Hands on Use
After the benchmarks were completed, I started to fiddle with the system and use it for the normal things we all use a notebook for. The first thing I did was surf the web using the machine. I noticed right away that the track pad was going to be a serious issue for me. The track pad looks cool with a one-piece design that glows when it is being used.
The big issue for me was that you have to push hard to activate the left and right mouse buttons. The left mouse button particularly was hard to activate. I found that the track pad is so large that when I have my hands positioned as I would normally put them for typing, I was hitting the far left corner of the bottom section of the track pad's left button. Even though the trackpad was clicking audibly, pressing the left corner of that mouse button did not activate the button. I found that I had to hit the section of the single piece track pad marked for the left mouse button in the exact center to get it to activate. Since you have to press really hard I ended up at times having to hit the button three times to get left click to activate when using the same force I use for my desktop mouse and other track pads on notebooks.
To compound that problem, even though the track pad was set to recognize taps as clicks, those tap clicks often simply didn't work. The tap to activate the left click was so hit and miss I simply gave up using that feature and ended up just slamming a finger on the left mouse track pad button to ensure it activated. This was a huge annoyance for me.
I also noticed while I was typing that the Gateway ID49C13u keyboard had a large amount of flex in the center when you are typing. I will admit that I have heavy hands and tend to hit keys hard, but the keyboard flexed more in the middle than other notebooks I have used. That flex didn't affect how easy the keyboard is to type on, I simply worried about the longevity of the keyboard. The keys are sized well, positioned right where you expect them to be, and tactile feel is good. I really like that there are keys down the right side of the keyboard that allow you to mute and turn the volume up and down without having to mess with a function key and hunt the button like you do on some notebook keyboards.
The 14-inch screen is a highly glossy unit. That means glare, but good color reproduction for watching video content. I noticed slight pixilation in dark scenes of movies and video, but overall the Gateway ID49C13u is capable of streaming video with ease. I went to Hulu and streamed a few programs. The Gateway ID49C13u did a great job of streaming the media with only slight pixilation in some fast scenes and jittery video was rare. It's nice to see a reasonably priced notebook that still works well for streaming duties.
The onboard sound system is average for a notebook today. It has little bass and you need to be directly in front of the notebook to hear in a loud room. It could use more volume if you want to watch from a distance, but 99% of all notebooks have this same flaw. This is easy to fix with headphones or a set of speakers.
Physically the Gateway ID49C13u is sized well and you can carry it with you wherever you want to. It's getting to the point today that a 14-inch machine is almost as common as the 15.6-inch notebooks that dominated the market in the past. The 14-inch screen, thin profile, and reasonable weight make the Gateway ID49C13u easy to take with you at school or work. You won't mistake the notebook for an ultraportable, but it is certainly portable enough for most.
After all is said and done, I am at a bit of an impasse with the Gateway ID49C13u. The sad track pad really ruins this machine for me. I could use the notebook with an external mouse, but for a trackpad to have so many issues is not a good thing considering how much use it will get with most users.
I can only hope that the track pad issues I have found on this machine aren't common across the entire line. Sadly, the fact that the Gateway ID49C13u is in perfect physical condition leads me to expect the same issues across the line. Other than the poor track pad and the flexing keyboard, the Gateway ID49C13u offers impressive performance considering its under $850 price tag.
If the track pad worked better this machine would be a no brainier for a budget shopper, but as it is, I would not want to use this notebook without a mouse.