Gateway P-6825 All-Purpose Laptop
At a Glance
This sweetly priced portable with big screen would make a good second household PC, but heavy gaming is out.
Attention, Best Buy shoppers: This 17-inch laptop costs just $900 (as of 11/29/07), and we found the Gateway P-6825 for an even better $749 at Best Buy's online store. It's a modest portable in some respects, to be sure: Its speed is middling and some of its features are not top-shelf. But on balance, it's an acceptable choice for budget watchers who need a laptop for casual home-office work.
The P-6825 is a thick notebook that weighs a heavyish 8.4 pounds. Its screen is reflective and could be brighter, but I found the 1440-by-900-pixel resolution comfortable. It wasn't difficult to read with a little adjustment to avoid overhead lights, and the screen would be fine for surfing, sending e-mail, and knocking out documents. If you have a TV or a big-screen monitor with an HDMI input, you can use the P-6825's HDMI-out port to watch DVD movies on a brighter display.
Equipped with Windows Vista Home Premium, the P-6825 is a fair entertainment unit. The speakers are pretty good; though they sound a bit flat, they're loud enough for system alerts and DVD movie dialogue. A set of media buttons above the keyboard offers controls for Windows music and video files. Solitaire looks good, but the kids won't be able to play their favorite 3D shooters because the laptop has no dedicated video memory.
The P-6825 has the slower 802.11g Wi-fi implementation instead of 802.11n, but this won't matter unless you plan on downloading big video files. It offers a memory card reader and even an ExpressCard/54 slot for higher-end peripherals, but has no FireWire port or Bluetooth short-range wireless communications capability.
The laptop does provide an empty internal bay that lets do-it-yourselfers augment the 160GB primary hard drive with a second one, which is a very unusual feature for a retail portable. The oddest and least-attractive aspect of the design is the rough finish of the upper casing. I liked the keyboard's dedicated number pad and oversize touchpad, but getting used to the slightly gritty feel of the key tops was difficult.
Application speed was all right for a budget laptop. Equipped with a 1.5-GHz Core 2 Duo T5250 and 2GB of RAM, the P-6825 managed a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 64. The closest configuration we've tested was a Sony VAIO VGN-NR160E/T with only 1GB of RAM that posted a mark of 52, so the P-6825's score seems in line for the processor. It's 9 points below the average score of 72 earned by 14 currently tested all-purpose laptops, though.
Battery life was better than we expected at 3.3 hours, about 20 minutes shorter than the average for the same group of notebooks.
The P-6825 is nicely documented and outfitted with application software, coming with an Acrobat user guide and with Microsoft Works 8.5 preinstalled on the hard drive. This alone might make the Gateway P-6825 worthwhile for some shoppers on a short leash. If you don't have much dough for a home portable, take a look.