Gateway has put all the bells and whistles on its FX6800-01e desktop — it’s either a killer value PC or an inexpensive power PC, take your pick. No matter what you call it, this system offers compelling performance for its price. Though it isn’t the all-out best value PC for its US$1250 price tag, the FX6800-01e did deliver near tip-top results, even in the current-generation games we threw at it.
The system includes a 2.66-GHz Core i7 920 processor (part of Intel’s top CPU line) plus 3GB of DDR3-1333 memory. Joining that powerful combination is a 750 GB Seagate hard drive–not quite as expansive as, say, the 1.5 TB of space on Polywell’s MiniBox 780G-940, but enough to accommodate all the data you need to store.
The single ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card did an exceptional job of producing playable frame rates for all the games we tested, including an average of 51 frames per second on Unreal Tournament 3 (2560 by 2100 resolution, high quality) and 46 fps on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (2560 by 2100 resolution, high quality). Only the Maingear Dash, which uses two of the same cards in a CrossFire setup, surpassed this Gateway. The Dash also beat out the FX6800-01e on our WorldBench 6 benchmark, though by a scant two points, 117 to 115. (The fact that the Dash’s Phenom II X4 940 processor is clocked 0.34 GHz higher than the FX6800-01e’s CPU and that the Dash comes with an additional gigabyte of memory likely factored into the results, as well.)
This Gateway’s peripheral offerings are generic, but at least they’re boring with style. The two-button mouse is glossy black with a nice orange trim, and the keyboard uses half-size buttons and orange accents to spice up the otherwise drab functionality. We give the company credit for at least making the input devices fit the FX6800-01e’s aesthetic theme. As for the PC’s connections, eight USB ports grace the front and rear of the case. The two eSATA ports, single FireWire 400 port, on-board 5.1 surround sound, and front-panel media card reader are strong additions to the system, too, but we would have appreciated seeing at least one next-generation connector, such as DisplayPort or HDMI
We love the FX6800-01e’s case. It’s a beautiful mix of glossy paneling and orange highlights that suggests a gaming PC more than it does a value desktop. The front CD bays are stealthily tucked behind clearly labeled paneling, and the included media card reader pops up and down out of the top of the chassis. Cooler still, the top panel on the case’s front doubles as a touch-button controller for the system itself: You can skip music tracks and adjust the volume by poking the front of your PC, almost eliminating the need for a media-themed keyboard–almost.
The inside of the FX6800-01e is slightly marred by the wiring job, but it isn’t all that bad. The area near the 5.25-inch bays is just a little cluttered. The system has space for an additional 5.25-inch device, two hot-swappable hard drives, and a single mounted hard drive. The motherboard boasts room for an extra PCI Express x16 device (CrossFire, anyone?), as well as PCI Express x4 and x1 cards. That’s a great amount of expansion for a value PC, though not quite as much as the options you’d find in the average power system.
Gateway bundles a giant, full-color setup guide with the rig that details how to connect the monitor and cabling. The comprehensive reference guide is specific to the FX6800-01e, and it should answer even the most technical of questions a newbie might have. We appreciate Gateway’s hand-holding for FX6800-01e owners, though the inclusion of an OEM operating system CD or driver CDs would have been nice as well.
The Gateway FX6800-01e is a solid desktop PC, and we’d expect nothing less for its price. But our Top 10 Power Desktops chart has some stronger machines that cost only slightly more; which one you choose just depends on what your budget’s absolute cut-off point is.