capsule review

Gateway FX400XL

At a Glance
  • Gateway FX400XL

    PCWorld Rating

    Low-cost power system with lots of storage and an Audigy 2 ZS sound card will please multimedia buffs.

Gateway FX400XL
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

Priced at $2200 with a 19-inch LCD monitor, the FX400XL delivers solid value to multimedia enthusiasts looking for a user-friendly PC that can handle work with sound and video.

A dual-layer DVD+/-RW burner, a DVD-ROM drive, a seven-in-one media-card reader, and two 250GB hard drives should meet the storage needs of most users. If they don't, you can add another hard drive to the chassis. Audiophiles will appreciate the SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card.

Two USB ports, two FireWire ports, and microphone and headphone ports at the bottom of the front panel are readily accessible if the tower case sits on a desktop, but they'll be hard to reach if the case is on the floor. Four more USB ports, two FireWire ports, and a built-in VGA port reside on the back.

The elegant lines of the FX400XL's silver-and-black BTX case belie the tangled mess of cables and heat sinks you'll find inside. Heat sinks and ventilation ducting for the CPU and the graphics card obscure most of the motherboard. And to add RAM modules to the two free RAM slots, you'll have to disconnect several power cables and avoid cutting your hands on the ominous-looking heat sinks. Getting at the CPU takes even more work: You must disconnect the hard drives and remove a bulky ventilation duct that covers the CPU assembly.

Adding a hard drive to the free internal drive bay is easier: The chassis holding the drives faces outward for easy access, and you can get complete access to it after disconnecting a couple of cables. There are no open external drive bays.

The FX400XL earned respectable performance scores, but considering its dual-core, 3-GHz Pentium D 830 CPU, 1GB of DDR2-533 SDRAM, and nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics card, we had hoped for better. Its score of 89 on our WorldBench 5 applications benchmark was comparable to the marks earned by other systems we've tested using the same CPU, but its frame-rate scores on our Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament graphics tests were at the low end of scores for PCs equipped with this top-flight graphics card.

Colors looked rich and crisp on the Gateway FPD1960 19-inch LCD monitor; and game play on Return to Castle Wolfenstein was smooth, with clear and well-defined characters and scenery.

The included Gateway wireless keyboard had a solid feel, good key action, and a full set of large multimedia control and programmable shortcut buttons. The four shortcut buttons at each end of the keyboard are perfectly positioned for fast access while typing. Likewise, the wireless mouse felt solid and comfortable.

Inexperienced users will benefit from Gateway's well-written documentation. The printed user manual clearly covers the basics of operation and maintenance, and the well-illustrated setup poster offers guidance to users of all experience levels.

With lots of storage and multimedia hardware, this Gateway will appeal to enthusiasts who don't need to open the case frequently to perform upgrades.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Low-cost power system with lots of storage and an Audigy 2 ZS sound card will please multimedia buffs.

    Pros

    • Low-cost power system

    Cons

    • Graphics performance was lackluster
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