Pros: Fast, quiet, powerful machine -- I'm a happy customer
Cons: no 3.5" floppy drive (comes as an optional purchase)
I admit it ... I purchased my last three computers from Dell. So why did this Dell owner switch to Gateway? My first two Dell computers are still working, but I outgrew their capabilities. One I keep as a backup machine, and the other I gave to a friend. My most recent Dell computer lasted a bit longer than three years, very disappointing. The hard drive started making horrible noises, the cooling fan broke, and the machine displayed other alarming symptoms of wanting to die. I spoke with a few knowledgeable hardware savvy people and was advised to buy a new machine, especially since I am doing more graphic intensive work and a faster machine would benefit me. Ive also read many reviews and heard via the computer grapevine, that Dell computers built within the last three or four years die within three or four years. Also, many reviewers have expressed horrible experiences dealing with Dells customer service. With so much negativity surrounding the Dell name, I decided to explore my options.
My first computer-buying mistake was to order a tower from CyberPower Inc.. You can read about my dreadful experience ordering from this company by clicking on the link. I returned the computer and resumed my computer research.
Why Buy A Gateway?
1. I know people who are very happy with their Gateway computers.
2. When Gateway Customer Service has been called, they responded above and beyond what was required.
3. I read extensive online reviews, and Gateway computers score great marks.
4. A Gateway bricks-and-mortar store is nearby so that if technical work is needed, I dont have to ship the computer anywhere ... just take it to the store.
What I Purchased
First I visited Gateways online store at www.gateway.com and researched the various models. Once I narrowed it down to the 500X system, I visited my local Gateway store to see the computer.
Ideally, I only needed a computer tower, but the beauty of an LCD flat panel monitor tempted me. A 15" LCD flat panel monitor comes bundled with the system, and purchasing it this way offered a cost savings compared to buying it by itself in a store. Also, the 500X came with a DVD player. Im seeing the wave of the future where software is being sold on DVD discs.
I use my computer for a variety of projects/applications. Im a writer, so word processing, spreadsheet and database programs are essential. I design websites and create clipart, so I needed a machine that could handle graphics. I also use desktop publishing software to design and typeset a literary magazine. Internet research features heavily in my work, and I burn CDs. I also play a few computer games but am not a heavy gamer. The 500X could easily handle all of this.
This is what the 500X system includes:
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 Processor 2.6GHz with hyper-threading technology and 800MHz FSB
Memory: 256MB 333MHz DDR SDRAM (2-128MB modules)
Hard Drive: 80GB 7200 RPM Ultra ATA 100
DVD Rom Drive: 16x/48
CD-RW Drive: 48x/24x/48
Modem: 56K PCI data/fax modem
Network Adapter: Integrated 10/100 Ethernet adapter
Controller: Integrated Ultra ATA Controller
Graphics: Integrated Intel? Extreme Graphics 2 with dynamic video memory
Expansion Slots: 3 PCI and 1 AGP
External Ports:(8) USB 2.0 (2 in front and 6 in back) Parallel, Serial and (2) PS/2
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Microsoft Works Suite 2003 (Includes: Works 7.0, Streets & Trips 2002, Word 2002, Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2003, Money 2003 Standard, Picture It! 7.0)
Promotional Software: Sims (Build a virtual family & their neighborhood)
Gateway Music Vault
Norton Antivirus 2003 with Complimentary Free 90-Day LiveUpdate Offer
Keyboard & Mouse: Multifunction Keyboard and Logitech USB Optical Wheel Mouse
Monitor: 15" LCD Flat Panel Display (15" Viewable)
Sound: Integrated Stereo Audio
Speakers: I already had great speakers / opted not to buy Gateways speakers
Case: Mid-Tower Case (17.1"H x 7.6" W x 18.6" D)
Service Plan: 3Yr Parts/Labor/No Onsite/3 Yr Technical Support
Energy Star Compliant
Free Gateway Mousepad
What is Hyper-threading Technology?
This information is from Gateways website: Typically, a processor can only handle one set of instructions from one application at a time. With HT [hyper-threading], instructions from two programs can be processed simultaneously, increasing PC response times and overall performance. Hyper-threading makes multitasking faster, easier and more efficient.
Customizing the Machine
Gateway offers many upgrades to the base model. For instance, Memory can be increased up to 2048mb, choose a 40gb or up to a 250gb hard drive, there are many DVD, CD, CD-RW configurations, upgrade to Windows XP Professional, choose different application software, there are a variety of monitor and speaker choices, change the graphics card, go wireless, and also choose a different service plan. Using Gateways online customization feature, you can mix and match components to create your ideal machine.
Installing the Computer -- Easy!
The monitor came in its own carton. A larger second carton included everything else. Opening the larger carton, first visible was a poster-size sheet of paper with step-by-step pictorial instructions on how to assemble the computer. Two boxes were beneath the instructions. One contained the keyboard; the other contained the mouse, the software, cables, and a 320-page User Guide. (The software came installed on the computer, and the program discs were included in the box.) Beneath all of this resided the tower. Everything was well cushioned. The installation instructions were easy to follow. The cords were color-coded enabling setting up the computer without difficulty.
