The primary attraction to this notebook was the beatiful floral design which clearly shows this is a girly notebook, but one with the hardware specs to make any geek turn their heads. The M-153XL sports an Intel Penryn Core 2 Duo (C2D) running at 2.4GHz with an 800MHz Front Side Bus. The M-153XL also sports 4GB of DDR2 running at 667Mhz. The storage comes in at 200GB of hard drive goodness which does seem somewhat small however this drive spins at a performance level of 7200RPM. All this coupled with a discrete video solution featuring an ATI HD2600 GPU running at 500MHz with dedicated 512MB of GDDR3 at 600MHz give the M-153XL a respectable showing.
This particular M-153XL is one of the last few direct models from Gateway, and also a refurbished model. While most of the hardware is the same I noticed the keyboard is black and there is no fingerprint reader. Neither of these facts detracted from the overal enjoyment and performance of this unit. The M-153XL can be typically found with an average street price around $1,200 USD and is an excellent bang for the buck.
The M-153XL is usually categorized as a mid-range notebook. The specifications for this mid-range notebook tend to be a bit higher than most other mid-range notebooks.
- Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 processor (2.4 Ghz, 800 Mhz FSB, 3MB L2 Cache)
- Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) operating system
- 4GB 667 Mhz DDR2 dual-channel memory
- 200GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Disk
- Intel Wifi Link 4965 802.11a/b/g/draft-n wireless card
- 6-cell battery
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 graphics card (512MB dedicated video memory)
- 15.4” WXGA screen (1280x800, 16:10 aspect)
- 3 USB ports, VGA, HDMI (v1.2), card reader
- 10/100 ethernet and modem
- 8x Dual Layer Slot Loading DVDRW/DVD-RAM with LabelFlash (Sony AD-7640A)
- 1.3 Megapixel webcam
What's in the Box:
The M-153XL is your typical notebook and comes with such a typical assortment of accessories. This particular notebook was aquired as a refurbished model, and some accessories may not have been included. However, the major accessories were included and provided all necessary parts for normal operation.
- 1 x M-153XL Notebook
- 1 x 6 cell 5200mAh battery
- 1 x 90watt AC Adapter
- 1 x 3 pin power cord
The aesthetics of the notebook are unique when compared to a majority of mass produced notebooks. This particular notebook has the Arctic Bloom design which incorporates a very pretty floral pattern on a light blue base color. The floral pattern is both darker blue and light silver which provides good contrast to the light blue base. The base also has a slight gradient to it which progressed from dark blue, to light blue, then light silver. The design may reflect some notebook skins, however this design is far more professional than a cheap vinyl skin. Gateway choose to use their proprietaty Gateway® inFuse™ technology to provide a smooth and glossy finish to the design leaving no sign of bumps or raised paint as one would expect with intricate airbrushing. Instead, the design and the finish are both infused into the plastics of the notebook providing a durable and beautiful finish that gives this notebook a more expensive feel.
The rest of the design also compliments the floral pattern and the posh feel. The keyboard is your typical notebook keyboard however it is surrounded by a matching silver border. The silver border is then surrounded by brushed polished aluminum accents. The keyboard cover above the keyboard features media keys that have been cut into the brushed aluminum rounding out the look of the design.
Gateway provided a typical 15.4 inch glossy display with a WXGA resolution of 1280*800. While the display is bright, crisp and clear it left a feeling of mediocrity. Most 15.4 inch laptops all sport the same size screen, and resolution so there is nothing to set this display apart from many other similar size notebooks. However, don't let this detract you as nothing bad or wrong was seen with this display.
The keyboard is your typical plastic notebook keyboard. While typing is good and the keys are responsive there is still a bit of flex to the keyboard. The flex is not noticed under normal use, but during extended typing the flex can become more noticeable. Heat from the unit can be felt on the left side of the keyboard although it does not deter from typical usage.
The touchpad is nice and large and is easy to use. The touchpad is of the ubiquitous Synaptics variety, and provides ease of use with lots of features. The touchpad features a slight texture to it that provides adequate friction during use. The right side of the touchpad features horizontal indicators providing the user with visual clues to the vertical scrolling area. The buttons are large and glossy matching the design of the notebook and provide a good positive click feedback when pressed.
The M-153XL, or most Gateway notebooks feature an integrated media control button panel above the keyboard. The M-153XL features a Media Center Launch button, followed by Music and DVD quick launch buttons. After those come the media playback controls such as play/pause, stop, chapter skip back and forward, and mute button. The last set of buttons are a touch sensitive volume control with illuminated + and - signs to indicate volumne settings.
The M-153XL features few indicator LED's, but it does include your basics. Along the front edge of the computer you will find a power LED that blows solid blue for power, and blinks for any sleep state. Next to the power LED is the battery charging LED which glows purple during charging and solid blue for a full charge.
Below the touchpad are some more indicators. From left to right you will find the WiFi indicator light which remains solid to indicate the wifi is turned on. After the wifi LED you will find the capslock indicator followed by the numlock indicator. The last two indicators are for optical drive access and hard drive access, both of which blink during activity.
The wifi on the unit is based on the Intel 4965 ABGN minicard and provides excellent connectivity options. Connecting to wireless G access points will allow the notebook to connect at speeds up to 54Mbps with strong signal. However when connecting to wireless N the card failed to connect at the full 300Mbps. Typically the card would only connect at 150Mbps which is still faster than 802.11G and should be sufficient for normal users. However, due to personal preference the wireless card was swapped to a Marvell MC85 which allows full 802.11N speeds of 300Mbps.
