Hand On Use
Now that we have all of the benchmarks out of the way, we can get into the hands on section of the review where the little details of its real world use come into play.
The Gateway MD7826u has an odd-looking keyboard which has square keys that are beveled on the edges. Other than looking strange, the keyboard functions well and offers decent tactile feedback. The keys are well spaced and offer a slight click when pressed that should work well for touch typists who like audible feedback. The keyboard lacks a number pad, which is normal on a 15-inch notebook.
The screen is slightly larger than what you find on some notebooks in the same class, but not enough to sway me from one 15-inch machine to the Gateway MD7826u for the extra few tenths of an inch of screen. As I mentioned before, the screen is glossy and has a problem with glare in bright environments. I am no fan of glossy screens because of this and would prefer to see a matte option. Despite the glare problem, the Gateway MD7826u screen has good color reproduction and decent black levels making it work well for movie watching, which is what the machine was built for.
The track pad is very large and has a section on the right side for scrolling through web pages. The pad offers the same accuracy and feel that you expect to see from a track pad on any mainstream notebook. The two buttons are large and well spaced, though the beveled edges of the track pad area place the buttons slightly further down than most notebooks I have used.
This meant that in a dark room I found myself hitting the beveled edge when trying to hit the right or left mouse buttons. I could do without the fancy beveled edges of the track pad; they look good but add a learning curve that you have to get used to before hitting the buttons accurately at times.
The areas to the right and under the keyboard look blank when the notebook is turned off, but when you power the notebook up, icons for hard drive, power and other features illuminate under the left corner of the keyboard and touch sensitive controls for volume, mute, and media control light up on the right side. The controls are easy to use and look cool to boot.
One of my gripes with the Alienware m15x that I reviewed last month was that the onboard sound system was very quiet. The Gateway MD7826u has much more volume than the Alienware rig offered, allowing me to hear music and audio from movies even in noisy rooms without straining. The dual headphone jacks also mean that you and a friend can listen to music or movies without disturbing others around you.