Gateway E-100M Review

Gateway E-100M
MSRP $1,206.99
“When it comes to the main strength of the Gateway E-100M and NX100X, it's price.”
  • Competitively priced; robust build quality; good software bundle; fantastic keyboard
  • 3 cell battery does not have a long life; external DVD burner; picky with WiFi access points


Over the last few years, we’ve seen laptop screens growing in size. Today, you can buy a Dell “mobile entertainment system” with a 20-inch screen! However, as screens get bigger and bigger, battery life and mobility gets worse and worse. On the other side of the spectrum are the ultraportable 12″ notebooks. These have gotten smaller and lighter, but one thing hasn’t changed: an exorbitant price… until now. Gateway hopes to change that with their NX100X and E-100M, their ultraportable notebooks for the masses.
The Gateway NX100X and E-100M are a 12″ 3.15 lb ultraportable notebooks that are 1″ thin with an external optical drive. This form factor is perfect for the road-warrior who needs a notebook for PowerPoint presentations or writing documents and isn’t interested in duplicating the features of a high-performance desktop or a DVD player. The nearest competitors in this 3 lb class are the Lenovo ThinkPad X60/X60s and Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010. Although the Dell Latitude X1 and Toshiba Portege R200 are both very good ultraportable notebooks, these use the older Intel Pentium M processor. The Lenovo ThinkPad X60/X60s, Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010, and Gateway NX100X all use the new Intel Core Solo “Ultra Low Voltage” edition, with the ThinkPad X60s supporting the Low Voltage Core Duo.
The NX100X and E-100M are virtually identical; the E-100M is targeted for business users and features a hardware TPM encryption module whereas the NX100X does not. Depending on the current promotion, the NX100X usually offers better value for “upgraded systems” while the E-100M offers the chance to get a basic setup at a lower absolute cost. For example, on the E-100M, Gateway will give you a $50 discount for downgrading from Windows XP Professional to Windows XP Home, but on the NX100X, it’s a “free upgrade” to Windows XP Professional. The NX100X comes with a full version Microsoft Office Basic 2003 (Word, Excel, and Outlook); the E-100M does not. The E-100M can be configured for 512MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive; the NX100X has a minimum spec of 1GB and a 80GB hard drive. Both notebooks include an external USB DVD burner. For the rest of the review, we’ll refer to the E-100M.
At 3.15 lbs the E-100M is very light, but it’s still noticeably heavier than the 2.2 lb Lifebook Q2010 and the same weight as the ThinkPad X60. The big difference is that the NX100X starts at $1399 for a Core Solo U1400 (1.2GHz) with 1GB of RAM, an 80GB HDD, a six-cell battery, and an external burner. The Lifebook Q2010 is about $2400 for a similar configuration, and the ThinkPad X60 is $1680 for a configuration where you lose the external DVD burner, have a lower resolution LCD screen, but gain a more powerful Core Duo L2400 (1.66 GHz).
The E-100M shell is made of magnesium alloy meaning that it’s sturdy and durable. The LED accents are all dark blue and tastefully done.  The rigidity of the E-100M shell is reassuring and busy travelers won’t hesitate to bring this notebook along their trip. In what seems to be a popular trend, the E-100M features a latch-less lid.
Gateway E-100M
The Gateway E-100M Open
Gateway E-100M
The Gateway E-100M Closed
Although the E-100M does not have a built-in DVD burner (a defining characteristic of this laptop class), Gateway is one of the only companies to include a USB external DVD burner in the sale price. Other notebook companies charge anywhere from $100 to 200 for this. The NX100X is even more powerful as Gateway includes the larger 6-cell battery for improved battery life and 1GB of RAM standard as opposed to the 3-cell or 4-cell batteries that are common in its competitors.
In terms of connectivity, everything is there that you would expect: Firewire 400, USB 2.0 ports, Wi-Fi, integrated modem, Bluetooth. The notebook even has a 6-in-1 media reader (SD, MS, MS Pro, mini-SD, RS-MMC, MMC) and a 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet adapter (still rare with today’s notebooks). The Gateway E-100M/NX100X features a 32-bit Cardbus slot instead of the faster ExpressCard54 format. The rationale behind this is that there are more CardBus peripherals on the market than ExpressCard54 peripherals. Things may change in the future.
The 12.1″ 1280×800 screen is fairly good, up from the 1024×768 of the ThinkPad X60. Gateway allows customers to choose between a traditional anti-glare (matte) LCD panel or one of the high-contrast, glossy anti-reflective LCD panels.
The Gateway E-100M
The RightSide of the E-100M
Gateway E-100M
The LeftSide of the E-100M
The Keyboard
The E-100M’s keyboard was exceptional and the tactile feedback was second-to-none… including Lenovo’s gold standard. Despite the smaller key size, and slightly narrow pitch than a conventional keyboard, I was quickly able to type faster on the Gateway E-100M than I could with a ThinkPad!
Peak words per minute
Gateway E-100M
140 wpm
99% accuracy
Lenovo 3000 V100 (NMB)
138 wpm
99% accuracy
Apple MacBook Pro
138 wpm
97% accuracy
IBM ThinkPad Z60t (Alps)
135 wpm
97% accuracy
HP Pavilion dv2000
129 wpm
99% accuracy
Apple MacBook
125 wpm
97% accuracy
Dell Inspiron 700m
121 wpm
97% accuracy

