"Moore's Law does it again!"4.5 starson by Scott Gardener
Pros: As of August 2008, mind-boggling specifications for the price; relatively slim on crapware
Cons: Very little, actually
Summary: Wow. I only looked away for a few months, and suddenly 64 bit computing is becoming mainstream. When my home-built desktop gave up the ghost, I drove over to Best Buy and found this puppy; I about fell over backwards when I read the specs and saw the price--a quad core CPU and six Gigs of RAM for $750? I first made sure it could actually use the RAM, but sure enough, it was running 64 bit Vista. I'll take that one.
Admittedly, I'm not using it for heavy gaming; my endorsement applies more towards someone looking for a good all-around system, but I am using to edit DVD camcorder footage, and it's nice to be able to do so while web browsing and running iTunes syncing with Apple TV in the background, all at the same time, with the CPU meter bars showing barely 1/3 overall CPU usage and four cores going at the same time.
As for the RAM, CNet's main "negative," that it has too much RAM, is pretty much on the mark. I wouldn't have minded getting four Gigs instead of six, with the cost difference going towards a terabyte hard drive. But, it's a little gripe, since adding an extra drive is noticeably cheaper than adding the extra RAM would have been. It's nice to know that I've got the breathing room to support the demand generated by programs that haven't been written yet.
I should note that when unboxing, I found a note about 64 bit Vista and instructions about how to downgrade to 32 bit Vista if one needed better support for older drivers. But, it failed to mention what would happen to all that extra RAM in the process, and no mention was made of the old Vista / XP downgrade controversy--some of your luddite friends might get confused and think that's what is being referenced. But, for us techies, a system like this makes Vista shine, easily handling the extra memory and CPU hogging, so features like instant indexed search and aero graphics effects aren't overworking the system. Indeed, Vista's main problem may have been that it came out a year before hardware caught up to it. But, we're there now.
The GPU is handling its job pretty well with a 1680x1050 monitor with 32 bit color. Granted, I'm not playing Crysis with maxed settings, so I haven't really put it to the test; I'd refer gamers to read reviews of the ATI Radeon HD 3450. Home theater enthusiasts might appreciate the built-in HDMI port, though I have yet to try it and see how well it handles HDCP handshaking.
One more thing I appreciate is the limited amount of crapware. My last Gateway, a convertible tablet PC, came with a ton of excess stuff including trialware and desktop clutter. This system did have Gateway's "Big Fix" utility, which can be removed from the Startup folder, and the obligatory trial versions of Microsoft Money, Office and Symantec (in this case Norton 360). I just installed my own upgrade version of Office 2007 and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't ask for my previous version kept handy for the occasion--I soon discovered I had Microsoft Works, so I was already eligible. I bought my own Norton 360 at the store, but rather than installing it now, I'm running the 60 day trial version for the two extra paid-for months first. I can then just open the package, get the activation code, and not have to reinstall anything. So, even a lot of would-be crapware helped in getting back up and running with my regular software. Also included is a keyboard, mouse, and speakers--totally redundant to those of us replacing a dead system, but hardly a gripe.
One slight annoyance; Gateway's recovery software is on the hard drive itself. Good one. At least it pesters me into making my own backups, though I am left with having to come up with the recovery media, thus undermining some of the otherwise excellent pricing, since one or two DVDs probably isn't going to be enough. I haven't run it yet, but, obviously, I know I need to do so.
At the time of this writing, the computer is less than a week old, but I've already installed most of my regular programs and over 300 Gigs of audio, video, and photo media without a hitch.
Overall, a solid offering that raises the bar on what constitutes the best bang for the buck.