Gateway FX6831-03: The Heart and Soul of a Performance PC
By David Murphy
At a Glance
Absurd amount of memory
Reducing the memory could reduce the price
This excellent buy in the Performance PC category isn’t a show-stopper, but its fast speeds and high-definition support combine to deliver a great performance when it counts.
The Gateway FX6831-03 is in many ways a match for one of the power PC category’s best price-for-performance systems, the Micro Express MicroFlex 95B. But while the systems share similar performance characteristics, the FX6831-03 surpasses the 95B in features and extras. Though this PC packed with awesome add-ons might not top the charts, you won’t find a better value for the $1699 (as of March 1, 2010) cost.
The FX6831-03’s Intel Core i7-860 processor runs at 2.8GHz, a little below the speed of the MicroFlex 95B’s 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-950 CPU. Even so, Gateway’s machine was able to deliver comparable performance on our WorldBench 6 suite, earning a score of 142 (close to the 95B’s mark of 148). That result is thanks in part to the FX6831-03’s memory configuration: The Gateway PC’s 16GB of DDR3-1333 memory–no, that’s not a typo–is the largest amount we’ve seen on any system gracing our charts. We have to ask, however, what typical PC activities actually benefit from 16GB of RAM. Would a reduction in price and a switch to 8GB have been a better choice?
As for the graphics performance, the FX6831-03’s discrete ATI Radeon HD5850 card competes head-to-head against the MicroFlex 95B’s dual-GPU nVidia GeForce GTX 295 board. Producing 134.9 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3 (1920 by 1200 resolution, high settings), the FX6831-03 outdid the 95B, which offered a frame rate of 111.7 fps. At higher resolutions (2560 by 1600), the FX6831-03 suffered a thorough trouncing from the Electronics and Computing Black Mamba PC–a $2179 system (as of March 1, 2010) that can output an average of 129.5 fps.
The FX6831-03 does much to improve on the few problem points of the 95B. For starters, the hard-drive capacity difference between the two systems is almost laughable: The Gateway PC’s 1.5TB hard drive (for booting and storage) is above and beyond the 95B’s paltry 300GB offering. Gateway also stashes a combination Blu-ray reader and DVD burner alongside another DVD burner on the front of the system, directly above two free drive bays for hot-swapping 3.5-inch drives.
Gateway’s beautiful, jet-black case for the FX6831-03 is a step up from the traditional design of its FX line. Two USB ports and a multiformat card reader are configured for easy access on the system’s front panel. An additional two USB ports reside near a push-top panel on the top of the computer. Between these touches and the panels that conceal the optical drives and hot-swap bays on the system’s front, Gateway has done a great job of taking its standard chassis to the next level.
The system’s rear delivers a tremendous range of connectivity. Joining the six USB ports are two eSATA ports, one gigabit ethernet port, one FireWire 400 port, an S/PDIF optical output, integrated 7.1 surround sound, and HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity via the graphics board.
The case of this midsize-tower system, as well as its preconfigured innards, leaves little room for additional interior upgrading. One hard-drive bay (joined by the two aforementioned hot-swap drive bays) is all you get to work with for front-facing devices. Located on the motherboard are a single free PCI Express x1 slot and a PCI Express x4 slot, which eliminates your ability to run a CrossFire setup on this machine. And space is tight at the bottom of the motherboard, so getting another card in underneath the ATI Radeon HD5850 would be a challenge anyway.
Aside from a mere three buttons for multimedia control, the FX6831-03’s keyboard doesn’t offer any additional keys. The mouse does have two additional buttons, but they’re split across the sides of the mouse–you’ll really be able to toggle only one of them with your thumb.
While the Gateway FX6831-03 power PC isn’t a category leader in performance, it does provide an excellent experience in both general use and gaming for a relatively low price. The generous amount of connectivity and the Blu-ray support do much to sweeten the deal. As for the less-than-stellar upgrading options, you won’t honestly need to upgrade this system for quite a while, given just how much comes along for the ride. If you want to anyway, maybe you can pawn some of the ample memory to help defray the cost.
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