Gaming notebooks are typically massive machines that you need to lift weights just to be able to carry it around with you on a daily basis. The large notebooks are typically associated with other things too, like high prices and short battery life.
Still, gamers who like to frequent LAN parties or just don't have enough room in a dorm or on their desk for a full desktop often find themselves shopping for a gaming notebook. Today we are going to check out the very impressive Gateway P-7808u FX. Once you get an eye full of the specifications on this machine you will wonder how exactly Gateway was able to cram so much gaming goodness into the notebook at such an affordable price.
The Gateway P-7808u FX proves that gaming notebooks need not break the $2,000 barrier to offer impressive specifications, but the proof is in the pudding as the old adage goes. The true worth of the Gateway P-7808u FX lies in how well it performs. Read on to see if the Gateway P-7808u FX's performance is as good as its price.
Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
Gateway doesn't sell the P-7808u FX gaming notebook directly to consumers on its website, but the machine is available from multiple retailers online and can be found in some retail locations as well. The MSRP for the machine is $1,799, but you can get it from Newegg for $1,749.99 U.S. Dollars right now. The machine offers some very impressive specifications for that price tag; check out the image below for a full run down of the system specs. This is the only configuration the system is available in.
This is the retail box that you will see sitting on store shelves. Gateway shipped the machine to me in this very box and the machine arrived in pristine condition.
Pop the top of the box and you get a glimpse of the P-7808u FX along with the box holding the battery, documentation and power adapter.
Pull the notebook and the accessory box out and you find all the manuals and gear that the notebook ships with. Nothing extra here, but for the price you don't really expect anything fancy.
The Gateway P-7808u FX Edition Gaming Notebook
The notebook is an attractive little machine with the orange and grey that we are used to seeing on all FX series notebooks since they first debuted.
This is a shot of the rear of the P-7808u with a massive battery sticking out far enough to make Sir Mix-a-lot proud. His anaconda would want some, trust me.
The right side of the machine has the HDMI out, eSATA, VGA out, RJ-45, a single USB port, FireWire port, ExpressCard slot, microphone jack and headphone jack.
There isn't much to see on the front edge of the notebook other than the shiny button that releases the screen and the switch that turns Wi-Fi on and off.
The right side of the notebook is where the DVD burner with Lightscribe resides along with a large cooling grate to keep the quad-core beast cool, and a couple USB ports.
The bottom of the P7808u FX has the doors that give access to internal components of the notebook.
Flip the lid open and you get your first glimpse of the large keyboard with attached numeric keypad. You can see the WASD keys get a different color font to set them apart from the rest of the keyboard.
The screen on the P-7808u FX isn't as glossy as the one on the Alienware M15x I checked out recently and has less resolution, but it works well.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage and 3DMark06
Now we get to the part of the review where we look at synthetic and real world benchmarks to get an idea of the performance the P-7808u FX delivers. I will be using PCMark Vantage and 3DMark06 for the synthetic benchmarks and Crysis, Video Encoding and iTunes Encoding for the real world tests along with a real world test for battery life.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is a great synthetic benchmark that simulates a variety of different workloads to get an idea of how well the P-7808u FX performs as a whole. The P-7808u FX performed very well, beating the much more expensive Alienware m15x, which could only muster a total score of 3615 on the benchmark.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.10
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06
Buy It Here
Typically, I would run 3DMark Vantage on a Vista notebook, but the screen resolution of the P-7808u wasn't compatible so I opted to run 3DMark06. 3DMark06 v1.10 is a gaming benchmark that puts the NVIDIA 9800M GTS and the CPU of the machine through their paces. Check out the image below to see how well the P-7808u FX did.
Benchmarks - Crysis, iTunes & Movie Encoding, Battery Life
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
I decided to see how well the Gateway P-7808u FX performed on Crysis. The game has been around for a while now, but it is still more than capable of bringing a high-end machine to its knees. For the Crysis test, I use the Crysis benchmark tool to automate the test loop process and ran the settings at medium.
