The black-and-silver Gateway M320XL is a good midrange notebook that gets a boost in value due to its huge 80GB hard drive. This sleek 5.5-pound laptop offers a windfall of USB ports (three in all) and other admirable traits for $1800.
The multiformat DVD burner is a top-notch optical drive but it's fixed, so it can't easily be upgraded or replaced with a hard drive or battery. Owners of devices such as digital cameras and PDAs that use memory cards will appreciate the four-in-one card slot. And those with an eye for style will like this laptop's tapered front and trendy volume dial. Unfortunately, the stereo audio is limited in volume and quality.
The M320XL's battery, which forms the rear of the unit, is a tad short-lived, lasting just 2.25 hours on one charge. In our speed tests, the M320XL earned a WorldBench 5 score of 76, slightly behind the average score of other 1.7-GHz Pentium M 735-equipped laptops we've reviewed. The M320XL's 4200-rpm hard drive, now the slowest type, is one factor that could hinder its performance.
When it comes to providing support materials, however, Gateway can't be beat. You get two full manuals, one printed and another in Acrobat form; and both are excellent. Even more unusual, a sticker on the bottom of the laptop provides in one convenient place not only the model number but the vendor's toll-free support number and support hours.
Lightweight but loaded, the stylish M320XL makes an uncomplicated road machine for people with lots of big files.