At a Glance
The M255-E hits most of the right notes for small offices in need of a security-oriented travel laptop.
The Gateway M255-E is a solid notebook that will satisfy security-conscious business users who need the option of long battery life.
The 5.6-pound unit features a nice 14.1-inch wide screen and a 6-cell rear-mounted battery that lasted 3.1 hours on a single charge in our tests. Gateway offers an unusually generous number of options for lengthening that battery life, among them a second 6-cell power pack ($110) designed to fit in the modular bay. More powerful primary batteries--an 8-cell one ($20 more) and a 12-cell model ($60 more)--are also available. (The 12-cell endured for almost 6.5 hours when PC World tested it last year on the Gateway M250, and it makes a nice typing foot too.)
Its features are business oriented, with an emphasis on security. A Trusted Platform Module chip comes embedded for user authentication, and an integrated Smart Card slot, located beneath the PC Card slot on the right side of the unit, offers the option of adding another layer of data protection. For wireless communications, the machine I looked at came with integrated Wi-Fi but not Bluetooth (which costs $50 extra).
For a notebook equipped with a fast 2-GHz Core Duo T2500 processor and 512MB of DDR2-667 SDRAM, the M255-E has good speed, as it earned a WorldBench 5 score of 90; in comparison, the average score for seven notebooks we tested with the same chip but twice the RAM is 95.
Though the M255-E has a short keystroke, it isn't off-putting. The keyboard layout is good, and the left mouse button is larger than the right one, always a welcome ergonomic touch. The handy jog wheel once located on the front of previous versions of this notebook has been eliminated (the Fn key, combined with the PgUp and PgDn keys, has taken over the job of volume control), but it's no great loss considering that audio is not this notebook's forte. A Wi-Fi switch, which is missing, would be a nice addition.
The notebook's connections should be more than enough for most small offices: It includes FireWire, basic audio ports, four USB ports, and a three-in-one memory card reader (seven-in-one if you count all the flavors of SD, Memory Stick, and MultiMediaCard). This unit came with an 80GB hard drive and a dual-format DVD drive. Video is integrated only, with no dedicated graphics card option. Microsoft Works 8.5 rounds out the offering.
The M255-E is user upgradable; its two memory chips and hard drive are all located in the same easy-to-access bottom compartment. An extra-cost $180 port replicator that hangs off the left side of the notebook is the only docking option.
All in all, the M255-E has its faults, including weak speakers, but it hits most of the right notes for small businesses in need of a security-oriented travel notebook with good battery life.