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When I turned the PC on for the first time, the Vista license had expired so I was unable to do anything – not a good start. Eventually I was able to recover the PC back to its original state using recovery software. Unfortunately the mess I was greeted with when I turned on the PC for the first time was no better. Aside from the usual anti-virus software and varios other background apps, Gateway had decided to install Google Desktop as well. Now I know it’s good to have competition and provide the consumer with choice but Vista has an inbuilt search engine and Gadgets so why on earth would you want Google desktop? That was quickly uninstalled. After getting back to a relatively clean installation I was able to begin testing in earnest.
To test the performance of the PC, I ran our usual set of benchmarks – those that work with Vista, that is.
Our first test uses Photoshop Elements multi file processing capabilities on a set of 382 6-megapixel JPEGs. Photoshop performed all the quick fixes (Auto Levels, Auto Contrast, Auto Color, and Auto Sharpen), resized the image to 640 pixels wide, while maintaining proportions, and then exported to a separate folder as a high quality JPEG.
The second portion of our testing is based on the popular file compression utility, WinRar. We first compress a 282MB (15min MPEG-2 encoded) portion of video with WinRAR’s highest quality compression and password encryption. This is then decompressed and decrypted. Then, the same processes are repeated, but with our selection of 382 photographs.
The third section of the testing involves Audio encoding using the Lame standalone MP3 encoder. We both compress and decompress the entire album "Music" by Madonna, using a high quality variable bit rate. This is done using both the Microsoft compiled and Intel compiled version of the codec to keep things fair when comparing platforms.
Finally, we ran our usual set of 3D benchmarks. With the exception of 3DMark06, these use custom game time demos which are performed with absolute maximum in game detail settings.
As a comparison, for 2D performance, I’ve used our results from the Evesham Solar Storm 731 we recently looked at. It’s a more expensive machine but if you strip away the extras, like the monitor, 2.1 speakers, and better graphics, you get a similar specification.
It’s no surprise that 3D performance was pretty abysmal and, though I’m sure you could find playable settings for most of your games, you would have to seriously compromise with resolution and detail settings.
2D performance was more encouraging as the Core 2 Duo once again showed its prowess - even a low end version such as this E6300. If you just want a PC for general office duties, you won’t be disappointed.
Looking around it seems Tesco has managed to cut quite a deal with Gateway as you’ll struggle to find a similarly specified PC for this price, without resorting to building the thing yourself. However, the complete lack of customisation means if you would rather have a bit more graphical power than a Media Center remote, say, you’re out of luck.
The Gateway GM5066B certainly has a few shortcomings but the impressive price tag mostly makes up for them. It will zip through any office tasks with ease and has a full complement of multimedia goodies to round out the package, making it the perfect all-round PC for the new buyer or student. So, if you don’t mind having all the stickers and labels on your PC then you won't be disappointed.