Gateway GM5632E Desktop Computer
At a Glance
Low-priced media center desktop computer includes TV tuner and large LCD, but its pokey graphics won't please gamers.
Designed primarily as a multimedia or media-center desktop PC, the quad-core Gateway GM5632E (sold as the Gateway Q6600 at Best Buy) is a pre-built retail system available in only one configuration. Though its expansion options are limited, its base price (without monitor) of $1200 (as of November 2, 2007) may appeal to those who rarely open the case. For this review, we looked at the GM5632E bundled with Gateway's excellent 24-inch wide-screen LCD ($600), which raised the system's total price to $1800.
The GM5632E is designed with recording TV in mind. Its built-in NTSC TV tuner (which can be managed using an included remote control) has a terabyte of hard disk space spread over twin 500GB, 7200-rpm Western Digital Caviar hard drives for storing recorded TV shows and lots of other media (pictures, music, videos). The included DVD writer features LabelFlash technology, which lets you burn custom labels onto DVDs.
The PC is powered by an Intel 2.4-GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU and 3GB of RAM. Running 32-bit Vista Home Premium, the GM5632E finished our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite with a decent score of 108, which matches the same mark earned by the Polywell Poly P3503-3DT, a competing system that costs about twice as much as the Gateway and uses a faster CPU. In some tests--namely, the Photoshop CS2, 3DS rendering, Media Encoder, and multitasking components--the GM5632E beat the Poly P3503-3DT by several seconds.
But in our graphics tests, the GM5632E's gaming scores plummeted. Using a basic 256MB nVidia GeForce 8500GT graphics board, the GM5632E's results in our Doom 3 and Far Cry scripts were either the slowest or next-slowest of all the power PCs we've tested of late. For instance, its subpar score of 39 frames per second running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution with antialiasing turned on was a whopping 70 percent behind the system whose performance ranked just ahead of the Gateway's, the Xi MTower PCIe, which turned in 130 fps. That's not surprising considering that the MTower uses a graphics board with 768MB of memory, as did all the other machines that beat this model in our graphics tests. In the Gateway GM5632E's defense, though, it costs only about half as much as such systems.
The GM5632E's black-and-gray minitower case has a practical design pared of fancy flourishes. Instead of a door to protect the front-panel drives, you have just a small slide-down panel that covers some ports and a portable media drive bay for use with Gateway's USB external hard drives (the 120GB Portable Media Drives cost $100 extra). Connectivity includes two FireWire ports and eight USB ports.
Inside the easy-to-open case, most of the cables are tied together, and accessing the expansion areas isn't too difficult. A CPU fan and a rear 75mm (3-inch) fan keep operations sufficiently cool, though this system isn't likely to generate as much heat as a higher-powered rig. For expansion, you have just one open PCI slot and one external drive bay. The four memory DIMM slots are already filled with two 1GB and two 512MB RAM sticks.
The included 24-inch Gateway FHD2400 wide-screen LCD delivered exceptionally good image quality, with beautiful color saturation and clear details, including pin-sharp text at all sizes. In viewing the Transformers DVD, the kinetic freeway battle scene looked terrific; the action was smooth, and small details like dust and debris were clearly visible. The flexible display also has height adjustment and pivot control for portrait-style viewing, which adds to its versatility.
The Gateway-brand cordless keyboard and mouse included with our test system were standard fare, but I liked the keyboard's extended pad for comfortable hand support. The mouse also had a nice sculpted feel to it, but it lacked any extra buttons.
If you're looking for an affordable media center PC--but don't need a rip-roaring gaming machine in the same box--the Gateway GM5632E fits the bill. Its satisfactory combination of price and performance makes it a worthwhile option.