Want the go-anywhere spirit of a netbook and the full keyboard (and features) of a typical laptop? The Gateway EC14D07u ($630 as of March 22, 2010) attempts to merge the two, and in some ways it succeeds: The laptop feels light and yet manages to pack a DVD burner and an 11.6-inch screen. But in other ways–such as with its mediocre audio and video performance–it stumbles. Ultimately, it ranks as an average ultra-portable laptop, albeit one that is fast enough for most applications and small enough to tote anywhere.
On our WorldBench 6 test suite, the EC14D07u earned a score of 64, strong enough to handle office work, Web browsing, media playback, and most other general tasks you may want to throw at it. The system’s 4GB of RAM help it run multiple applications smoothly. (The similarly configured, similarly priced HP Pavilion dv2 earned a WorldBench 6 score of just 45.) But games and other 3D applications drag in the absence of a dedicate graphics processor. Even 3D titles from a few years back, such as Half-Life 2: Episode 1, are unplayable.
The 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 seems better tuned toward power conservation. In our testing, the battery lasted a solid but unspectacular six hours, 20 minutes, and you can extend that time if you dim the screen.
The keyboard and trackpad are average, too. Full-size matte keys feel good to the touch, and the responsive trackpad usually keeps up. You can even use a few gesture commands to navigate, such as swiping two fingers to scroll. Oddly, however, if you tap almost any keyboard key, the mouse freezes in mid-movement.
The laptop weighs about 3.5 pounds and has a maximum thickness of approximately 1.25 inches, so it’s easy to sling anywhere. Somehow, Gateway slipped a dual-layer DVD burner into that svelte body, too. The laptop’s shiny exterior is a fingerprint magnet; but except for the two mouse buttons, almost all of the laptop’s interior surfaces are matte
In PC World’s most recent survey of laptop vendor reliability and service, Gateway ranked in the top third, suggesting that the company is responsive customers’ initial or late-developing hardware problems.Colours on the EC14D07u’s bright LCD look a little muted compared to those on competing screens, and the glare on the glossy screen can be distracting. But you get good resolution (1366 by 768 pixels)for a screen of this size. The thin but adequate audio is typical for a laptop, with weak sound separation from the speakers. At least there’s no distortion at the machine’s loudest volume, since you may frequently have the controls set to that level.
The EC14D07u comes with three USB 2.0 ports, audio in and out, VGA and HDMI out, a flash-card reader, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and gigabit Ethernet. An average Webcam records images that can look posterized, but pictures stay fairly defined in moderate lighting.
Being average isn’t a bad thing. The thin-and-light Gateway EC14D07u travels almost anywhere; its processor and a 320GB hard drive are adequate for business and school work; and its LCDpacks in pixels. Nevertheless, nothing about this machine causes it to stand out from the pack.