Technology

Gateway 200

Verdict: A couple of glitches marr an otherwise first-rate portable from Gateway.
CFO.com StaffSeptember 1, 2002
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Gateway Latitude 200

Bang for Buck: 7

Street Price: $1,999
Inside: 933 MHz Pentium III-M, 256MB RAM, 20GB HD, 8MB AGP 3D graphics card; 3.5 inch floppy drive and Combo 8X DVD/CD-RW drive (docking unit)
Outside: 12.1 inch XGA display, EZ Pad pointing device, fullsize keyboard
Ports: 2 USB, Firewire (IEEE 1394), PC Card slot (Type II); 2 USB, Firewire (IEEE 1394), parallel, PS/2, serial, and VGA (docking unit)
Communications: Integrated V.92 56K modem, integrated 10/100 Ethernet, integrated 802.11b wireless networking
Dimensions: 10.7 inches (W) x 9.2 inches (D) x .94 inches (H), 3 lbs; with docking unit, 5.37 lbs.

Skinny: When we first started doing reviews of portables way back in 1992, Gateway was at the top of the PC heap. Company has hit upon hard times since then. Can’t remember last time cow folks put out a really good notebook — that is, until now.

Sleek 200 typical of latest crop of luggables: powerful, fully-featured, and light as anything. Like Dell X200 look-alike, Gateway model comes with swell multimedia slice. It’s a snap to use, not like those clunky, gear-bit docking units from mid-Nineties. We’ve still got scar tissue from a Duo.

Like many of the notebooks in the review — not to mention the reviewer — 200 tends to poop out early in the evening. First time we used computer with docking unit in tow, power gauge indicated the battery was 87 percent charged and had 1 hour, 28 minutes of juice left. In reality, 200 conked out in a measly 45 minutes. Got around 140 minutes of use when notebook was undocked. Adequate, but little more than that.

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Undocked, 200 ways in at 3 pounds. We have a birthmark that weighs more. Docked, 200 tips scale at 5.37 pounds. Just to give you an idea: the 1999 Apple PowerBook we use at work is heavier and larger than the 200 — even when the Gateway is hooked up to its docking unit. Remarkable, simply remarkable.

Tradeoffs for such a small package? Big-fingered touch typists — the fastest growing segment of society — will probably not like the keyboard so much. Also, mouse clickers for EZ Pad pointing device aren’t so EZ to use – and way too too small. I kept overshooting, tapping on speakers instead. This did no good. Despite small clickers, wrist rest is a good size…

Gateway portable seems plenty sturdy, although we could push in one side of the lid holding the display. Speaking of display: beautiful 12.1-inch screen easily passed our Metro North test. While on commuter train, could open display 45 degrees without hitting seat in front of us. Also, small form factor meant we didn’t undergo C-section every time train braked unexpectedly.

We did have some trouble inserting the floppy disk — tough to get it to click in. We also tended to accidentally hit the floppy drive eject button, which sticks out the front of the docking unit. Floppy drive also seemed awful slow.

Gateway portable played DVDs okay. But with only 8 MBs or video RAM, images on movies and video games were a bit jumpy. The bigger problem: machine failed MD test. Sound was no better than adequate. Worse, when we inserted Sketchs of Spain, entire wrist-rest vibrated. Either machine likes Miles Davis a whole lot, or our CD drive was a lemon. Think the latter’s more likely. Why? First off, machine did not vibrate when we inserted a DVD. What’s more, we could not recreate this problem on the Dell X200, which is pretty much the same computer.

Assuming the VWR (vibrating wrist-rest) is not a standard feature, and assuming you don’t play a whole lot of Frogger, you’ll be hard pressed to find better portable computer for the money.

(Editor’s Note: Thin is in for notebook computers, but how about the computer makers themselves — how much cash do they keep on hand? See for yourself with the CFO PeerMetrix interactive scorecards.)

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