See the screen shot for the settings used for the benchmark and the frame rates during the test. Needless to say, the Gateway P-7808u FX offered impressive performance for a $1,800 gaming notebook.
Version and / or Patch Used: 7.1.15
Developer Homepage: http://www.apple.com
Product Homepage: http://www.apple.com/itunes
We have settled on a different set of MP3's for our iTunes encoding test that will make the scores for the P-7808u FX unable to compare to the Alienware m15x. This will be the set of MP3s and the version of the software that we use in all tests going forward. The album of MP3's I used was the Core album from Stone Temple Pilots. I used iTunes to turn the MP3 tracks into AAC tracks and timed the process with a stopwatch.
It took the P-7808u 1 minute and 51 seconds to encode the entire album.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9
Developer Homepage: http://www.microsoft.com
Product Homepage: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/forpros/encoder/default.mspx
The movie I used for this test was the Microsoft Flight video, again a different video that the one used in the Alienware m15x review, so comparisons can't be made. As you can see in the image above it took the P-7808u 3 minutes and 3 seconds to encode the movie from HD resolution to DVD quality CBR 2Mbps video with CD quality CBR 2Mbps audio.
No fancy tests here for the battery life of the P-7808u FX. I simply started a DVD and let it play continually until the notebook ran out of power. Typically I use Mobile Mark 2007 to get battery life, but with the load of trial ware installed on the P-7808u FX the Mobile Mark application refused to run. It took the P-7808u FX notebook a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes to go from 100% to shutdown while watching movies. That is a very impressive number for a gaming notebook.
Hands on Use
Hands on Usage
This is my favorite part of a notebook review because the benchmarks and specifications only tell half the story when it comes to how well a notebook performs. How good or bad a notebook is depends on all parts of the machine as well as the user experience; great performance from the notebook's hardware means nothing if the notebook has a bad screen and a bad keyboard.
The Gateway P-7808u FX lacks the frills that the Alienware M15x offered, but the Gateway also lacks about half the cost of the m15x as well. You don't get a fancy backlit keyboard with adjustable light colors with the Gateway, but what you do get is a good keyboard with full-size keys and a full number pad. If you enter lots of numeric data that number pad is a blessing.
The keyboard itself is nice enough, nothing spectacular but nothing bad either. It offers decent tactile feel and clicky buttons touch typists will like. The WASD buttons get orange letters to set them apart from the rest of the keyboard and to show passers-by that this is a gaming machine.
The large keyboard also gets a large track pad. The track pad has dual buttons underneath and is as sensitive and accurate as you can expect a track pad to be. You certainly won't want to play games using the track pad, but you could in a pinch.
Above the keyboard are the keys for controlling the multimedia functions of the notebook, everything you expect to find is there and the touch sensitive buttons look cool too. The screen is nice enough, it lacks the 1920 x 1200 resolution that the m15x offers, but honestly, a resolution that high can make for uncomfortable use in anything other than gaming. The 1440 x 900 resolution works well enough and ensures that you can play most games with the eye candy turned on.
The screen is matte finished and while it throws glare somewhat , the glare off the screen is nowhere near as bad as what the glossy Alienware machine produced. Movie watching is good on the screen with sharp colors and decent black levels. The sound system on the machine was decent, much better than what Alienware offered, with enough volume to listen to movies without resorting to headphones.
The big drawback of any large notebook or gaming machine is the size and weight. The Gateway P-7808u FX is a touch over nine pounds, meaning that you'd better eat your Wheaties if you plan on carrying the beast on a daily basis around town or school.
If you buy the Gateway P-7808u FX rather than a high-end gaming notebook like the m15x, you give up some bling for sure. What you don't give up with the Gateway P-7808u FX is gaming performance and usability -- the machine offers those in spades. With a price under $1,800 the performance of the Gateway P-7808u FX bested the m15x on some benchmarks.
As with any 17-inch gaming notebook, the only real downsides to the machine are the size and weight of the notebook. If you can lift the thing, you will not be disappointed with the Gateway P-7808u FX. If I were spending my money on a gaming notebook, the Gateway P-7808u FX is hands down what I would buy.