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Gateway FX7020 Review

Highs

  • Quiet; solid performance for the price; affordable

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 9

Lows

  • Not as flashy as other gaming systems; airflow issues; boring keyboard and mouse
The FX7020 is certainly a better-than-average computer, and its pricing is extremely competitive.

Summary

Gateway has upgraded its FX lineup of gaming desktops, and we got a hold of the budget gaming model, which has a quad-core Phenom CPU and an NVIDIA 8800 GT, all for just over a grand. It’s a great gaming machine for the money, and is eerily silent in operation. It’s only real fault is that it hasn’t been given any special treatment for gamers despite its branding.

Features and Design

Gateway’s new FX 7020 desktop is not really in competition with the likes of the XPS 720 or HP’s Blackbird 002. Instead, it’s a high-end gaming PC with very good specs, offered at a decent price. It features a revamped chassis, and upgraded hardware throughout.

Phenom-enal

The FX7020 boasts the latest quad-core processor from AMD, the 2.3GHz Phenom 9600. It has four processing cores, 2MB of L3 cache and is air-cooled.

Chipset and RAM

Tying the whole shebang together is an NVIDIA 6150SE chipset, which is based on AMD’s AM2 socket form factor. It supports DDR2 memory, of which there are 3GB of PC2 5300.

Videocard

The current best-bang-for-the-buck video card is without a doubt the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT. With 112 stream processors and 512MB of memory, it’s almost as fast as the higher-end GTX card, but half the price.

Back in Black

The chassis has received a facelift, and is now an ATX chassis rather than a BTX unit, which is a welcome change. It’s all-black and lacking the previous BTX-mandated air duct that resided in the middle-front of the case. The copper highlights we saw on the FX171 notebook are present, linking the two products and keeping the FX line’s aesthetic in tact. At the top of the chassis is the power button and a 15-in-1 media reader with a “Smart Copy” button and integrated IR receiver.

Gateway FX7020
Sure it’s a standard mid-tower and all, but what do you expect for a little more than $1k?

Media Center

The FX7020 is more than just a gaming machine, it appears, and comes with a built-in TV tuner and Media Center remote control. This ties in with the onboard 7.1 audio provided by Realtek to create a system capable of performing Media Center duties.

Storage

Handling storage duties on the FX7020 is a lone 500GB hard drive. It’s a SATA II Seagate drive with 16MB cache. There are two more SATA ports on the motherboard, but just one empty bay in the hard drive cage. There’s also an empty “portable media drive bay” on the front of the chassis that accepts a Gateway portable hard drive.

Gateway Drive Bay
You can plop a removable Gateway hard drive into this storage bay.

Optical

Given this PC’s price, we weren’t expecting to see an HD optical drive on this PC. Instead, we have an 18X DVD/-R/RW multi-recorder that includes Labelflash technology, which lets you burn labels onto discs similar to LightScribe.

Other Stuff

It comes with a full-size keyboard, USB optical mouse and some little USB-powered speakers.

Use and Testing

We hoisted the FX7020 out of its box and undressed it with our eyes. It’s certainly not as cool as a Blackbird or something of that ilk, but it does not look cheap or plasticky like the previous FX PCs did, in our opinion. The all-black exterior looks nice, but the faux carbon fiber is almost “trying too hard” we think.

Gateway includes a huge poster that shows all the components on the PC and how to connect everything. It’s a nifty guide for people who don’t know how to get their PC up and running. Once we had everything connected, we booted to Windows.

Once we were at the desktop, we were a little disappointed because it had the same look as every other Gateway we’ve reviewed. It had the same desktop wallpaper, same icons, same pre-installed software.

Desktop Screenshot
We were disappointed to see the FX machine set up just like any other Gateway PC.

What is the point of making this PC an “FX” rig if it’s going to be just like any other Gateway? We expected it to at least be like the FX notebook we recently reviewed, which had a cool FX logo on the desktop. The best case scenario would be if Gateway would allow people to configure their FX machines with no additional software.

