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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  • ToeJuice - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nevermind... overreacted to the first page... lol Reply
  • bill3 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Would you make a gaming laptop your only machine? A 9600GT caliber GPU sounds nice now, but in just a few months as always it will be slipping way behind.

    It's hard enough keeping up to gaming specs on a desktop, seems to me a fixed spec laptop is always a losers choice for gaming.
  • gerf - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I use my laptop for all computer uses outside of work. I consider it gaming able as well: Dell Vostro 1500 1.6GHz C2D, 8600m 512MB only DDR2, 2GB RAM, 85WHr battery. With the discounts of the day, 3 year warranty and a bag thrown in, it was about $1050.

    What mattered the most was that I get about 5 hours battery life when I'm just running moz, irc, IM, Thunderbird around the house.

    I'm not a Dell employee, but I have to say that this type of lapper could be grouped up there as a reasonable alternative for moderate gamers on the go.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    That sort of system is a standard laptop first and a gaming laptop second. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you really like games and want to be able to run at maximum detail, that type of system won't cut it. That's what I'm getting at in the conclusion: the need for balance as well as targeting what type of system you want. If you want long battery life, the 8800M notebooks are currently a poor choice. I'm still waiting to see the first notebooks with HybridPower, so that you can get both 3D performance *and* long battery life. Reply
  • pmonti80 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    For the kind of people who read anandtech, that laptop is not going to be their only computer. It's a second or third computer, like a desktop pc you can move or if you go to a LAN party, used for such things.

    And for the kind of people not reading anandtech this mobile equivalent of a 9600 GT is more that OK for a couple of years. At the native resolution of 1440x900 they would be able to play any game for 2 or more, just reducing the settings used as games demand more power (1440x900 is just a few less pixels than 1280x1024).

    Just my 2 cents.
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I actually bought this laptop to leave at my GF's place so that when I'm over there, I can play games and such. Plus my GF loves to use it as well. I already have a desktop at home and the specs are very similar to the laptop. Reply
  • FXi - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nice review. It's very nice to see a notebook that enters the market at a kinder price point (even fully loaded it's far better than Dell or Alienware 17" gaming models).

    Drivers! Seriously anyone who isn't "working with" Nvidia hand in hand right now to get regular driver updates for mobile gaming machines is going to be out of this business when those updates start showing up. SLI absolutely requires serious regular driver updates, and the minute those updates stop (you stop getting supported) your SLI rig is not a single gpu rig in any future games. Kinda sad, eh?

    The TN panel is a bit of a compromise, but folks should seriously consider that the price for what you get is pretty good. One can always move up several thousand and not get dramatically more performance. A cpu upgrade would probably be the only thing most folks might consider paying more for.

    Well done :)
  • pmonti80 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    It's a pitty that I live in spain and can't buy this notebook. Because I would buy it without a second thought if Gateway sold these here.
    Great for Lan's and as a Desktop Replacement. For a decent price.

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