Citius, Altius, Fortius

The core of the P-7811 is largely the same as the P-6831, at least when looking at the outside. If you want a quick look at the laptop, the appearance is unchanged from the P-6831. Dig into the internals and we find a slew of changes. For one, this is one of the first Centrino 2 laptops that we've tested. While the Centrino name is largely marketing, there's no arguing with the success that Intel achieved with the brand. Centrino 2 essentially consists of an upgraded chipset, one of the latest Penryn processors with a 1066 FSB, and one of the two new Intel WiFi chipsets. Centrino 2 isn't inherently a major upgrade over Centrino, but the P-7811 does change virtually every internal component compared to the P-6831. Below are the feature lists for both laptops.

Gateway P-6831 FX Specifications
Processor Core 2 Duo T5450 (1.67GHz 2MB 667FSB)
Chipset Intel GM965 + ICH8-M
Memory 1x1024MB + 1x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WXGA+ (1440x900) UltraBright
Hard Drive 250GB 5400RPM 8MB Cache
Optical Drive 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW
Networking Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 4965AGN WiFi
Bluetooth v2.0
Audio Intel 2-Channel HD Audio
Battery 9-Cell 86WHr
Front Side Front LCD Latch
WiFi On/Off switch
Left Side 2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive (DVDRW)
Kensington Lock
GPU Cooling Exhaust
Right Side VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 2.0
Mini FireWire
Headphone/Mic Jacks
5-in-1 Flash Reader (MS, MS Pro, MMC, SD, xD)
Back Side Power Connector
56K Modem
CPU Cooling Exhaust
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
Dimensions 15.75" x 11.75" x 1.3"-1.70" (WxDxH)
Weight 9.2 lbs (single HDD)
Extras 1.3MP webcam
1 x 2.5" HDD bay available
Warranty 1-year standard

Gateway P-171XL FX Specifications
(Only changes relative to P-6831 are listed)
Processor Core 2 Extreme X7900 (2.80GHz 4MB 667FSB)
Chipset Intel GM965 + ICH8-M
Memory 2x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) Matte
Hard Drive 2x200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2 in RAID 0
Optical Drive HD-DVD/8x DVDR SuperMulti
Extras Fingerprint scanner
1.3MP webcam

Gateway P-7811 FX Specifications
(Only changes relative to P-6831 are listed)
Processor Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz 3MB 1066FSB)
Chipset Intel PM45
Memory 2x2048MB DDR3-1066
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 512MB
Display 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) Glossy
Hard Drive 200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2
Optical Drive 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW
Networking Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Intel WiFi Link 5100
Extras 1.3MP webcam

As mentioned, the new chipset and processor plus the updated wireless adapter are all part of the Centrino 2 branding, which on its own doesn't mean a lot. What's noteworthy is that instead of the T5450 or T5550 (1.67GHz or 1.83GHz respectively, both with 2MB cache and a 667MHz FSB), users now get a P8400. The letter at the front of the processor model number is an indication of the performance family. Right now, the "T" family is your standard Core 2 Duo mobile processors, "L" models are low power processors, the "U" family are the ultra low power chips, "E" processors are the normal desktop models, and "X" are Extreme Edition CPUs. With the launch of Centrino 2, Intel now introduces the "P" family of mobile processors. At first you might think the "P" in P8400 has more to do with the use of a 1066 FSB than anything else, but there are also 1066 FSB parts in the "T" family; the primary difference between "T" and "P" is the TDP (thermal design power). The P8400 comes clocked at 2.26GHz with 3MB shared cache, with a TDP of 25W compared to the 35W of the "T" series mobile Penryn chips. That means it should hopefully offer better battery life, as well as higher performance due to the faster front side bus (at least where clock speed is equal).

The next major upgrade is the use of the GeForce 9800M GTS instead of the now outdated 8800M. The 9800M comes in three flavors: GTS, GT, and GTX; these chips have 64, 96, and 112 SPs respectively. While there are slight differences in core and memory clock speeds, the net result is that the 9800M GTS is roughly equal to the 8800M GTS, and the 9800M GT is roughly equal to the 8800M GTX.  It's not entirely clear whether there was a process technology shift between 8800M and 9800M, or if the new parts are just rebranded 8800M chips.  Regardless, we do see quite a few performance changes with the 9800M GTS compared to the 8800M GTS, which we will get to in a moment.

