Friday, February 22, 2008

Special review for Gateway's 2008 Gaming Notebook

I see a lot of laptops, and many of them claim to be record-breakers in the speed department. Only one, of course, can genuinely hold the crown at any time. And for now, the machine that has earned the title of fastest gaming laptop on the planet comes from an unlikely creator: Gateway.

With its P-series FX (I reviewed the P-171XL FX if you're looking for specifics), being launched this week at CES, Gateway has radically revamped its traditionally conservative look and given itself a makeover. Clad in glossy black with rust-orange accents, this is a machine straight out of Half-Life.

As with most serious gamer notebooks, the P-series features a big, 17-inch screen, a numeric keypad, and a rock-solid keyboard. And of course, the under-the-hood specs are what will really thrill the FPS lovers: 2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme CPU, 3GB of RAM, dual 200GB hard drives, and—a first among laptops, as far as I can tell—an Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS graphics card. Even the 8700 series has been rare in laptops up to now, and the 8800 is even faster than that model.

Specs are meaningless if the machine can't put up, and the P-series puts its money where its mouth is. I got my mitts on the first machine off the production line in order to put it through its paces, and on my Doom 3 benchmark test, the P-series pumped out frame rates of just over 200 frames per second, dramatically besting the previous all-time champ, as well as 80 other notebooks I've reviewed in the last two years. General application performance using PCMark was also top-notch. Though the P-series didn't break that record, it came within 0.32 percent of doing so (or statistically tying it). Using the P-series is a dream if you're used to the long delays that typically come with doing anything under Windows. HDMI and eSATA ports are available as outputs (as well as the usual USB and FireWire.) As a bonus, it's quiet as a mouse, even when the fans are running.

Naturally, you can't have everything, and the P-series isn't going to work for everyone. At $3,000, it's exceptionally expensive, even for a high-end machine, though I've seen $4,000 notebooks that were far less capable than this one. At 9.3 pounds, it's hefty, even for a 17-inch laptop (most come in around 8 pounds). And despite the monstrous battery, I eked out only 67 minutes of running time. One final concern: The screen is too dim even at maximum brightness, though that's a common problem with 17-inch laptops.

Still, next to its performance and nice design, those are minor quibbles. On the whole, I wouldn't hesitate recommending the P-series FX to anyone looking for a new gaming laptop... provided they aren't planning to do any traveling with it.

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