Gateway M675CS Review

The Gateway M675CS is more than a notebook, it is a portable workstation designed with legitimate power.
The Gateway M675CS is more than a notebook, it is a portable workstation designed with legitimate power.
The Gateway M675CS is more than a notebook, it is a portable workstation designed with legitimate power.

Highs

  • Between the ultra-fast hard drive and speedy video card this machine is responsive.

Lows

  • Touch pad is not recessed enough causing you to "brush" it easily.

The Gateway M675CS is more than a notebook, it is a portable workstation designed with legitimate power. It’s not the type of machine that is well suited for a trip on an airplane but rather far better suited for moving between office presentations or using as both your office and home machine. The Hyper Threaded CPU is intended for power not battery conservation. The battery life is sacrificed for pure processing power. Since the target audience is for power users it is a wonder that Gateway does not offer Windows XP Professional as the default rather than a somewhat costly extra. When you are not hard at work the Radeon 9600 will give you more than enough detail and resolution for any game or DVD.

Overview:

The laptop computer is rapidly replacing the standard desktop for many users. The power of these small computers is now able to rival their big brothers. Now a new class of such machines is becoming popular – the portable workstation. Case in point is the Gateway M675CS. The M675 is the top line of Gateway notebooks with the CS basic model at the lowest of the three rungs of this series. Don’t let its relative position fool you; this is a powerful machine that will exceed almost any use you have. The fundamental difference between the CS and the higher end X and XL models is the screen size. The CS has a 15.4″ screen where the other two models come standard with a 17.1″.

First Impressions:

The first thing that you will notice about the M675CS is that it is larger than most laptops. You find out why when you pop open the lid on this notebook computer and take a look at the keyboard. Unlike every other notebook keyboard, there is a fully integrated 10-key numeric pad to the right of the main keys. This feature has always been standard on desktop units and now comes to the portable. If you do a lot of numeric entry this is a must. It also makes a lot of games easier to play, since many gamers use the number pad for movement.

The M675CS features very modern blue LED status lights. The screen is also different; the monitor has a 15:10 aspect ratio similar to most high definition televisions. The input jacks and drives are distributed on the back and both sides. In fact, there are USB ports at all three locations for easy connection to your other devices.

Above the keyboard is a large power switch and one-touch buttons to access email, a web browser, the main Windows help page, My Computer (in browse mode) and wireless on/off. While it appears that the fast access buttons cannot be user defined they are useful. At the front edge of the unit are controls for the DVD and media player as well as the usual indicator lights. The battery light is purple when the battery is charging and changes to neon blue when full. There is even one light for writing to the CD as well as reading from it.

The cooling fan is nice and quiet and is barely audible. On the other hand, the CD drive was very noisy when reading a disc

Digging a Little Deeper

Included with the M675CS is a high capacity lithium ion battery, which is rated at 14.8V/6300 mAh and comes with an AC pack. Only one battery can be used in the unit at a time and since the CPU draws a good amount of juice, the life span of the charge averaged just about two and a half hours. That may not seem like much but remember this is one of the fastest, most power hungry desktop processors currently available.

The battery is loaded from underneath saving valuable side real estate for the input/output ports. While in battery mode the screen does dim to conserve power. The downside here is it dims just a little too much for comfortable viewing.

Both the left and right side drives are hot swappable and easy to remove once you get it down. There are little catches underneath the machine, slide them to the side and you can rapidly replace the 3.5″ floppy/memory card reader or the CD/DVD drive. This adds to the versatility of the machine and provides an easy upgrade path.

One of the touches that demonstrate that this machine is meant for the power business user is the inclusion of a Gigabit Ethernet port. It also features a standard parallel printer port and an S-Video output. With many laptops doing away with parallel and other legacy ports, the business user may appreciate being able to hook their parallel printers to the M675CS.

With the full size keyboard and complete numeric entry keys, data entry is a snap. It is rare to see a Num-Lock on a notebook keyboard that is actually usable. There may be a bit of a learning curve for your fingers if you are used to a typical notebook keyboard, but the benefits for quick data entry far make it worth the effort.

Considering this machine has a full scale hyper threading CPU, it ran remarkably cool and efficient. Even after many hours of use there was no discernable heat generated.

Industry Comparisons

Model

Standard CPU

Standard Hard Drive

Standard RAM

Video Card

Network

Monitor Size

Base List Price

Gateway M675

2.8gHz HT – 3.2 gHz HT

40G

512

Radeon 9600/64M

802.11g

Ethernet 10-100-1000

15.4″

$1,800

Dell M60

Pentium M up to 1.7gHz

40G

256

NVIDIA Quardo/128M

802.11b

Ethernet 10-100-1000

15.4″

$2,300

Toshiba P25

Pentium 4 2.8gHz

80G

512

NVIDA Gforce

802.11g

Ethernet 10-100

17.0″

$2,200

Performance

The M675CS really shows its brute strength in the graphics and CPU benchmarks. The Mobile Mark score is misleading in a way because it is indicative of battery performance. The M675CS really is a workstation replacement and while it is portable still requires you to have the system plugged in to experience the full processor strength and performance.

