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Unless you glanced at a specification chart or popped their tops, you'd have no way of distinguishing between the Gateway FX6800-05 and its less expensive cousin, the FX6800-01E. The two systems use an identical chassis with carbon-copy labeling and colors, and they ship with the same input devices. But the beefier FX6800-05 delivers great performance that the FX6800-01E can't touch.
The core of the FX6800-05 consists of a 2.93-GHz Intel Core i7 940 processor and 6GB of DDR3-1066 memory. The second-tier CPU helps rein in the FX6800-05's price at $3000 (as of February 1, 2010)--a high price for a power PC on our chart, but reasonable in view of the included 80GB Intel X-25M solid-state drive--a unique, speedy storage addition that amply justifies its added cost. This SSD serves as the system's primary boot drive, complemented by a 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 drive.
The system's ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics board bests all nVidia-based Power PCs on our graphical benchmark tests. Its mark of 87 frames per second on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (at 2560 by 2100 resolution and high quality) is among the frame rates we've recorded for a power PC--and only 4 fps lower than the best-performing power PC on this benchmark, the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme XT-K. Both machines use identical video cards.
The FX6800-05's solid-state drive helps the system achieve a WorldBench 6 score of 141--tied for second place with the Polywell Poly X4800-Extreme among power PCs--despite its unexceptional CPU. If Gateway were to swap in the fastest Core i7 processor, we'd expect this machine to outperform all other current power systems on this benchmark.
Counting the two 3.5-inch hot-swap bays in the front of the chassis, our test system came with three of four the hard drive bays free to accept new storage offerings. But there's room for only one extra 5.25-inch device because the system's Hitachi-LG DVD burner occupies one bay, and the case's front-panel media controls fill a second. The system's Gateway TBGM01 motherboard contains a single free PCI Express x16 and PCI Express x4 slot. You can install a second graphics card in CrossFire configuration if you wish, but there are minimal opportunities for upgrading overall.
We liked the FX6800-05's extensive connectivity options. The rear of the system contains two eSATA connections, six USB 2.0 slots, a single FireWire 400 port, one gigabit ethernet port, and integrated 7.1 surround sound. The case's front features two USB ports and a single FireWire 400 connection, both located on the same, stealthy pop-up mechanism as the system's multiformat media card reader. The entire front of the case aims to hide devices and connections when they aren't in use--a neat touch that the case's included media controls manage to dwarf. You can modify your system's volume, change songs, or pause your music by tapping on a panel on the front of the chassis. Talk about ease of use!
Our test system came with a generic two-button mouse decked out with the same glossy black (and orange trim) as the rest of the PC. The keyboard similarly matches the prevailing color scheme but offers few extras beyond mute, volume, and ejects buttons.
No power PC beats the Gateway FX6800-05 on both price and performance. In fact, the only power PC that outperforms the FX6800-05 is 10 percent better but costs $800 more. And even then, the FX6800-05's graphics offer nearly double the frame rate of the stronger PC. For its price, the FX6800-05 is an excellent machine; just don't expect to do much upgrading later.
This Gateway is one of the better power PCs available, if the price and limited upgradability don't scare you away.
- Speedy CPU and solid state hard disk
- Top-notch graphics
- Limited upgradability
- No Blu-ray Disc drive