The speakers are stereo speakers with audio provided by a Realtek HD Audio chipset. The audio is loud and clear despite their diminutive size. The speakers are located above the keyboard in the left and right corners of the notebook. The keyboard cover features speaker vents that are cut into the brushed aluminum.
The front of the unit is oddly devoid of many of the ports and switches that your typically find. On the front of the unit you will find 1 analog microphone input, and one analog headphone output. The only other features you will find are the power LED indicator and the battery charging LED indicator. This provides the unit with a clean front allowing more attention to be drawn to the Arctic Bloom pattern of the palmrests.
The webcam is of your typical 1.3megapixel variety. However don't let that fool you. The camera is suprisingly crips and clear for being only 1.3megapixels. The camera appears to be tuned to low light situations and the included software give control over many of the features of the camera. You will find options for silly frames, brightness, contrast, audio recording settings, resolution, video recording settings and many more options. The camera is seated just above the LCD and the lens cover is blended into the bezel of the LCD making it hardly noticable.
The right side of the unit is bare in contrast to the left side. On the right side you will find your optical drive and 1 USB port. The standard optical drive for this unit is a slot loading drive. This drive has been since changed out to a standard tray loading BluRay drive.
The Left side of the notebook features a majority of the ports. From left to right you will find an HDMI port, a 10/100 LAN port based on the Realtek 8101E chip set, then 2 USB ports. The central part of the left side features the exhaust vents which are then followed up by the 55-in-1 card reader and 54mm express card slot. The card reader supports SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, and xD varieties. Lastly, you will find the wireless switch that will enable or disable the wireless device.
The rear of the unit features the DC jack, external VGA connection, kensington lock port and a lone modem jack. Other than that the rear of the unit is fairly sparse and the only large feature is the protruding 9 cell battery. When used with a standard 6 cell battery you will find that the battery will be flush with the unit.
The bottom of the unit is dominated by the large thermal door which provides access to the memory as well as CPU. Upgrading the CPU would be quite easy although at this time there is not need to as the T8300 provides sufficient processing power. The other large access panel is used to cover the hard drive as well as both minicard slots. Here is where the wireless card is housed, leaving one extra minicard slot which has since been populated by a Broadcom HD Decoder Card (BCM70012) which allows for super smooth bluray playback.
While this notebook is a mid-range notebook it performed better than expected during tests. The power of the Intel Core 2 architecture really shines once you put a strain on the cpu. Coupled with the fact the ATI HD2600 discrete graphics with dedicated 512Mb of GDDR3 assists in the decoding of bluray movies and handles Vista Aero with no problems. This notebook has also been upgraded with the Broadcom HD decoder card which allowed for unheard of cpu utilization rates during playback. A 1080P bluray rip of Bolt was played back with an average cpu utilization of 5% which is stunning considering the Intel T8300 with the ATI HD2600 using AVIVO technology played bluray movies at 20% utilization. The Broadcom decoder card is definitely something to look for in your next notebook purchase. In fact, many netbooks are now using this decoder card to help with playback of MPEG-2, AVC (H.264), and VC-1 titles with extremely low cpu utilization giving the netbook processors more grunt for HD video. Coupled with Adobe's announcement that flash based video is moving to H.264 that would mean full screen, high resolution playback of HD videos even on a netbook.
Size and Weight
The weight of the unit comes in at a hefty 6.4 pounds which is not a surprise due to the size of the notebook. The weight of the unit is a detractor of daily use. However the notebook is typical of your mid ranged 15.4inch models. The weight can be reduced by using a 6 cell battery at the expense of battery run time. However, the 6 cell battery still provides up to 2.5 hours of run time which would still be considered usable.
Heat and Noise
The heat and noise of this unit are not what this reviewer was expecting. With the CPU coming in at 2.4GHz, a 7200 RPM hard drive and ATI discrete graphics one would expect the fan to be noisy and heat to be abundant. Quite the opposite thanks in large part to the Intel Penryn processor that was manufactured under the 45 nanometer process. The heat of the unit can be felt while the unit is idle, but is quite tolerable. Even during heavy use the fan is still fairly quiet and the heat is tolerable. Even the discrete ATI HD 2600 GPU is unable to place this laptop into the too hot to handle category.
Battery life of the M-153XL is sufficient for most tasks and even more so if power savings are increased. Using the standard 6 cell battery battery life is a respectable 2.5 hours with brightness turned down, and bluetooth turned off. With the optional 9 cell 7800mAh battery the unit can last close to 4 hours with conservative power savings. However, the use of the 9 cell battery does add to the weight of an already heavy notebook.
If there is one failing aspect of this notebook it is the included bloatware. The factory load of Vista Home Premium 32-bit included software from Wild Tangent, Napster, AOL, and many other names that would put a face of dismay on any seasoned computer user. However, this is quickly remedied by either uninstalling this software or by simply using the Vista recovery media included with the unit. This reviewer did not understand why Gateway chose to install a 32bit version of Vista on a unit that ships with 4GB of memory. A quick installation of Vista Ultimate 64bit provides the OS complete access to the entire 4GB of installed memory.
Accessories with the unit are practically nonexistent. The only accessories included are the AC adapter and power cord. For any other accessory expect to buy them from the aftermarket.
- Good performance for the price
- Beautifully designed
- Strong CPU performance
- 6.4 pounds of heavy
- Battery life is average
The M-153XL is an excellent blend of performance and beauty all while maintaining the dimensions of a 15.4 inch notebook. The notebook can be a bit heavy at times, but the beautiful design is one that must be taken out of the house to show others. While it's out, the performance of the unit is more than enough for the average user or power user.