Trendy aluminum design. Glowing touchpad is a neat gimmick. Very inexpensive. Four USB ports. Fast Core i3 processor. Very good battery life.
Flexing keyboard. Noisy, springy touchpad.
Making risky design decisions is not what Gateway is known for, since it sells some of the most aggressively priced laptops in the business and can ill-afford to get fancy. The Gateway ID49C07u ($680 street) is a notable exception. Wrapped in swank aluminum skin, it's a sweet-looking design that combines the power of a Core i3 processor and great battery life. The glowing touchpad and chiclet keyboard are as trendy and as gimmicky as laptops get, but are actually the ID49C07u's weakest link. Otherwise, it's hard to complain about a $680 laptop.
I can't think of many laptops that can pull off an aluminum lid at these prices. Laptops like the HP Pavilion dm4 ($905 direct, ), Asus U30Jc-1A ($899 street, ), and Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz) ($1,199 direct, ) are worth their weight in metal, but are also costlier. Another characteristic of metal is that it can be molded into thin slabs, which is why the ID49C07u measures about an inch thick. With their plastic tops, the Dell Inspiron 14R ($820 direct, ) and Lenovo IdeadPad Z560 ($750 direct, ) are over an inch thick. The ID49C07u is not the lightest laptop, as its bottom half consists of plastic. It's as heavy as the Asus U30Jc-1A (4.7 lbs), but lighter than the Dell Inspiron 14R (5 lbs). At 4.4 pounds, the HP dm4 is the lightest 14-inch laptop with an optical drive.
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The 14-inch widescreen has good viewing angles, but isn't any different than other screens in its class. That's because its resolution, like that of every other 14-inch laptop, is limited to 1,366 by 768. Still, it's a productive screen—wide enough so that spreadsheets and full-screen movies don't look cramped. The keyboard is made up of isolated squares or what commonly is referred to as the chiclet style. The individual keys are larger than the ones found in the HP dm4 and MacBook Pro 13-inch, but there's also less spacing between them. There's some flexing in the keyboard, particularly in the center, where the area underneath is clearly hollow.
- General Purpose, Media, Value
- Operating System
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
- Processor Name
- Intel Core i3 M350
- Processor Speed
- 2.27 GHz
- 4 GB
- 4.7 lb
- Screen Size
- 14 inches
- Screen Size Type
- Graphics Card
- Intel GMA HD
- Storage Capacity
- 500 GB
- Networking Options
- Primary Optical Drive
- Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
A glowing touchpad, which is purely done for show, flashes every time you click on it. If this feature annoys you, it can be turned off. The touchpad also doubles as a pair of mouse buttons, similar to the clicking touchpads found in the Apple MacBook Pro and HP dm4. It's a noisy, springy clicking experience, one that takes a while to get used to and will surely annoy the person sitting next to you. Otherwise, you can use the tap feature that doesn't require a physical click, since the touchpad incorporates multitouch gestures. The multitouch gestures didn't interfere with the navigating experience, which is more than I can say for the erratic one in the HP dm4.
Four USB ports are the most I've seen on a 14-inch laptop; the HP dm4, Asus U30Jc-1A, and Lenovo Z560 all have three. The ID49C07u doesn't have an eSATA port, but you may not need one with the spacious 500GB (5,400rpm) hard drive. You can find a faster spinning hard drive in the HP dm4 (7200rpm). Gateway squeezed in a dual-layer DVD burner and included an HDMI port, in case you want to stream your DVD flicks to an HDTV. Other standard features include an SPDIF port, 5-in-1 media card reader, Ethernet, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Gateway doesn't stick you with a Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium, or any other budget processor. The 2.27GHz Intel Core i3-350M is the same multi-threaded, standard-voltage processor found in the Dell Inspiron 14R and Asus U30Jc-1A. It's faster than the Core 2 Duo processor found in the MacBook Pro 13-inch, but won't catch up to the Core i5 processors found in the HP dm4 and Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 ($1,049 direct, ). It doesn't skimp on system memory either, giving you the full 4GB of DDR3 (the Lenovo Z560, in comparison, comes with 3GB). Video encoding and Cinebench R10 tests for the Gateway ID49C07u were in line with the Asus U30Jc-1A and Dell 14R, scoring 54 seconds and 7,077, respectively.
The one performance feature that the ID49C07u doesn't give you (but the others do) is a 3D graphics chip. Systems like the HP dm4, Asus U30Jc-1A, Lenovo Y460, and Dell 14R come with an ATI or Nvidia chip. Some of them use two graphics chips—an integrated Intel chip and a discrete one—along with a switching mechanism. Although the ID49C07u is integrated only, this solution is more than enough to play online games and playback 1080p HD movies at fullscreen.
The 45WH (6-cell) battery is almost half the size as the one found in the Asus U30JC-1A (84WH), and delivered a portion of its battery life. Still, 5 hours 29 minutes in MobileMark 2007 should please any commuter and frequent traveler.
Components are practically the same in every laptop, but how it's designed and priced are what sets each laptop apart. The Gateway ID49C07u seduces with an aluminum design that not many can pull off for under $700. They probably went a little too far with the flexing keyboard and glowing touchpad, but user experience is a matter of taste. More important, it nails down most of the fundamentals for an unbelievable price. If you want to take your laptop experience a little further—albeit at a greater expense—the Editors' Choice Asus U30Jc-1A is unlike any other mainstream laptop.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Gateway ID49C07u