It’s well over a year since we last looked at a PC from Gateway. Back then Gateway had just recently made a return to the UK after a leave of absence. During this time Gateway had retreated from all international markets in order to refocus and consolidate the company. Upon returning to the UK, Gateway decided not deal with UK customers directly but rather to sell in bulk to large high street retailers like Dixons, Comet, and Tesco. This allowed it to keep overheads at a minimum while still ensuring the widest possible coverage – quite cunning really. The result is that if you look for a Gateway PC anywhere else, online or on your high street, you won’t have much luck. Instead you’ll be forced to visit your nearest out-of-town retail park to pick one up. Well, that or visit the shop’s website.
Today I’m looking at one of Gateway’s new line of PCs that ships with Windows Vista preinstalled. Being the Home Premium version of Microsoft’s latest OS, the PC has a strong emphasis on multimedia, with the inclusion of a TV tuner card and Windows Media Center remote. Also, rounding out the multimedia buzzword credentials of the PC, it conforms to Intel’s Viiv standard.
However, the GM5066B isn’t a Media Center PC that you would expect to sit quietly under your TV and is more of a typical family all-rounder, just with a few bells and whistles added on. Whether all these multimedia additives will ever be used by your average family remains to be seen – who really has a TV aerial in their office or wants to have a PC in their lounge? – but certainly I could see this sort of PC being perfect for a student or teenager. However, if you’re into your games you’re definitely going to want to save your pennies for something with a bit more oomph, either that or buy a graphics card separately and swap out the pitiful GeForce 7300 LE that comes with this machine.
Elsewhere the specifications of the GM5066B are much more satisfying, including an E6300 Core 2 Duo processor which runs at 1.86GHz, 1GB of DDR2 memory and a 320GB hard drive. This is a well balanced set of components that will take full advantage of all that multimedia potential, though you may find the single gig of RAM slightly limiting if you’re heavily into multitasking. This is especially true as the graphics card will be using up to 256MB of memory for its own purposes.
The PC itself is housed in a typical budget painted steel case with a two-tone plastic fascia. The choice of gunmetal and black as a colour scheme isn’t exactly original but it is a tried and tested combination that never causes offence. What does, however, let the case down is the plastic door that conceals the 3.5inch drive bay, FireWire, and audio connections. It is stiff and awkward and tends to get stuck rather too often. The two doors that stealth the two 5.25inch drive bays fair slightly better though they’re still not perfect. Overall, the externals of the case are as good as could be expected for the money.
One thing I haven’t seen, to such a great extent, before is the over zealous use of labelling and stickers on this case. Literally every port, bay, and socket is labelled and the front is plastered in various brand name and support information stickers. Normally I would lambaste this but of course this PC isn’t meant for the enthusiast or the casual user, it’s meant for the novice. So I guess all those constant reminders as to where your CD goes could be useful. Though, I think even the complete novice would prefer to have a few separate labelled diagrams rather than a messy case.
The left panel (as you face the front) of the case is secured by a pair of thumbscrews, which ensure easy access to the innards of the PC. Inside, everything is where you would expect and cables are kept out of the way by judicious use of cable ties, there’s no sophisticated cable tidying though.