applications or such. However, you can also make a "restore" DVD from an included program that will recreate its 10GB recovery partition and return it to a factory fresh installation. Its nice to see Gateway let people go either way with this.

    The P-6831fx is also actually due for an update soon. Its supposed to be called the P-6860fx and will have a T5550 (1.83ghz, 667fsb, 2mb) and a 320GB hdd instead of the 250GB. My P-6831fx actually already has a T5550 in it, as gateway's ODM has appeared to already run out of the T5450's as of the last shipment. The slower processor is definitely a setback, but I will eventually upgrade to a T9300 to close the gap in performance even closer to the laptops with the GTX.

    Oh, and CPU-Z does report that it runs in dual channel mode, however it also takes a small performance hit due to not being both 2GB sticks. Other users report their Vista memory experience index from jumping from 4.6 to 4.8 when upgrading to 4GB.
    Reply
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    The laptop comes with a Vista DVD. However, you'll have to burn a back-up DVD for drivers and applications. It should be the first thing you do before performing a format.

    The laptop should be fine for Folding @ Home. If not, a simple CPU upgrade should do wonders.

    As for the 3GB of ram, it is in fact running in dual channel mode so no worries there. It's definately useful since Vista needs as much memory it can get it's grubby little hands on.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    [quote] Imagine being able to buy a very nice sports car that could compete with the Dodge Viper at one third the cost, and that's what Gateway has released on the market. [/quote]

    In other words it is the Evo/STI of the gaming laptop world. Maybe one of the ones with the bigger screens qualifies as a base Corvette.
    Reply
  • Corland - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    It would be nice to see things like the MacBook Pro with LED backlight (or a regular MacBook) in the color comparison and LCD tests for comparison sake- comparing gaming laptop LCD's to each other is fine, but having some other common laptop screens that some of us will have worked with would also be useful.... Reply
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    As the review states, you can't beat the value of this laptop. I purchased this laptop at Best Buy during the President's Day sale for $1199 and it came with a $50 game (COD4). Out of the box, it's a great machine. However, the review doesn't mention the amount of bloatware that is on the machine (which is commonplace).

    I managed to place a few upgrades in my machine. I placed a T7500 C2D, 4GB total ram, 200GB 7200RPM HD, and wiped my machine and installed a dual boot with Vista Business 64-bit and XP Pro 32-bit. I got great deals on the upgrades and the OSes I had from previous machines. Total cost of machine came to $1500.

    3dMark06 scores are as follows: (drivers I used are 169.09 from laptopvideo2go.com)
    Vista 64 - 8900
    XP Pro 32 - 9150
    Reply
  • tomek1984 - Tuesday, May 13, 2008 - link

    Give me few hints how you got video driver to work with XP. I downloaded 169.09 and tried installing it with base file and 2nd time with an updated one by INF file. Nether1 recognized Nvidia hardware. I am using 6860 FX with factory specs+ 2nd harddrive(XP is instaled on 2nd HD) Reply
  • Starcub - Saturday, May 17, 2008 - link

    I got a newer driver from laptopvideo2go.com to work by replacing the inf file with nvwi.inf which I extracted from the included originalinfs.zip. Reply
  • ap90033 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nice, I have one and wondered what the difference would be if I upgraded the CPU...

    Great review by the way.
    Reply
  • ToeJuice - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I own an Asus G2 and it's one of the better (if not the best) midrange gaming laptops I've ever owned or seen. But I guess Asus lappies don't even deserve a mention here? Reply

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