Introduction, Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Irvine, CA-based Gateway, Inc., now a subsidiary of Acer, Inc., is well known to anybody who was into computers in the 1990s for the company's trademark black-and-white cow-print boxes and brick-and-mortar stores.
After some post-dot-com-bubble financial struggles and management shakeups, Gateway shuttered its retail stores and withdrew from the international market, focusing instead on online sales.
While not a brand most gamers associate with hot 3D performance, the company is making inroads with its FX series, which ranges from $999USD for the base model FX6840 to the $3000 and up FX6800.
Gateway set us up with the FX6803 for this review. This system comes from the middle of the company's gaming desktop range, featuring an Intel i7 930 processor and an ATI HD 5850 graphics card.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Here are the system specs from Gateway's website:
Gateway doesn't sell its machines on the company website, preferring to move products through retail outlets such as TigerDirect and Amazon.
An Intel i7 930 running at the stock 2.93GHz provides processing power for the system. The proprietary motherboard based on the X58 chipset hosts 9GB of Kingston DDR3-1300 SDRAM. A single 1.5TB Seagate 7200RPM drive provides storage, and an ATI HD 5850 GPU runs the display. A 750watt power supply provides juice for the system.
The FX6803 retails in the $1400-1500 range, depending on tax and shipping costs.
Packaging, Internals and Set-Up
Gone are the famous spotted cow boxes. The FX6803 arrived in a much sleeker-looking box with graphics in red and black that echo the machine's color scheme.
A quick start guide greets us after we open the top flap.
Below that, we find the accessory box, which contains a mouse, VGA-to-DVI adapter, power cable, troubleshooting guide and warranty info. We did not receive any physical restore or software discs.
Foam brackets cushion the system during transit.
One unique feature of the FX6803 is the two swappable (but not hot-swappable) hard-drive bays accessible via a sliding panel on the front of the chassis.
The system also sports both a Blu-ray drive and a "Super-Multi" DVD burner.
The front/top I/O consists of multimedia card readers, a "Photo Frame" button (pushing it plays a slideshow of the images in your Windows "Pictures" folder), 2xUSB 2.0, and headphone & mic jack. Two more USB 2.0 ports sit on top about one-third of the way from the rear. Along with the indentation on the top panel, these ports are meant to connect your MP3 player or external hard-drive.
Behind the USB ports is a small compartment with lid.
The rear panel offers PS/2 mouse and keyboard inputs, a serial port, 2x eSATA, 6xUSB 2.0, FireWire, Ethernet, and analog audio outputs. In addition to dual DVI outputs, the video card has DisplayPort and HDMI outs.
The first thing you'll notice after popping off the side panel is the rat's nest of wires hanging in the middle of the chassis. This situation is all too common with mass-produced PCs and one of the telltale differences between such systems and ones made by boutique builders. Apart from looking messy, the mass of wires impedes the airflow required to keep the system in a comfortable operation temperature range. Though we didn't experience any overheating issues with the FX6803 as configured, if a customer wants to pack a few more hard-drives in there or experiment with overclocking, this is something to keep in mind.
Documentation & Accessories
As we mentioned previously, the only accessory of note included with the system is a laser-tracking two-button mouse with clickable scroll-wheel.
Printed documentation is also a bit thin. Instead, Gateway includes a digital system manual on the hard-drive and a prompt to help you burn your own backup discs. One nice thing about this utility is that it gives the user a choice to burn either a regular, disc-image-based restore disc or a drivers and applications disc (or both), each of which has its own particular advantages when restoring a machine, depending on the problem.
General Hands-On Usage and Performance
General Hands-On Usage
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the FX6803's hood:
And here's a GPU-Z screenshot showing the status for the graphics card.
This system skews towards the low-end of what we consider a "mid-range" gaming box, and it shows in terms of day-to-day performance. Once the machine is up and running, it performs fine in general tasks such as browsing the Internet or editing an Excel spreadsheet, although it doesn't have the same zip as the Solid-State Drive (SSD) equipped PCs we've been seeing lately.
