Gateway 700XL

DVD writing capability and the power to back it up

WHAT'S HOT: Many PC vendors slap a DVD-rewritable drive into a PC and label the result a video-production system. But Gateway's 700XL also delivers the requisite processor power, memory, and storage space needed for movie making.

With a 2.2-GHz P4 chip and 512MB of RDRAM, our 700XL definitely comes equipped for high performance. Its score of 118 on PC WorldBench 4 is the highest we've seen from a Pentium 4 system running Windows XP Home.

The 120GB, 7200-rpm hard drive offers lots of room for huge video files. For even more storage, you can hook up an external drive to one of the 700XL's three IEEE 1394 ports (also a must for digital camcorders) or to one of its even faster USB 2.0 ports. (Gateway is among the first vendors to install the new USB ports, which are powered by an add-on chip on the motherboard.) Our system came with a DVD-RAM/R drive, which can write data or movies to both 9.4GB DVD-RAM cartridges and 4.7GB DVD-RAM discs. You can also write DVD-R discs that play in a standard DVD set-top player.

WHAT'S NOT: Our only major gripe with the 700XL is its formidable price tag of $2999. But with such a tricked-out system, it's easy to see what you're paying for.

WHAT ELSE: The 15-inch Gateway FPD 1520 LCD monitor rates a couple of notches above competing displays bundled with home PCs. Text was crisp and easily readable in our test documents. Colors, including flesh tones, looked natural; and details appeared sharp. DVD movie playback wasn't perfect--some of the reds were oversaturated--but movies definitely weren't hard to watch. Curiously, we didn't observe the oversaturated colors on another Gateway, the 500XL, sporting the same LCD monitor. (We checked all the settings and even swapped the monitors between the two systems, but the quality of each LCD didn't change.)

Our gaming tests showed middling results. The top-of-the-line ATI Radeon 8500 graphics card was overkill in our test configuration. That card should be able to drive large displays at very high resolutions, but our system came with a 15-inch LCD, which should only be run at its native resolution (a modest 1024 by 768 pixels). Even at that setting, game play in Unreal Tournament was bit jerky. Game play in Quake III Arena was smooth, but the game looked cartoonish due to poor contrast.

The Boston Acoustics BA7800 five-speaker set delivered full sound with thumping bass. These aren't the best surround-sound speakers we've lent an ear to, but they deliver respectable audio.

Opening the gray-and-white midsize tower requires loosening a thumbscrew and then applying a fair amount of pressure to two sliding switches. The side panel pops off easily and seems quite sturdy, but snapping it back in place often takes a bang of the fist.

The interior drive cabling is bundled together, but a hodgepodge of other wires obscures the PCI slots and drive bays. Though already well equipped, our test system held two open PCI slots and three open drive bays (two for hard drives and one for yet another removable-media drive) in reserve. You can add new components without using tools: Cards slip into the PCI slots after you loosen an exterior thumbscrew that anchors an internal slot cover, and drives slide out after you flip green tabs or loosen thumbscrews on the side of the bays.

Gateway provides a wide array of documentation: a color setup poster, a detailed system manual with information about Windows XP and the specific model we tested (as well as thick chapters on upgrading and troubleshooting), and two hefty manuals that cover video editing and digital music.

The sturdy Gateway keyboard allows smooth and accurate typing and includes 12 hotkeys for multimedia and Internet shortcuts.

UPSHOT: This Gateway has everything you need for video editing and digital entertainment, but you'll pay for it.

By Joel Strauch

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