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The finish of the metal elements isn’t the best I’ve come across and there are a few sharp edges hidden among the various drive bays. A large duct is employed to suck cold air from outside the case directly onto the CPU and a small fan above the motherboard IO panel expels warm air out of the chassis. This appeared to be adequate ventilation as the PC was rock solid throughout our testing and didn’t emit a particularly disturbing level of noise either.
There are two spare 3.5inch drive bays, one internal and one external, so you have the option of two extra hard drives or one extra hard drive and a floppy drive. However, there is only one spare SATA power connector so your choices are limited somewhat. The hard drive cage is mounted perpendicular to the case and is attached by a single thumbscrew - this makes a big difference to the overall ease of working within a small case like this; a definite plus point.
The motherboard is an Intel DG965OT which actually has onboard video, in the form of Intel’s X3000 integrated graphics, but this has been disabled to allow for the GeForce board to take over graphical duties. Gateway has even put a little sticker over the onboard VGA connector telling you to use the other one – a nice touch, which is sure to save on support calls. The fact that you’re paying for two poor graphics solutions in the same PC is a bit of an annoyance though and I’d much rather Gateway had chosen one or the other. The PCI Express slot is x16 so you should be able to plug in any decent graphics card if you start to tire of playing games at 10fps. Though you’re choices will be limited by how much power the PSU can provide, as there are only two spare Molex connectors.
The two PCI slots are occupied by a 56K modem and the aforementioned TV tuner card. The tuner card is obviously needed for your Media Center but who really uses a Modem anymore? And if you do, you should wake up and smell the broadband!
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the bundled speakers and I think they actually benefited from being just plain stereo rather than 2.1 as, even though they lacked the extra bass that a subwoofer would provide, they had a far more balanced sound than your average cheap set of 2.1 speakers.
The keyboard is well laid out and features a variety of extra keys for opening calculator, Media Center, and the like. Unfortunately the primary function of the keyboard – typing – was let down by soft, unresponsive keys.
Thankfully the included mouse is a bit more of a success. The top surface is made of a soft touch plastic that provides a decent amount of grip and remained comfortable after prolonged use. It lacks Back and Forward buttons and isn’t the slickest mouse I’ve ever used but it tracks well and was fine for general office use.