The tower is black with silver-tone sides. This is a nice looking, sturdy tower. A well-constructed flip-up door on the top front of the machine lifts and folds to rest atop the tower, revealing the DVD and CD-RW drives as well as two USB ports. There are also two open bays where two small drives can be installed, such as a 3.5" floppy drive and a Zip drive. Below the flip-up door is the Power Button.
A thumb-screw at the back of the tower holds the removable side panel in place. After removing the thumb screw, press the latch along the top of the panel, and the side panel opens. The side panel is hinged at the bottom and tilts out for easy removal if you should ever need access to the interior of the computer. The two front 3.5" empty bays are also easy to access. Each empty bay door cover has two finger impressions ... insert a finger into each impression, push the fingers together toward the center of the bay door, and the cover pulls out to reveal the empty bay.
In my old Dell machine is a Zip drive that my brother offered to transfer into the Gateway computer. Before proceeding with this possible install, I asked two different Gateway customer service representatives in the store whether adding this drive would in any way violate the warranty or service plan. The reply was No. However, they told me that if I brought the machine in for servicing that the first thing the technicians would do would be to unplug the drive not installed by Gateway technicians. If the computer worked with the drive unplugged, Gateway would return my computer to me with the drive disconnected and the computer working. Fair enough. However, to be on the safe side, I telephoned Gateways toll-free customer service number and spoke with a customer service representative. The customer service representative said that to be extra-sure the warranty isnt violated, to have the person doing the work telephone a Gateway technician and do the install while the technician was available to offer advice via the telephone ... that way it would be on record that a technician assisted with the install.
I could transfer the Zip drive into the new computer; however, since the Gateway hard drive is mounted at a 90-degree angle to the front drive bays, the distance between the primary and secondary connectors on the IDE cable are not long enough to reach the Zip drive. In order to hook up the Zip drive, I would have to purchase an IDE cable that has a longer distance between the primary and secondary connectors. This longer cable is not expensive, but instead of using the Zip drive, Ive decided to use CD-RWs. (This Zip drive technical explanation is courtesy of my brother.)
This is my first flat panel monitor, and I love it! Before purchasing this computer, I phoned Gateway to inquire what brand 15" flat panel monitor they sold. The customer service representative replied, Gateway. I didnt think Gateway had manufactured the monitor and persisted with my questions until the answer came back, Well its an LG Electronics monitor that is made for Gateway. Upon learning the monitor was manufactured by LG Electronics, I did some research and liked what I read. The color is fantastic, and the picture clear--and the flat screen does not reflect glare. The screen tilts vertically to adjust the viewing angle. With this monitor, even small print is easy to read, and my eyes dont get tired. A wonderful thing about LCD monitors is that they dont have the CRT monitor refresh-rate flicker, which can cause eye strain. The LCD monitor is light-weight, too, at less than ten pounds. I cant believe the small footprint of this monitor. Now I have lots of room to spread papers across the desk. Two other benefits are that LCD monitors use less energy than CRT monitors, and LCD monitors dont emit harmful radiation like CRT monitors do.
Keyboard & Mouse
The system comes with a typical multifunction keyboard, and a Logitech USB two-button wheeled optical mouse. I decided not to use the keyboard and mouse that came with the system. Instead, I plugged in my Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical Keyboard and Mouse. Both keyboard and mouse worked fine as soon as they were installed. However, Windows XP would not recognize the software that customizes the keyboard hotkeys and the third button on the mouse. I easily solved the problem by visiting the Logitech website and downloading the latest software. After installing the updated software, I was able to program the keyboard hotkeys and mouse. Both cordless keyboard and mouse work fine. I love being cord free!
I have several peripherals plugged into this new computer: HP LaserJet 2200dse Printer, Epson Stylus Color 860 Printer, Epson Perfection 636U Scanner, Sandisk CompactFlash Card Reader. When Windows XP booted, it recognized most of the new hardware. The only driver I had to install was for the scanner, but it was simple to go to the Epson website and download the driver for installation. Windows XP immediately detected the printers and card reader, and like a computer magician, added their profiles to the computer and connected them with built-in drivers. I love it when technology cooperates.
My Impressions of the 500X
Im really enjoying this computer. My old machine had Windows 98 Second Edition as the operating system. Windows XP runs smoothly without all the glitches I experienced with Windows 98. I like the interface and the fact that, if I need to, I can create separate identities for different users. Windows XP is very intuitive, detecting new peripherals without prompting. Windows 98 sometimes left me shaking my head in frustration when the automatic functions didnt work.
The Gateway 500X is fast, too. I especially notice the speed when switching between open programs, creating graphics, using e-mail and the internet, and playing computer games. This is a quiet machine.
