Gateway NV5807u all-purpose laptop

The biggest selling point of the Gateway NV5807u all-purpose laptop is its LED-backlit, 15.6-inch, HD panel with a 1366-by-768-pixel native resolution. As with all glossy LCD screens, the glare becomes extraordinarily annoying in brightly lit environments, but you can offset that by blasting the LED backlighting (and burning the laptop’s battery life). Also make sure to keep your head precisely positioned: At about 20 degrees from center, the display starts to dim, and at 45 degrees it’s unreadable even at the brightest setting possible. If you’re watching a movie on it with someone else, the two of you might end up cheek to cheek. (Bug or feature?)

Once you’ve found a good place to put the display, the video quality is excellent. I thought the vivid yet accurate colours – and the seamless, lag-free transitions – were striking. Like any laptop offering integrated Intel GMA 4500 MHD graphics, however, this machine can’t play many conventional games. It will yield decent video via the VGA and HDMI-out ports, though it might take a little fiddling; when I tested it with a ViewSonic HD display, the recommended resolution cut off a significant chunk of the edge of the desktop.

Bolstering the NV5807u’s appeal as an entertainment PC are its speakers, which I found to be surprisingly good. Though they’re no replacement for a decent pair of external speakers (particularly on bass output and overall volume), their sound quality and clarity were impressive for laptop speakers. I thought that they rivaled some desktop-replacement laptop speakers. It’s kind of a shame that the NV5807u lacks a discrete graphics card–if it had dedicated graphics, that plus the gorgeous screen and the speakers would make this laptop a solid portable gaming machine indeed.

The other big selling point of this laptop, though, really has to be the $599 (as of 8/7/09) price. The NV5807u’s spec sheet shows that you get a decent deal for your dollar. Between the Intel 2.1GHz T6500 Core 2 Duo processor and the 4GB of memory, the laptop should be more than powerful enough for any basic home, business, or entertainment needs. In WorldBench 6 it notched a score of 77, fairly low for an all-purpose laptop but about right for the price point. However, the NV5807u’s closest competitor, the Lenovo G530, managed to stay roughly on a par with this machine in most of our benchmarks (including earning a slightly higher WorldBench mark) despite being $100 cheaper.

In battery-life tests, Gateway’s laptop survived 4 hours, 22 minutes. Though that isn’t nearly a match for the marathon-ready performance of something like the Lenovo T400, the result is slightly longer than the average we’ve seen in our tests.The 320GB SATA hard drive and the 8X dual-layer Super Multi optical drive will give you plenty of storage space, and the standard array of ports (two USB ports on each side of the laptop and a multi-format card reader) and connectivity options (56-kbps modem, gigabit ethernet, and 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi) will give you plenty of ways to fill that hard drive up. Note that the NV5807 doesn’t have FireWire, so if you have a video camera that requires it, look elsewhere. The laptop does have a (rather unremarkable) Webcam and mic for voice and video chat, and the provided driver software lets you access the feature when you move the mouse to the spot right under the camera, which can be sort of neat (and is easily disabled, in case it gets annoying).

I found the keyboard mildly irritating. Kudos to the NV5807u’s designers for managing to cram in not only a keyboard and trackpad but also a keypad, which number crunchers everywhere will appreciate. The problem is, the number pad and keyboard are just about jammed up on top of each other. My right hand frequently ended up over the number pad when I actually wanted to press Enter or Delete.

Atop the keyboard are touch-sensitive buttons that allow you to access the volume controls and power-saving functions (most useful), open up the Gateway MyBackup software (sometimes useful), and turn off the trackpad.

On more than one occasion I was tempted to use that last toggle, as the mouse button bar is horribly awkward to use. This landing strip for a gnat supposedly doubles for left and right mouse clicks, but my oversized hands ached to find the right angle to tap. The middle of the button is a dead zone that won’t register any input. Instead of resting my wrists on the laptop and leaving my thumb on the button, I had to hold my hand in the air and press down, practically at a 90-degree angle. You’ll probably want to bring your own mouse for this one. The machine is also pretty heavy, at 5.8 pounds–it’s fine if you’re driving from home to office to café, but if you’re walking or taking the bus, it’s a little much.

Gateway’s NV5807u has an attractive display, above-average speakers, and enough power under the hood to serve as a general-use PC for quite some time. The trade-off you make is in portability: 5.8 pounds of computer is an awful lot to be carting around between classes or around the city, and a 15.6-inch display looks great on a desk but eats up most of an airplane tray table (not to mention your battery life). If you’re a student who would rather use a computer to watch movies in your dorm than take notes in class, or if you’re a professional who needs the screen space and doesn’t mind the weight, then the NV5807u is a solid buy for $599 compared with similarly priced models from other manufacturers, such as the Acer Aspire Timeline, the Lenovo Ideapad Y450, or even Lenovo’s business-centric G530, which sells for even less ($499).

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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