The new MC7801u is Gateway’s answer to the new 16:9 notebooks that many manufacturers are starting to release. These notebooks offer a wider display that is friendly to newer high definition videos and come in an in-between size of 16” and 18.4”. Offering an all-glass LCD panel, touch sensitive multimedia keys, backlit keyboard, and leather palmrest; Gateway really tried to take it up a notch with this notebook. Read on to see how well this notebook performed in our battery of tests and if it deserves a spot on your lap.
Gateway MC7803u configuration:
* Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 (2.0GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 2MB L2 cache)
* Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
* 4GB DDR2-800 RAM (2x2GB)
* 16.0" WXGA (1366x768) glossy finish
* ATI Radeon 3650 with 512MB DDR2 dedicated memory
* 320GB 5400RPM Hitachi Hard Drive
* DVD Super Multi (+/- double layer) with LabelFlash
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
* Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
* Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
* Ports: 4 USB, Kensington Lock Slot, Modem, LAN, 2 Headphone/Mic, HDMI, VGA, SD Card Reader, ExpressCard/54
* Battery: 8 Cell Lithium Ion 60Whr (4.8AHr)
* Size: 1.3"-1.70" (H) x 15.28" (W) x 10.43" (D)
* Weight: 7lbs 11.5oz
* Warranty: 1 Year standard
* Retail MSRP: $999
Build and Design
The design of the Gateway MC-series notebook is more elegant than previous models, including an all-glass front panel, leather palmrest, and glossy touch sensitive multimedia keys. Opening the notebook up you just see a perfectly smooth front panel, one piece, and a smooth silver border. I don’t always like notebooks with the super reflective glass panels, but this one pulls it off well. The keyboard area looks great with the backlit keys, and touch sensitive surround that just looks clean and simple. The leather palmrest is soft and smooth, giving some mild padding to your wrists while typing. I can’t say how well the leather will hold up long term, but threw the duration of our review it held up quite well.
Build quality is above average, with a very solid feel in both the screen cover and main frame of the notebook. Coming in at over 7.5lbs, it is not by any means a lightweight machine, but it is built like a tank. The glossy surface surrounding the keyboard and covering the LCD feel fairly tough, and didn’t scuff or scratch in our testing. While I don’t generally agree with glossy display covers found on some newer notebooks, they do give an added layer of protection against impacts oo even wandering finger tips.
The leather palmrest is one area that concerns me with long-term use. With constant abrasion from your wrists and sweat buildup it may fade or crack over time. It does to have a lacquer finish, which should protect the leather, but long term use will tell if it will hold up or not.
The WXGA (1366x768) display rates average compared to other notebooks, with bright colors and decent contrast, but narrow viewing angles. Vertical viewing angles were limited, with a small sweet spot before the screen started to wash out or have colors go inverted. Horizontal viewing angles were better, but the screen becomes difficult to see at steep angles from the reflection off the glass panel cover. The screen cover does add a nice seamless look to the front panel, but at the cost of adding excessive amounts of reflection. In most lighting conditions I can see my face on the display while I type, something that isn’t really common on even glossy LCDs.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The thin backlit keyboard is easy to type on and comfortably spaced over the wide 16” body of the notebook. The backlit keys are highly visible in all lighting conditions, and when you are typing on the keyboard, light leakage around the keys is minimal. Individual key thickness feels less than other notebooks from the odd flat shape of the key top, but it is much easier to type on than a Sony/MacBook style keyboard. Key presses are very smooth, with only a light touch needed to trigger a key. Audible feedback is minimal, with only a small click with each full press.
The large touchpad is easy to use, with a matte textured Synaptics interface. Sensitivity was great, easily tracking my finger with no discernible lag. The surface area is greater than most notebooks, but still falls short to the gigantic touchpad surfaces found on Apple notebooks. The buttons are large and easy to hit with the side of your thumb, and give a mild soft click with shallow feedback.
The backlit panel surrounding the keyboard with touch sensitive multimedia keys worked very well, and weren’t too bright or distracting. Another great feature that Gateway has included in the past is a function key that lets you disable all of the indicator lights. This comes in handy if you are watching a movie in a dark setting or just want to save a bit of battery power. You can toggle the multimedia keys off (which also disables them), just the keyboard off, or everything off.
The performance of the Gateway MC7803u was excellent, handling day to day tasks with ease. Loaded with the Intel T5800 Core 2 Duo processor, ATI Radeon 3650 graphics, and 4GB of RAM it worked well as a multimedia hub, including HD movie watching and gaming. Playing Half-Life 2 at the native resolution of the LCD and all settings on high, the MC7803u managed a consistent 60FPS even under high action scenes. Day to day use was great, with fast boot times, and little lag opening up software such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office Word, or using Windows Media Center. Synthetic benchmark scores backed up many of our findings, although our 3DMark06 score is skewed because of the odd notebook resolution. Normally we run all of our 3DMark06 benchmarks at 1280x800 resolution, but this notebook required 1366x768, making the score artificially lower than expected.
wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.
Ports and Features
The MC7801u is packed with quite a few external ports, but missing some common features like eSata and Firewire. With 4 USB ports, I would have gladly sacrificed one for an eSata port, or even an eSata/USB combo port.
* VGA and v1.3 HDMI
* Four USB
* Modem and LAN
* Two Headphone and one Microphone jacks
* Multi-Card Reader and ExpressCard/54
* Kensington Lock Slot and AC Power
Front: 2 Headphone/Mic
Rear: Display Hinge
Left: Kensington Lock Slot, AC Power, VGA, HDMI, LAN, Modem, 2 USB, ExpressCard/54, Multi-Card Reader
Right: Optical Drive and 2 USB
Speakers and Audio
Speaker performance is average, with front mounted speakers below the palmrest that easily get blocked with the notebook on your lap. Bass and midrange are lacking from the small speaker driver size and position, and volume levels could be improved.
This notebook offers 2 headphone jacks to share a movie with someone else on a plane ride (if the battery will last long enough). The audio output from the jacks were great, and peak volume levels were above my comfortable listening levels.
With the notebook set to the Windows Vista “Balanced” profile, wireless active, and screen brightness set to 60%, it ran for 3 hours and 47 minutes before it had went into sleep mode. For a 16” notebook with a battery that doesn’t extend out the back of the notebook, or protrude out from the bottom, the results were impressive. In our battery test I also disabled the keyboard and multimedia lights, since they added about half a watt to the power consumption while on.
Heat and Noise
The Gateway MC-series notebook cooled itself very well, designed with hot parts away from the shell of the notebook, keeping the palmrest and underside cool under stress. Fan noise was minimal, going just above a whisper level under stress, and off or very low under normal use.
The Gateway MC7803u turned out to be a very nice notebook in our testing, with a great design and excellent build quality. The design is very elegant, and the smooth surface multimedia keys and all-glass LCD work very well together. It has a simplistic look with very little clutter, and the backlit keys give it a wonderful look. Performance under light day to day work and mild gaming was fine, proving to be a good multimedia desktop replacement with almost 4 hours of battery life. I think the only thing that could make this notebook more perfect would be a higher resolution 1080p display and Blu-ray drive.
* Smooth and supple leather palmrest
* Good performance
* Full backlit keyboard and multimedia keys (that turn off if you don’t want to be distracted)
* Great battery life for a 16” notebook
* Cool to the touch, even while gaming
* Highly reflective screen