capsule review

Gateway 200XL

At a Glance
  • Gateway 200XL

Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard
The handsome Gateway 200XL, silver and dark blue, packs a lot of great features into a notebook that weighs only 4.3 pounds (not counting the power adapter), including an integrated rewritable DVD-R/RW drive, a 14.1-inch screen, and a 60GB 5400-rpm hard drive. The unit, featuring the Centrino logo, is wireless ready with Intel's 802.11b 11-mbps card as standard, but you can upgrade to a faster 54-mbps 802.11g card for only $20 more. A wireless on/off button and a blue status LED sit conveniently above the keyboard. In our speed tests, the thin and light 200XL was as fast as other 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M-equipped notebooks we've tested, pulling down a PC WorldBench 4 score of 125.

The 200XL's big screen, paired with its small three-cell primary lithium ion battery, is bad news for battery life: In our tests the unit lasted a dismal 1 hour on a single charge. A higher-capacity six-cell replacement battery costs $99.

If you order your notebook through the customization page at Gateway's site, the default configuration includes an extra-cost carrying case and extended warranty; you must specifically remove them from your order if you don't want them. Like most notebook vendors these days, Gateway has dumped its gorgeous printed user manual in favor of an Acrobat version on the hard drive. While fully linked and just as comprehensive as the printed manual, the electronic reference can't compete with the convenience of the printed version--once among the best notebook manuals in the industry--and it can't help you troubleshoot if your notebook won't boot.

The last version of the Gateway 200XL we looked at weighed less and (with its bundled docking station) was better equipped, with more USB and FireWire ports and a full set of legacy connections. The new model gives you a merely adequate set of connections, including a monitor port, two USB ports, one FireWire port, and an S-Video TV-out port. However, the new model also gives you a larger screen and the convenience of its integrated optical drive (whereas the older edition's optical drive was in its docking station).

The notebook's integrated GPU uses main memory to perform graphics chores, but in our tests DVD movies looked fine and played smoothly on the 14.1-inch screen. Unfortunately, the weak and tinny stereo speakers weren't up to the task of faithfully rendering movie soundtracks.

The 200XL's keyboard is quiet, firm, and well arranged, but the keys don't seem to depress as much as those on most other notebooks. The touchpad's large mouse buttons, shaped like fat apostrophes, are a bit stiff but easy to press. Between them sits a scroll wheel that we found easy and comfortable to use. The 200XL's application-launch buttons can't be customized, but at least two of them, for e-mail and the Web, are useful (the third launches My Computer). Another convenience we like is the battery pack's external power gauge, which lets you check on remaining battery life without turning on the notebook. Gateway rounds the package out with Microsoft Works 7.

All of the 200XL's parts, including the hard drive, are easy to upgrade. Both memory slots were filled in our review unit (each with a 256MB module), but you can opt for a single 512MB memory module for an additional $50.

The 4.3-pound Gateway 200XL is a fast, convenient, and elegantly designed road machine that includes built-in wireless components. Its Achilles' heel is its 1-hour battery life, which is much too short for getting serious work done in transit; you'll probably want to tack on Gateway's $99 high-capacity battery, which adds only 5 ounces to the weight.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Gateway 200XL

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