Gateway LX6820-01 Delivers Less Than Its Rivals Do
At a Glance
Gateway LX6820-01 Value Desktop PC
Gateway upgrades its otherwise typical value-PC offering with some snazzier components, but the additions do little to help this desktop beat the competition.
Gateway's LX6820-01 is a sensible "next step up" in the company's LX series of desktop PCs. Compared with the company's $800 LX6810-01 value PC, the LX6820-01 gives you a little more power in the processor, significantly more hard-drive space, and increased frame rates for your games, all for a bit more cash (the price is $980 as of February 1, 2010). The downside? Pitted against some of the bigger systems in the value PC arena, the LX6820-01 falls short in features and performance.
Interestingly, though Gateway stuck 8GB of memory in its LX6820-01 configuration, it didn't push forward into the triple-channel architecture of Intel's Core i7 platform--a move that surely would have given the system a boost in general performance and increased its ability to compete with other similar desktops. The LX6820-01's 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q9400 processor is a smaller advance from the LX6810-01's 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200 CPU. Fortunately, in storage capacity the LX6820-01 is a definite improvement over its predecessor: Its 1TB hard drive gives you 360GB of additional space to work with.
A bump up to a discrete nVidia GeForce GT230 graphics card (from the LX6810-01's nVidia GeForce GT120) allows the LX6820-01 to output nearly double the frame rates. That said, in our tests this Gateway still couldn't quite match the graphical prowess of the Dell Studio XPS 435 or the Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (each $1000 as of 8/23/09).
Although the Edge Z5 has the same processor as Gateway's system (and a smaller hard drive), it achieved a WorldBench 6 score of 126, while the LX6820-01 managed a mark of 116. The Core i7-based XPS 435 hit a score of 125, helped in part by a RAID 0 array of two 500GB hard drives--a trade-off that improves performance but increases risk.
Gateway opts for the standard case to house the LX6820-01--the same black, stealthed-exterior chassis (sans touch buttons for multimedia controls) as on the LX6810-01. It's a solid, elegant design that conceals external connections under pop-out paneling and hides two hot-swap drive bays behind a flap on the front of the case. The system's insides appear slightly more chaotic as a result of the wiring job, but all upgradable parts are within easy reach (be prepared for lots of screws, though).
The system's single DVD burner takes up one of the two internal 5.25-inch slots. Aside from the aforementioned hot-swap bays on the front, the PC has only one additional free bay for a new hard drive. I said it with the LX6810-01, and I'll repeat it here: What's the reasoning for leaving so much wasted space inside, beneath the hot-swap bays? A user could have easily taken advantage of the free space in the case's lower right to fit two additional hard drives or (with a front-panel redesign) a single additional 5.25-inch device. The availability of just one PCI slot on the motherboard will similarly do little to quench an upgrader's thirst.
At least Gateway seemed to take a cue from our LX6810-01 review and added some external connectivity to the chassis. While that comes in the form of just a single new HDMI port on the system's rear, it's something. Other than that, the LX6820-01 has a build identical to that of its predecessor, offering four USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, one gigabit ethernet port, and integrated 7.1 surround sound on the rear, plus two USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, and a multiformat card reader on the front.
The two-button mouse included with our review system is prettier than most, but still just as dull in its functionality as any other. The keyboard follows suit; beyond the standard layout, it provides only three additional keys, designed to control the system's volume levels.
While the Gateway LX6820-01 is a fine value PC, it doesn't quite match the features and performance of similarly priced rivals like the Dell Studio XPS 435 or Velocity Micro Edge Z5. With those machines, you get faster performance, better upgradability, a prettier case design, gaming, Blu-ray…the list goes on. These aren't critical faults; rather, the LX6820-01 merely delivers less than what its competitors provide. It isn't the king of value desktops, but it sure could be a good choice at a reduced price.