The E-100M
The E-100M Keyboard

The trackpad was also superb. The mouse buttons were firm and had just the right amount of travel (minimal). The sensor surface was reasonably sized given the notebook size, although if I’m going to nitpick, a wider trackpad would have been better.
Gateway E-100M
The E-100M TrackPad
Our E-100M system was configured with the following equipment:
  • Intel Core Solo U1400 CPU (1.2 GHz)
  • 512GB memory (DDR-2 553 MHz)
  • 80 GB Serial ATA HDD 5400 rpm (Fujitsu MHV2080BH)
  • External 8x DVD MultiBurner (DVD-RAM, DVD+/-RW)
  • 12.1″ 1280×800 widescreen display (Samsung)
  • Integrated Intel GMA950 Graphics
  • 802.11 a/b/g wireless adapter (Intel 3945abg)
  • Bluetooth (Broadcom BCM2405)
  • 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet (Intel PRO/1000 PL)
  • High Definition Audio (SigmaTel HDA)
  • 6-in-1 memory card reader
  • 3-cell lithium-ion battery
The Intel Core Solo and Core Duo platform have become the wonder-products from Intel. Since all of the Core Solo/Duo notebooks use the same Intel i945GM chipset, there isn’t significant variation in system performance from manufacturer to manufacturer. It’s mostly a question of how fast your CPU is, how much memory you have, and how fast the HDD is.
The Core Solo only runs at 1.2 GHz, however it’s an Ultra Low Voltage model meaning that the loss in performance is compensated by exceptional battery life. Moreover, the Core Solo 1.2 GHz is approximately as fast an older Pentium 4 2.4GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2000+. That means it’s still fast enough to handle complex Excel queries, and animation or video-heavy PowerPoint presentations.
Despite the ultra low voltage specification and the slower CPU speed, the 3-cell battery only offered 1 hour 37 minutes of battery life. This is disappointing, although it’s probably enough for a brief PowerPoint presentation or a 1 hour commute via train. That said, a 6-cell battery should give a more reasonable 3 hour battery life, while the extended 9-cell battery (which takes the weight up to 3.87 lbs) should give something closer to 4.5 hours. Although the processor is energy efficient, the batteries are just too small to carry enough power.
One area of trouble that we ran into was wireless performance. Although Gateway uses the same Intel 3945abg wireless card found in most Core Duo and Core Solo notebooks, we occasionally had trouble getting the E-100M to link up with some of our Atheros 802.11g access points (Netgear); other notebooks using the Intel 3945abg such as the HP dv2000 worked fine with this access point.
Thermal Management
We’ve all heard stories of laptops that can overheat and burn their users. With the ultra low voltage CPU, this isn’t a problem at all. The hard drive does warm up the machine, but it never reached concerning levels.
Screen Quality
Gateway offers both high-gloss and matte LCD panels. Our notebook was configured with a matte LCD panel from Samsung. It works well, and although I prefer the high-gloss anti-reflective screen, Samsung did a superb job. The backlight was reasonably uniform for a laptop. There are 8 brightness settings.
Software/Technical Support
Depending on whether you buy a NX100X or an E-100M, your software bundle is different.
For technical support, pricing is also different between the NX100X and E-100M. If you want accidental damage coverage, you’ll have to go with the consumer grade NX100X. I guess they figure people are more careful when they are the ones actually paying for the notebook (Gateway makes more money when they sell warranties to careful people).
We do like the fact that the NX100X comes “standard” with Windows XP Professional and Office Basic Edition. This makes the notebook a great choice for a first-time system owner who doesn’t already have a license for Office. Granted, Gateway is calculating the software cost into the price of the machine, but it’s still a better value than the software bundle that competitors are giving when charging the same amount of money.
When it comes to the main strength of the Gateway E-100M and NX100X, it’s price. The NX100X starts as just $1400 (with instant rebate) while the E-100M starts at $1200 (with instant rebate). When you factor in the small and lightweight form-factor, the best keyboard we’ve tested to date (despite its size), and exceptional build quality, this is a notebook that clearly could have been sold at a far higher price. Our only complaints? Battery life and the lack of an integrated drive – things that are generally true for all 12″ ultraportable notebooks that are less than 1″ thick.
  • Best keyboard tested to date
  • Superb trackpad
  • Competitively priced
  • Robust build quality
  • Thoughtful software bundle on the NX100X
  • Bundled external DVD burner
  • 3 cell battery doesn’t hold a lot of juice
  • The DVD burner is an external device
  • No physical switch to disable WiFi (has to be turned off in software)
  • Picky with its wireless access points.

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