Gateway FX6850-51U: A Strong Performer Gets Lost in the Crowd
At a Glance
Its low price and solid benchmark results are great, but the Gateway FX6850-51U ultimately fails to stand out in a crowded pack.
Offering strong general performance for an appealingly low price, the $999 Gateway FX6850-51U paints a tantalizing picture. But in a category that's crowded with versatile, overclocked machines of all shapes and sizes, this PC gets lost in the shuffle.
Gateway's use of Intel's Core i7-2600 CPU, a 3.4GHz speed demon that can automatically overclock itself (when necessary) to a mighty 3.8GHz, is a great choice for this inexpensive desktop. Combined with 8GB of DDR3 memory, the system earned a strong score of 159 on our WorldBench 6 test suite. Certainly there are faster systems in the Performance desktop PCs category, but none can rival the price-to-performance ratio that Gateway's desktop delivers.
The smaller, boutique vendors were first to the gate with Sandy Bridge-equipped desktop machines, and some have pushed their machines to the brink, through overclocking. Thus the Micro Express MicroFlex 25B--technically categorized as a Mainstream desktop PC--achieves a major performance boost with its overclocked Core i5-2500K processor, enabling it to outrun the FX6850-51U at a lower price ($849). To the Gateway system's credit, however, it includes a 1TB hard drive that is much roomier than the MicroFlex 25B's 300GB offering.
The FX6850-51U's discrete Nvidia GT440 graphics board delivers a puny 33 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmarks (at 2560 by 1600 resolution and high quality). The Micro Express PC's humbler Radeon HD 6870 graphics board cranks out 112 frames per second on the same test at the same settings.
Gateway houses the FX6850-51U in a standard FX chassis with spring-locked panels on the front of the case that conceal the system's two 5.25-inch bays and two 3.5-inch hotswap hard-drive bays. A recessed tray carved into the top of the case makes an excellent storage area for devices that you plug into the system's two top-mounted USB ports or two front-facing USB ports. A multiformat card reader rounds out the face of this delightfully glossy (but aging) chassis.
Regrettably, the system's interior is marred by messy wiring clumped toward the center, which will complicate installation of new devices in the single free 5.25-inch bay or two free 3.5-inch bays.
You get two open PCI Express x1 slots. The system's wireless card occupies a third PCI Express x1 slot, and the single PCI Express x16 slot in the rig goes to the aforementioned Nvidia card. Nothing on the inside of the case is accessible without a screwdriver.
We were disappointed by the lack of diversity in the connections for this PC.Four USB ports and a multiformat card reader adorn the system's front, and six more USB ports appear on the FX6850-51U's rear. They join a single gigabit ethernet port and... that's it for major connections provided by the motherboard. The Nvidia GT440 includes a connection for DVI and HDMI, and the wireless networking is a nice touch, but we're accustomed to seeing eSATA and USB 3.0 connections on top-tier machines .
The keyboard and mouse included with the system are predictably generic.
Gateway's FX6850-51U offers strong performance in an attractive (albeit familiar) shell, but there are many intriguing alternatives to choose from--even at this excellent price.