But what's most noticeable is the system's extremely long boot time. Even without an anti-virus program running, the FX6803 takes more than twice as long to boot as other recent machines, including even some of the low-voltage net-tops we've reviewed, such as the Atom-powered ZOTAC ZBOX Blu-ray Mini-HTPC.
Upon reaching the desktop (finally), we're met with a splash screen prompting us to activate Norton Internet Sercurity.
The system took an excruciatingly long 145 seconds to boot to the Windows desktop, which is way longer than it should, given the hardware inside.
The FX6803 consumes 107 watts of power at idle, hopping up to 226 watts under load.
We ran this custom rig through the standard media encoding test regime here at TweakTown, which includes music and video transcoding.
All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance.
Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started, as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test we took the White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
The computer performed this task in 75 seconds, the longest time we've seen on recent desktop machines.
For the movie-encoding test, we took the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV (1080p HD) video with six-channel audio and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two-channel audio and an MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
The machine took 90 seconds to complete this task, which is more on par with what we'd expect from an i7 930 processor.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 64-bit
CINEBENCH R10 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
The system completed the multi-core 3D bike rendering test in 52 seconds.
Benchmarks - Super Pi
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5 Mod XS
Developer Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Product Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo, Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.
The box calculated pi out to the 1 millionth digit in 13.6 seconds.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
The system delivered a rather tepid score of 15326 3DMarks, earning 14597 for the GPU and 18028 for the CPU. However, for a low- to mid-range system, these numbers aren't too surprising.
We run this benchmark in "Performance" mode to get an apples-to-apples data set across various systems, as opposed to the gaming benchmarks, where we push a system's hardware to its maximum abilities.
TweakTown strives to provide our readers with a reasonable expectation of what they can expect in terms of real-world performance in our gaming tests. Instead of testing all systems and titles at, say, 1280x768 with 4xAA and comparing framerates, we determine a particular system's maximum playable settings and report those settings along with the resultant framerates.
Even though this makes direct comparison between systems a bit more difficult, we feel it best reflects how the typical gamer uses a system. Most players aren't interested in getting framerates in the 100s at 1280x768 if the title is still playable at 1680x1050.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Using Arkham Asylum's built-in benchmarking tool (included in Patch 1.1), we achieved maximum playable settings at 1920x1080 with 8xAA and "Very High" performance settings. Gaming at 16xAA produced unsatisfactory framerates.
Frame rates were as follows. 48 max, 27 min, with an average of 36.
Far Cry 2
We ran Far Cry 2 with all the settings maxed out at 1920x1080, 8xAA, and Ultra High detail level.
It averaged 60 fps, with a high of 116 and a low of 29.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
At 1920x1080, the FX6803 delivered an average of 34 fps, with a maximum of 53 and a minimum of 28.
The system cranked out an average of 120, with a max of 178 and min of 66 at 1920x1080 and Very High detail level.
For an in-depth review of the capabilities of the ATI HD 5850, see here.
While we certainly don't expect a $1500 gaming PC to perform like a $3000 one, the FX6803 has some issues that give us pause. The system's messy internal wiring screams "mass-produced PC." Although that's not necessarily a deal breaker, the system performed certain tasks well below the level it should, given the hardware inside.
With the indentation and compartment on top of the chassis, along with a host of USB and eSATA ports, Gateway seems to gear this system towards customers who use lots of external storage devices, going so far as to include two bays for connecting internal hard drives. Along with the system's Core i7 processor, this system might be of interest to media creation pros who swap out hard drives with regularity. However, since the two internal bays accessible through the panel do no support hot swaps, the appeal is somewhat limited (especially since the system's long boot adds that much more time to the swap process).
In terms of gaming, however, the FX6803 delivered on a level commiserate or slightly above what we expected. It was able to run all our test titles at or near maximum settings and still deliver smooth gameplay, and Gateway deserves credit in that respect. Among gamers, the Tier I PC manufacturers have a bit of a reputation for being utterly clueless when it comes to 3D gaming, but the FX6803 provides a very satisfying gaming experience for a mid-range system.
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