M675cs benchmarks

System Configurations:

Gateway M675CS
Windows XP Home; 2.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 CPU with Hyper Threading; 512MB DDR SDRAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 8x AGP w/ 64MB DDR video memory;  40GB 4,200rpm hard drive

Gateway M500S

Windows XP Home; 2.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 32MB;  40GB 4,200rpm hard drive

VPR Matrix 200A5

Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Included Software

The basic model of this notebook comes with a good selection of pre-loaded software. It includes Microsoft Works version 7.0, a trial copy of Norton Internet security and for you DVD collectors out there, the very popular WinDVD. For use with DVD-ROM content they also include InterActual .One great touch is the inclusion of PC-Doctor, a program that completely scans your machine for problems and fixes whatever it can. There is a driver update program that connects to the Gateway FTP site and makes sure you have the latest drivers. Use this one with caution, if everything is working don’t mess with it. For your multimedia needs there is Real, Quick Time, Windows Media player and MusicMatch jukebox. Another potentially dangerous program is WinPhlash, a program that can backup and update your BIOS. Only use this if you are told to by a certified technician. The unit also comes with the basic version of the Roxio CD burning software. Typically, most of the software provides links to purchase the full release versions. Financial tracking is provided by the basic version of Quicken 2004 and Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 comes pre-installed.

CPU:

The standard CS model comes with a Pentium 4 2.8 GHz CPU. This CPU employs Intel’s Hyper Threading technology, which greatly improves the ability to multitask two high demand programs. You can also order the CS with either the 3.0 GHz (add $130) or the 3.2GHz (add $330) processors should you need even more computing power.

Graphics Card:

Included in this model is the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 8X AGP with 64M of dedicated graphics RAM. This is a state of the art graphics processor that will handle almost any task you put to it. Considering the constraints of size, power consumption and heat generation inherent in such a chip the design team for this chip knew what they where doing. This card is fully compliant with the Direct X 9 specifications with quad rendering engines, dual vertex engines, 16 textures per pixel and 12 shade ops per clock tick. These are impressive sounding specifications but even more impressive to actual see. With the larger 17.1″ screen you can opt for 128MB of dedicated video RAM. This is really only needed if you are planning on using the system for a lot of graphic intensive games. The Radeon 9600 is a good card, but business users may want a more business-oriented graphics processor such as the FireGL AutoCAD.

Networking:

The CS includes two integrated network solutions. First there is an Ethernet 10/100/1000 gigabit port. This provides a means to attach your DSL or cable modem as well as hooking up to a home network. For those that require a bit more freedom there is also an 802.11g wireless networking port. Unlike the previous standard, the 802.11b, the ‘g’ version is fully compliant with the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption standard. The ‘b’ version is considered far too easy to hack but the ‘g’ uses Wi-Fi Protected Access for encryption and runs at speeds up to 54 million bits per second. For those that still use dial up service providers there is also an Integrated V.92 56K Modem.

Hard Drive:

The CS comes standard with a 40G hard drive but for an additional $80 you can move up to a 60G drive. The controller card uses Ultra DMA utilizing PIO mode 4 with 100 MB/s maximum data transfer rate. The Ultra DMA, which supports burst mode data transfer rates of 33.3MBps, is up to twice as fast as the previous disk drive standard for PCs.

Pointing Devices:

Standard with this series is an “EZ” touch pad. The touch pad is fairly accurate and follows the fingertip well. There is also an optional optical mouse available. It uses a USB connection but with four USB 2.0 ports there are still enough USB ports for your other devices. The optical mouse is extremely accurate, and has a scroll wheel. The optical mouse is symmetrical, making it great for right-handers and lefties alike. You’ll need a USB mouse because there is no onboard PS/2 mouse port.

Pros:

With many notebooks there are only two USB ports; this model comes standard with four. Considering you have to use one for the optional optical mouse this leaves three for the many devices you will want to add to your computer. The USB ports are conveniently located on all sides of the unit making connections fast and easy. Since it uses a wide screen display, Gateway used the extra room to expand on the keyboard. Once you get used to it, the keyboard is very easy to use.

The video was excellent. DVDs look great in full screen mode without any noticeable artifacts. The response was smooth and clean. The same held true for streaming video.

The overall design of this notebook gets very high marks. Even in the basic configuration comes with more power than required for most uses. Between the ultra-fast hard drive and speedy video card this machine is responsive. You’ll be able to get going in only a few minutes once you get it out of the box.

Cons:

The M675CS has very few drawbacks. As is normal these days, the 3.5″ floppy drive is optional. While this may be a popular path for notebooks, many times it is advantageous to boot from an emergency floppy. When all else fails, it is nice to have this option. We did have an issue with Gateway’s shipping policy. There is no express delivery available for notebook computers and the date they officially give for shipping is two weeks after you place an order. For those that depend on a laptop for work and need a replacement fast, this can be a problem. Any extras ordered may be shipped separately and there is limited online tracking but that is more due to the carrier than Gateway. When you ask for the status of the order, all you get is the estimated shipping date. One reason for this is many of their notebooks are shipped from China, so although they make get to the States in a day it, they can be held for several days at customs.

The touch pad is not recessed quite enough and your hand may tend to brush against it moving the mouse where you don’t want it. This may not sound like a big deal, but we noticed it enough to mention it. Also, the built in speakers where tinny, providing very little in the way of low frequency reproduction.

Conclusion

The Gateway M675CS is more than a notebook, it is a portable workstation designed with legitimate power. It’s not the type of machine that is well suited for a trip on an airplane but rather far better suited for moving between office presentations or using as both your office and home machine. The Hyper Threaded CPU is intended for power not battery conservation. The battery life is sacrificed for pure processing power. Since the target audience is for power users it is a wonder that Gateway does not offer Windows XP Professional as the default rather than a somewhat costly extra. When you are not hard at work the Radeon 9600 will give you more than enough detail and resolution for any game or DVD.

Trash

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