Torture testing

Since we’re sadists, the first thing we did with the FX7020 was install 3DMark06 and loop it for 24 hours to make sure the system was stable out of the box. We woke up in the morning and the system was purring right along, with no signs of trouble. We decided to up the ante a bit, and ran four instances of CPU Burn-in alongside 3DMark06, just to see if the system could handle it, and it did. Temps were quite remarkable on the CPU, as it was just 61C under load. We’re used to seeing quad-core processors run super-hot, so we were surprised to see the Phenom run relatively cool.

The 8800 GT however, got very hot, most likely because there is no airflow near the card due to the lack of a fan to cool the hard drives. During testing we saw it get up to 88C, which is incredibly hot.

Hot Screenshot
During torture testing the NVIDIA 8800GT got up to 88C, which is super hot.

Gaming

We don’t run 30 game benchmarks like some sites, but we do put in a few hours of serious game time to make sure a system labeled as a “gaming system” has the chops to back it up. Given this system’s specs, we expected good things.

First we installed Crysis, which is the current system torturing champion. It has extremely high system requirements to run with all its bells and whistles enabled. We ran the game for hours and hours and hours, and then ran it some more, and actually ran into what seemed like an overheating problem with the videcard. We would just let the game run with Nomad standing on the beach, for example, and every time we let it run for about four hours the game’s shadows would start flickering rapidly on the screen, and there was artifacts on the screen as well. We shut it down, let it cool off, and repeated the test several times and we saw the flickering every time. We checked the date of the videocard drivers and they were a few months old, so we installed the latest version and the problem went away. We also tested the 7020 with Call of Duty 4 and performed the same tests, and had no issues.

Windows

This system’s Windows Experience Index score is a surprising 5.7, which is almost a perfect score as the scale tops out at 5.9. With its quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM and 8800 GT it’s obviously an extremely capable machine for day-to-day computing tasks, and we experienced no slow-downs or issues using Windows.

One thing we liked very much is how quiet the system is when not under an extreme load. The CPU cooler and lone case fan are dead quiet and totally inaudible. As soon as we put a load on the processor the CPU fan spins up a bit, but a few seconds after we reduced the CPU usage the fan would spin back down and resume its quiet state.

As far as the pre-installed software goes, our main beef is this “gaming” system has the same software payload as any other Gateway PC, which is unfortunate. Gateway should know that gamers don’t want a bunch of pre-installed “craplets” on their PCs, and ship their gaming machines with just Windows and anti-virus software other than Norton.

Miscellaneous Cool Stuff

Yes, we know we just got done complaining about pre-installed software, but we did like the Labelflash program, which lets you create custom labels for CD/DVDs and their cases. We made a label for a DVD but couldn’t burn it onto the disc since we didn’t have any Labelflash media lying around.

Labelflash
You can burn images and text onto the tops of special Labelflash media, if you have said media.

Also, the 15-in-1 digital media reader has a “copy now” button on it that is very cool. You insert the media, press the button, and it begins copying all the photos from your card directly into the Pictures folder. It’s a very useful feature, and one that we had not seen before on a PC.

Also, the 15-in-1 digital media reader has a “copy now” button on it that is very cool. You insert the media, press the button, and it begins copying all the photos from your card directly into the Pictures folder. It’s a very useful feature, and one that we had not seen before on a PC.

Conclusion

The FX7020 is certainly a better-than-average computer, and its pricing is extremely competitive. This is essentially the same pattern we saw with the FX notebook, which was also very powerful and aggressively priced. Our only major gripe with the FX7020 is that although Gateway took the time to make this system look like a gaming machine on the outside, it took no effort whatsoever to differentiate it from any other Gateway in terms of the software installation. As it stands its an extremely capable machine with a very attractive price tag.

Pros:

• Quiet
• Great performance for the price
• Very affordable
• Media Card Reader

Cons:

• Doesn’t stand apart from other Gateway systems
• Videocard gets extremely hot
• Keyboard and mouse are boring
• Comes with too many pre-installed programs

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