At a Glance
The business-oriented M685-E is ideal for corporate graphics work and has a dedicated numberpad; but battery life was average
Gateway's M685-E, an update of the M680, is a good choice for consumers and small businesses that need a portable workstation with excellent graphics. The Gateway M685-E combines a 17-inch screen and a choice of powerful video controllers with Intel's new dual-core notebook processor so you can easily create multimedia presentations, edit photos and video, or play the latest games.
Our $2429 (as of March 27, 2006) review unit came equipped with a 2-GHz Core Duo T2500 chip, 1GB of RAM, a 17-inch WXGA screen--a higher-resolution (1680 by 1050) WSXGA+ screen costs $100 more--and an nVidia GeForce Go 7800 graphics board with 256MB of RAM. Rounding out the features are a fixed left-side DVD burner, a 100GB 5400-rpm hard drive, two USB ports on either side, a front-mounted six-in-one memory card reader (which can handle the new Mini Secure Digital and RS-Multimedia formats), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications, and Microsoft Works 8.
The M685-E's snappy WorldBench 5 score of 97 was average for a machine with its specifications. Aided by its nVidia GeForce Go 7800 graphics controller, the M685-E delivered impressive graphics performance, including a frame rate of 102 fps in our Doom 3 test conducted at a resolution of 1024 by 768 and 32-bit color, with antialiasing turned off.
The M685-E offers a choice of three batteries of varying size and longevity. The standard eight-cell 5200-mAH lasted only 2.3 hours in our tests, so opting for the 6-cell at a $20 savings is probably unwise. The twelve-cell 6600-mAH battery will likely extend the notebook's run time to about 3 hours, though it will also add $40 to your total outlay and extend the back of the notebook a bit.
I liked the M685's keyboard, which includes a dedicated numerical keypad. But the depression that surrounds the mouse buttons felt uncomfortable and seemed unnecessary.
For cable management, Gateway sells a $179 port replicator that snaps onto the bottom of the notebook and adds serial, parallel, S-Video-out and line-in ports. Businesses will appreciate this unit's long 12-month life cycle its ability to share accessories with other Gateway notebooks including batteries and power adapters. Overall, this fairly basic big-screen notebook excels in keyboard comfort and good graphics, but lacks some extras--such as a DVI connection, extra AV ports, and dual hard drives--that other desktop replacements offer.