Ive never had a DVD drive in a computer and am enjoying this one. I cant believe the quality of the DVD movies Ive viewed on the computer. They are smooth running just as if viewing them on my television screen. I did notice that the colors arent as rich as when viewed on a television screen, but this is a minor detail. I doubt Ill make a practice of watching DVDs on the computer, but its nice knowing the option is available. Some of the software that came with the Gateway computer is on DVD disc, such as the Encarta encyclopedia and Microsoft Streets & Trips.
Buying a Computer from the Brick & Mortar Gateway Store
When I first visited the Gateway store to see the 500X computer, I met a very helpful employee who explained hyper-threading technology and opened the computer tower to show me the components and how simple they were to access. It was as if he had all the time in the world to help me. We discussed the various computer options and customization, and I left with a positive store experience. I liked the computer, but the price staggered me a bit at $1318.00. I hoped the price would drop. So, hopeful to see a price reduction, I visited the Gateway website every day.
About a week later, I saw an advertisement on the television: Visit a Gateway store and receive $100 off any in-stock new computer purchase. At this point, my Dell computer sounded even worse, even shutting down at unexpected moments. I felt that this would be the best Gateway offer Id see before the Dell went to computer Heaven. This time my store experience was completely opposite from my first store visit. The store personnel, instead of helping customers as they arrived, juggled several customers at a time--which made the store visit very long. I grew a bit tired of hearing, Just a moment while I run a quote for this customer. I waited a half hour before receiving dedicated help.
Finally, a sales person stopped long enough to speak with me. They had one 500X computer left. With the $100 discount, the computer with monitor would cost $1218.00. I was on my way to dinner with family and asked if they could hold the machine for me, and I would pick it up after eating. (I didnt want a new computer sitting in a car parked in the mall parking lot.) No problem; they would hold the computer, and I didnt even need to put a deposit on it. To make sure the system didnt disappear, I wrote my name and telephone number on a large piece of paper that I watched the sales person carry into the backroom to affix to the computer carton.
After dinner, I returned to the store. The sales person knew I was there to pick up and pay for the computer he had put aside for me. I had to wait over 45 minutes for assistance. The sales person brought out the computer. He started to process the paperwork, looked at the computer for reference and realized he had brought out the wrong system. Back it went, and he rolled out another computer. Not only that, but somehow during the short time I had left the store to go to dinner, they had managed to misplace the monitor that went with the system. The sales person finally located the monitor, processed the paperwork, and kindly escorted me and the computer to my car. Another customer was so desperate for attention that he followed the sales person out to my car and asked questions while the sales person loaded my new computer into the trunk.
Update -- September, 2004
I still love my Gateway computer. It's quiet and has performed like a champ. If I had to pick one complaint, it would be that sometimes the computer has trouble switching between Outlook user identities in the e-mail program. Outlook will close, and to access the e-mail program, I have to reboot the computer. This does not happen often. And I view it as an expected problem since every computer I have owned has had Outlook issues. I would purchase another of these computers in a second. It's a solid machine that sees a lot of use.
I am very glad I purchased a Gateway computer. Easy to connect, the software and peripherals installed virtually problem-free. Windows XP communicates to attached peripherals with speed, and Windows XP is proving to be a stable operating system. The machine works quietly, too. It handles memory-intensive jobs with ease, and quickly allows me to maneuver between many open programs. This is a treasure I plan to enjoy.
I hope you have found this review useful.
Enjoy your day,
Mid-Tower Case: (17.1"H x 7.6" W x 18.6" D)
Chipset: Intel? 865G, Intel? BIOS
Power Supply: 160W-110/220 switchable power
Memory Slots: 4 dual channel DIMM slots
Expansion Bays: External (two 5.25" Bays, Two 3.5" Bays), Internal (Two 3.5" Bays)
Expansion Slots: 3-PCI Slots, 1-8x AGP Slot (Accelerated Graphics Port)
USB Ports: 8 Version 2.0 USB ports (2 in front, 6 in back)
2 PS/2 1 parallel 1 VGA 1 serial Line in line out mic in
15" Flat Panel Monitor Specifications
Display: 15.0" (15.0" Viewable) LCD
Viewing Angle: 120-degree
Pixel Pitch: 0.297 mm
Max. Colors: More than 16.7 million
Max. Resolution: 1024 x 768 / 75 Hz
Contrast Ratio: 300:1 (typical)
Brightness: 250 cd/m2 (typical)
Please read my other computer reviews:
Concord Eye-Q Digital Camera
HP LaserJet 2200dse Printer
HP LaserJet 1000 Printer
Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical Keyboard and Mouse
Logitech Mouseman Dual Optical Mouse
Dazzle Multimedia 6-in-1 Card Reader
QuickPad Pro Laptop
Fellowes Magnetic Copyholder
Avery File Folder Labels for both inkjet and laser printers
Curtis Radio/CD Portable Boom Box
Ott Flex-Arm Plus Lamp
Belkin Home Office UPS Emergency Battery Backup