Gateway FX6800-11 Value Desktop PC
The Gateway FX6800-11 has great numbers in almost all respects. It's a fast system--one of the best value PCs in general performance, and nearly top-notch in gaming, too. The connections are ample, the case is beautiful, and the available storage is high for a machine in the value category. And at $1300 (as of 8/23/09), the FX6800-11 could be considered a pretty good deal--that is, were it not for one particular competitor on our Top 10 Value PCs chart that not only beats the Gateway's performance across the board but also undercuts its price by $300.
The FX6800-11 carries a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 processor, a fairly typical CPU among the top value PCs that we've reviewed. (Had Gateway moved up to a higher variant of the processor, it would have destroyed the pricing of this relatively inexpensive system.) The system's 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory and its single 750GB Seagate hard drive are above-average inclusions for the category, but nothing I haven't seen on other Core i7-based value machines; in fact, the $999 Dell Studio XPS 435 ups the ante by packing 1TB of storage into its chassis.
In general system performance, the FX6800-11 produced virtually identical results to those of the XPS 435, its closest rival; while the Gateway received a score of 125 in WorldBench 6, the Dell earned a mark of 126. The same cannot be said for the two PCs' gaming prowess, however. Though the FX6800-11 turned in great gaming results, delivering 46 frames per second in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and 59 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 (both at 2560 by 1600 resolution and high quality), its nVidia GeForce GTS 150 graphics card is nevertheless weaker than the XPS 435's ATI Radeon 4870--and in the end, the XPS 435 beat the FX6800-11 by nearly 15 frames per second on both test runs.
Don't expect to do much upgrading inside the FX6800-11: It has only one free 5.25-inch bay and one free (internal) hard-drive bay. I commend Gateway for making two hot-swap hard-drive bays accessible through the system's front, but the wasted space below said drive bays inside the chassis is disappointing. The only available PCI connector on the motherboard is a single PCI Express x16 slot; while that's enough for adding a second video card, it's a meager offering compared with the options in nearly every other top value PC.
At the very least, the FX6800-11's connections give you a tremendous amount of flexibility--an ideal lineup for the multimedia enthusiast. The rear of the system is home to six USB ports, two eSATA ports, 7.1 surround sound, a single FireWire 400 port, and gigabit ethernet. On the front, two USB ports and a multiformat card reader are nicely concealed beneath a pop-up box on the case's top. A single FireWire 400 port hides atop a similar mechanism on the system's front. While the sheer number of connectivity offerings isn't unique to Gateway's systems, the selection here is still a top-of-the-line assortment for a value PC.
I really like the case of the FX6800-11. That sounds like a total fanboy remark to make, but hear me out: Not only does the black and orange color scheme give the system a sharp, bold look, but Gateway has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the components and connections disrupt the design's flow as little as possible. As mentioned, the front-panel connectors are all hidden behind pop-out panels, and the hot-swap drive bays are covered by a sliding black panel. Both optical drives on the front of the chassis are stealthed, too. My only criticism is that the labeling on the system's front panel is a bit excessive.
But the good looks can't hide the unfortunate fact that the Gateway FX6800-11--a powerful performer with nearly every connection under the sun--is still too expensive. While the FX6800-11 is able to match the Dell XPS 435 in general performance, the Dell, priced $300 less, offers gaming performance at levels that the FX6800-11 just can't reach. Second place in the Olympics is still second place--Gateway should be proud of its accomplishment, but you should settle for nothing less than gold.