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Gateway 700XL Review

Highs

  • High class look and feel

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 7

Lows

  • No analog video input
  • expensive
You can't beat the 700XL if you're simply looking to get one of the most power packed systems on the market.

This Gateway 700XL system ends up really succeeding best at something other than film making (its intended selling point) and that is as a high performance desktop system. You can’t beat the 700XL if you’re simply looking to get one of the most power packed systems on the market. If you were expecting this to be the best bang for buck on a Digital Film Maker system, well, since nobody else is making such a comprehensive suite it’s still a great package. But, you need to know upfront that it is tends towards overkill in some areas (the video card, or the sound system, for example), while lacking in the integration and features you’d really like to see to let you hit the ground running. The film making promotional software included with this system is an added bonus. If you’re willing to put the time into the 700XL, it can certainly get your digital filmmaking hobby off the ground.

Introduction

From the outside, Gateway’s flagship system the 700XL with the digital video software package is a pretty sweet package. DVD-R/RW, CD-RW, (2)200GB hard drives, 512MB RAM, a Boston surround sound system, two 18″ LCD displays and a top of the line Radeon 9700 Pro video card are available with the 700XL. Add to that a complete video editing software package as the core software – and you can see what Gateway’s challenge is: to make a system that meets the qualifications of every home video editor’s dream.

Features

The first thing that stands out about this system is the two 18″ LCD displays. It’s hard not to be in awe at the amount of screen space that gives you and the clarity. The first time you drag a window from one screen to the other in a seamless movement, the coolness factor can take your breath away. Colors are bright and clear, and there are plenty of adjustment options. The brightness of these screens is at a level rarely seen in LCD displays – with white wallpaper one of them can light a room. These are true 18″ viewable and the silver trim around the screen is small – making the screen feel even larger. Finally, the screen still manages to look good even when running resolutions lower than the pixel matched resolution of 1280 X 1024.

Although the two displays may be the first thing that jumps out at you, the second is the sheer size of the 700XL’s case. The PC stands nearly two feet tall, putting many servers to shame and making grown workstations tremble. In a day of small foot print PCs and space strained server rooms, this goliath is not for the faint of heart. You certainly couldn’t fit it on you desk at work, and you might even have trouble under the desk. Despite the size, it really only gives you two extra expansion drive slots (One full size, one half) but keep in mind, the 700XL comes packed with all of its options in place. It has two hard drives signing in at 200GB each, giving you nearly half a terabyte of storage. “Half a terabyte” – just being able to say that registers way high on the coolness scale. Since DVDs can run 6GB bit-for-bit, that’s roughly 65 DVDs worth of space.

What the bulky tower case does give you is easy access to the inside of the chassis. The hard drives are mounted sideways – a nice touch as you can get to their cables easier – and the drive bays have easy pop-in pop-out slots. There’s also lots of room around the motherboard to add and remove memory and cards. Unfortunately the fact that the network, the video, the sound, and the modem are all installed as separate cards, as opposed to onboard, limits you to having only two additional PCI slots to expand into. The video card is a Radeon 9700G Pro AGP, which is still one of ATI’s high end video cards at the time of this review.

The motherboard comes equipped with 512MB RDRAM (upgradeable to 1.5Gb), which seems low for video editing, but the Intel 3.06GHz CPU with Hyper Threading is about as fast as you’re going to get today. The 700XL also comes with a 6 speaker surround sound system from Boston Acoustics, and a cordless mouse and keyboard from Logitech. Finally in the bottom of the box there are several plastic wrapped software bundles, a bunch of blank CDs and DVDs and a triangle shaped Gateway mouse pad. Everything you need to get your computer up and running.

Performance

Pretty much everything in this system, when is comes to hardware, and speed, is as good as it gets.

Sisoft Sandra SS1
Sisoft Sandra SS2
PCMark2002

 

3DMark 2003

 

Setup and Installation

Unfortunately the computer feels more like a marketing scheme to sell a slightly souped-up system as a “Video Editor PC” as opposed to a computer engineered from the ground up for video editing purposes. The lack of documentation on how to set up the second display (although a step trivial to overcome) implies they had reused the documentation from one of their mid-range systems and just threw in an extra display. Likewise, the fact that all the specialty video editing software bundled with the 700XL is not preinstalled implies the 700XL is a high-end computer first and video editing system second for those who are so inclined.

The system fortunately includes Gateway’s “Survive & Thrive” manual titled “Capture, Create and Share Digital Movies” which covers the basics of several of the pieces of the software. Between that and the manuals for Pinnacle, the DVD authoring software that comes with it, you should have enough to get going. It’s a long read though, so planning on taking some time to get to know the software and system before doing much with it.

One of the main missing components on this system was something many people will want when starting a digital video collection – a way to convert their old videos to digital. Although the system comes with multiple USB and FireWire ports, there are no analog video-in methods, S-video or otherwise. So don’t expect to be making DVD versions of your old family videos with this system as it comes – this is ready for new work only. This specific system also had an issue with the DVD drive skipping while playing moves (regularly every 5 – 10 min.)

Performance and Benchmarks

Minor complaints aside, the system still performs like a champ. After all, there’s not much to compare the 700XL to in the consumer level PC market. Pretty much everything in this system, when is comes to hardware, and speed, is as good as it gets.

Game tests with the Radeon 9700 PRO video card showed it to be able to handle the highest settings on most 3D games with ease. We attempted playing one high-end 3D game on this system with all the setting set to the top. Even at 1280X1024 the 3D graphics were flawlessly smooth. In fact, the system almost out-did the game, as at that resolution you could actually see the individual polygons. Please click on the performance tab above this review to see pictures of our benchmarks.

Pros

Two 18″ flat screen displays

Great performance

High class look and feel

Cons

No analog video input.

Video editing software is not pre-installed

Not much room for expansion

Conclusion

This Gateway 700XL system ends up really succeeding best at something other than film making (its intended selling point) and that is as a high performance desktop system. You can’t beat the 700XL if you’re simply looking to get one of the most power packed systems on the market. If you were expecting this to be the best bang for buck on a Digital Film Maker system, well, since nobody else is making such a comprehensive suite it’s still a great package. But, you need to know upfront that it is tends towards overkill in some areas (the video card, or the sound system, for example), while lacking in the integration and features you’d really like to see to let you hit the ground running. The film making promotional software included with this system is an added bonus. If you’re willing to put the time into the 700XL, it can certainly get your digital filmmaking hobby off the ground.

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