I purchased a Dell Inspiron 700M two years ago. Aside from the horrid integrated Intel 855 graphics, the machine was solid. It was lightweight, very portable, good battery life, and overall solid. The main reasons for wanting to upgrade were:
- I'm a geek and need latest and greatest, this one was pushing two years old
- Wanted a higher resolution screen, 1280x800 wasn't cutting it for me anymore
- Wanted a little bit better graphics card for some light gaming.
Obviously, upgrading from a 12.1" small form factor laptop to a 15.4" was quite a step, especially when you're used to such portability. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make, as WSXGA+ was the main criteria for my new machine. Unfortunately, WSXGA+ is not available on anything less than a 15.4" display, which is easily understandable.
Initial Impressions - one week of usage
The unboxing was an enjoyable experience, with the machine coming in a black box similar to the boxes that Apple laptops are shipped in. Initial impressions on build were quite good, the brushed metal palm rest and the perceived durability putting a light in my eye. There is no flex in the casing, and there are a TON of screws holding this thing together from the bottom, which is always a good sign.
First things first, wipe it clean and install my fresh copy of XP Professional. This didn't go as smoothly as I had expected, as my XP SP2 CD did not have drivers for the new SATA interface. I had to download them and use a floppy using the "F6" method in order to install. This was a slight roadblock, but definitely not the Gateway's fault. After that, the install went smoothly, and once Windows fully booted the first time, I began to experience the overall speedyness and responsiveness of the machine. It is quite impressive.
The screen is quite good, though does have quite a bit of what this site describes as "sparkle" ... it's a bit grainy on the lighter colors, most likely due to the anti-glare coating. This doesn't bother me nearly as much as some people. The resolution is awesome for this screen size, and there are no dead pixels. Colors come through with no problem, and there is no noticeable "light leakage".
The keyboard is very solid and consistent throughout. There is no flex, it is securely fastened to the machine, and feels like a step up from the Dell keyboards. It's laid out exactly the same way, and looks nearly identical to the Dell keyboards (aside from Function key lettering), but it seems like maybe a grade higher in the quality.
The touchpad is very nice as well, using Synaptics technology. The mouse buttons are a little disappointing, using a very shiny plastic which can be a bit distracting if your thumbs get a little moist or sweaty. This is not a show stopper though, especially considering most of my clicking consists of "tapping" on the touch pad. The consistency in the feel of the clicking is different from the left and right buttons, with the left mouse button being a little stiffer than the right. However, they are flush with each other and both function perfectly well. The added scroll area on the right side of the mouse pad is an added bonus.
Build quality so far appears to be very solid. There is no flex in the machine whatsoever, and it feels like it could withstand quite a bit. The machine is a tad on the heavier side with the 8 cell battery, but so far my back hasn't complained (it makes the commute back and forth to work with me every day).
Though the dedicated graphics card is nice for some gaming, I'm not all that impressed with the quality of the ATI drivers and catalyst control center software. The control center itself is a bit buggy and sluggish, and has already lost a profile I've set for two different monitor configurations (notebook only, and notebook + external monitor for my home office). I have had one blue screen when waking from standby that was ATI driver related as well. I'm hoping ATI will take care of this soon.
Wrapping it up
- Excellent build quality
- Good battery life with the 8 cell (around 4 hours, medium usage)
- Quality keyboard for a laptop
- Left mouse button is a little stiff
- Fan is on quite a bit, though the processor temps look OK (around 50C)
- Buggy graphics drivers (not Gateway's fault)