The Gateway DX100X starts at the near rock-bottom price of $449 (after $100 rebate); our $801 review unit featured upgrades that included a 15-inch LCD and a double-layer DVD burner. The Intel Celeron-based DX100X can handle most mainstream applications, but it has serious expandability issues, giving it a shorter shelf life than a more flexible system such as the eMachines T6524. If you're looking for an entry-level PC for dorm or family room use, there are better options in the same general price range, including the Dell Dimension E510, which boasts a mainstream Pentium 4 processor and a TV tuner card. For budget buyers, we still recommend Gateway's own eMachines line; the $599 T6524 (no monitor) delivers the best bang for your budget buck, thanks to its AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU, 1GB of RAM, and expandability.
Entry-level PCs are often betrayed by cheap-looking cases, but the DX100X's silver-faced, black-accented tower looks sharp enough to fool onlookers into thinking it's a much pricier system. Plus, its BTX design results in whisper-quiet operation. Our main design complaint is with the front USB, microphone, and headphone ports: they're so deeply recessed that unless the tower is sitting at desk level, you'll have a hard time seeing and reaching them. Two USB 2.0 ports are on the front, with four in the rear, but there are no FireWire ports to be found.
Internal expansion is not the DX100X's strong suit. The optical and hard drives lack easy tool-free removal; you'll be reaching for the screwdriver set to add components to the two empty drive bays, one 3.5-inch and one 5.25-inch. If you want to add more RAM, you'll have to replace the existing pair of 256MB modules; the motherboard has just two DIMM sockets. There is a single free PCI slot and one x1 PCI Express slot, but no x16 PCI Express or AGP slots for adding a dedicated video card. Whether you like it or not, you're stuck with the onboard Intel GMA 900 graphics processor.
The Gateway DX100X delivered acceptable performance scores, despite its poky 2.93GHz Celeron D 341, which is an upgrade over the default 2.8GHz Celeron 336 chip. The similarly budget-minded HP Compaq Presario SR1620NX, with a 2.0GHz AMD Sempron 3400+, performed 7 percent faster on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 benchmark, while the Shuttle XPC K6200h, with a marginally slower 2.8GHz Intel Celeron D 335, was 12 percent slower. In the same price range, our current budget recommendation, the eMachines T6524, blew past the DX100X with a SysMark 2004 score an astounding 29 percent faster.
Without a dedicated video card, the DX100X simply won't handle graphics-intensive games and applications. Video editing and Quake 4 definitely aren't on the menu for the integrated Intel GMA 900 GPU.
Even without games and video files eating up storage space, you might bump up against the DX100X's small 80GB hard drive. You can upgrade to a 160GB drive for just $50 extra, a worthwhile investment. Likewise, consider investing another $50 for Logitech's X-230 2.1 speaker system, which would be a major improvement over the muddy-sounding pair of Gateway speakers that ship standard with the DX100X.