Whether you’re folded into a hostel bunk beside a bunch of snoring Germans, holed up in a concrete box of a dorm room, or just too cheap for a TV, a laptop can be as much an entertainment center as a tool for communication, study and productivity. Gateway’s NV59c shoulders the burden of keeping users grinning with a 15.6-inch screen, integrated Blu-ray player, and even built-in WiMax for keeping the Hulu, YouTube and Netflix videos rolling, even when you’re away from home. While it’s far from the ideal travel notebook, its affordable prices and comfortable controls make the NV59c a decent value for the right type of user. Continue on to our full review below for our in-depth look at the Gateway NV59c.
Gateway stuffs the NV59c with processors as fast as the Core i5 460M and options like ATI Radeon HD 5470 or Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, but our NV59c66u came with a Core i3 370M (clocked at 2.4GHz) and vanilla Intel HD graphics. It also sports a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a Blu-ray drive.
At a portly 5.72 pounds and 1.34 inches thick, the NV59 certainly feels happiest on a desktop, but it’s actually reasonably competitive — A similarly equipped Dell Inspiron 15 packs a little more meat on the bones while HP’s G62 cuts a bit away, leaving the NV59 about average.
HP may have nabbed the “Envy” name for its own premium notebook series, but that hasn’t prevented Gateway from rolling with the same semantics through its “NV” model designation. And the same marketing angle: “Your friends will want one.” To that end, the NV59c sports a good deal more flair than your average Gateway workhorse. The lid and wrist rest both sport Gateway’s “wave pattern” design, almost like a digital woodgrain. It’s oddly fitting for an entertainment laptop, almost hearkening to the 80-pound wood entertainment centers that dominated the shag-carpeted living rooms of yesteryear, except you don’t have to slather it in Pledge every week. Gateway also adds bright metal accents, which seem to be a staple of the brand, with a brushed Gateway badge on the lid and a chrome strip above the keyboard.
We didn’t catch wind of any creaks or squeaks from the NV59c, but like most notebooks in this price and size class, the lid delivers quite a bit of flex when you lay into it. Ours also managed to pick up two tiny dings in the course of normal wear and tear around the Digital Trends offices — a disturbing first for any review notebook. We have a Lenovo X61, by comparison, that has seen four trips to Vegas for CES, side jaunts to Spain, Denmark and Japan, but hasn’t managed to pick up the same damage.
Ports and connectivity
As an entertainment notebook, Gateway’s NV59c has all the bases covered with both VGA and HDMI video outputs for throwing content up to the big screen, along with the typical microphone and headphone jacks, all on the left-hand side. You’ll also find an Ethernet jack nestled in there, a USB jack, and the power at the far rear. The right houses a tray-loading USB drive and two extra USB ports. A discreet slot up front accommodates SD cards.
Like many of the Gateway notebooks we’ve had the opportunity of reviewing recently, the NV59c comes packed to the seams with worthless software you really don’t want. The worst offender: Norton Internet Security, which asks to be enabled every time you boot and can’t be disabled without uninstalling it. We also grew to loathe the preinstalled video effects, which drop down whenever you hover near a spot at the top of screen, creating a constant nuisance, and Best Buy’s PC App, which is little more than a Best Buy store barging its way onto your desktop. CyberDVD seemed like a smart choice for use with the included Blu-ray drive, but we had to update it online before it would even play a Blu-ray movie. Long story short: Everyone will want to do a little housekeeping when they crack open the NV59c for the first time, but vets might even contemplate reinstalling Windows 7 from scratch to rid the machine of the bloatware infesting it from the factory.
Keyboard and trackpad
Running against the current trend toward Chiclet-style keyboards, Gateway’s NV59c gets an interesting treatment we can only describe as nouveau typewriter: flat key tops hover above a deep keyboard tray, with spaces between them so vast each key almost appears to be floating above its own shadow. The look isn’t for everyone, and compulsive snackers will quickly fill the canyons with Cheez-It crumbs, but we tip our hats to Gateway for trying something different. The visual “depth” of the tray translates to deep, satisfying keypresses that made us prefer this style to comparatively shallow Chiclets, and the size of the keyboard also lends itself to a full-size number pad. Oddly enough, there’s also a dedicated “social networks” button in the far upper right that opens a Gateway app for using Facebook and YouTube, but unless you’re embarrassingly addicted to pictures of your friends, it’s just another key.
The trackpad on the NV59c has been set in flush with the wrist rest — it’s actually part of it. Only raised lines to either side tell you where the mousing surface begins and ends. Despite this potential concession to fashion, it works marvellously, even with multi-touch gestures. The silver button bar below works fine and doesn’t collect fingerprints as some chrome models on other notebooks do, even if the hollow sound it makes with every click is less than confidence inspiring.
A large 15.6-inch display and bright LED backlight make the NV59c a suitable fill-in for a TV in just about any scenario, but it’s missing one crucial ingredient: Pixels. Despite equipping the notebook with a Blu-ray drive for 1080p video playback, the display sports a modest 1366 x 768 resolution – the same number of pixels you might find jammed into a much smaller notebook like Sony’s 11.1-inch Vaio X. It’s pretty much the bare minimum for side-by-side multitasking, and the hi-def brilliance of Blu-ray gets crushed to 720p.
A glossy topcoat and relatively poor horizontal viewing angle can also make it challenging to watch TV in rooms with overhead lighting or split it with a friend, though sturdy, far-reclining hinges work in its favor for tight spots, something budget notebooks typically skimp on.