Another interesting upgrade is the use of DDR3 memory instead of DDR2 memory. This may not actually improve performance much, but the lower operating voltage should help battery life. One of the major complaints we've had with DDR3 on the desktop is that prices were initially extremely high; desktop DDR3 is now at the point where it is starting to become reasonable for the high-end without breaking the bank, but what about on laptops? Since the P-7811 comes as a complete package, we don't have specific information on the price of DDR3 SO-DIMMs, but the total cost remains largely unchanged compared to the earlier P-6831/6860, so we have little reason to complain. Gateway also ships the systems with 2x2GB memory, so unless you're interested in finding 4GB SO-DIMMs you won't have to worry about memory upgrades.

Going along with the increased memory, the P-7811 also comes with Windows Vista 64-bit instead of 32-bit. There are still a few applications that may have difficulty on 64-bit operating systems (Ed: Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I'm talking about you!), and the difference between 3GB of memory on a 32-bit OS and 4GB of memory on a 64-bit OS is very small at best - the added memory space tends to be offset by the increased memory requirements of 64-bit code. Provided you don't intend to use an application that has difficulty in a 64-bit environment, however, we certainly approve of the move to 64-bit operating systems. Besides, how are we going to start getting 64-bit applications if no one runs 64-bit operating systems? (Ed: Yes, I'm feeling a bit bitter about certain 64-bit trends; Adobe, I would really like a 64-bit version of Photoshop!)

The only remaining change that is likely to be immediately noticeable is the upgrade to the LCD panel. If you're like me and you enjoy running a high resolution LCD, the WUXGA (1920x1200) panel will certainly be a welcome addition. If your eyesight isn't great you might have preferred Gateway stick with their WXGA+ (1440x900) panel, but in that case we'll just have to agree to disagree. Besides, you can always run the higher resolution panel at a lower resolution - albeit with some blurriness caused by not running at the native LCD resolution.

The other changes aren't as significant but are still worth a quick mention. There's a switch from a 250GB 5400 RPM drive to a 200GB 7200 RPM drive, and obviously we have the new chipset and wireless adapter that come as part of the Centrino 2 platform. Wrapping all of the changes up, we have a launch price change from $1350 to $1450. You could've convinced some of us (i.e. me for one) to spend the extra $100 just for the higher resolution LCD, so all of the other upgrades we mentioned are merely icing on the cake.

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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - link

    Gateway doesn't offer the option to custom configure laptops; what they do offer is about 8 notebooks that use the same base design, with different options and prices. Right now, the P-7811 is the only model using DDR3 and 9800M GTS, but there will likely be other models in the future.">P-series Reference Page
  • okron1k - Thursday, August 21, 2008 - link

    thank you, i have been to that page already but i am going to look it over again. i am most likely going to be buying this laptop in the next few weeks. i just don't know of any other place where i can get something similarly spec'd for even close to the same price.
  • Engage - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    Any word on when/if and to what degree Gateway might be going to upgrade the P-173XL FX Edition?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    Well, the P-173XL is already pretty well equipped. It has 2x200GB HDD, WUXGA (non-glossy I think?), 4GB RAM, and a T8300, plus 4GB DDR2. So it should be a bit slower on the CPU than the T-7811, and the 8800M GTS GPU is a bit slower as well, but you get more HDD space and performance. You also don't get an early PM45 chipset and BIOS. Still, I would assume in the near future Gateway will migrate most of their P-series FX parts to the PM45 with 9800 GTS platform.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    Adobe is very likely to release the next generation of their applications (CS4?) this fall, which will probably be 64-bit as LightRoom 2 is.

    Jarred has mentioned before that he is editor for other articles, does someone else edit his work, or is he using (Ed.) to insert comments into his own article?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    I "ed" myself. So do some of the other editors at times (Gary). It's more of an "insert personal comment that isn't necessarily a direct part of the review" thing - or for humor at times. Don't take away my artistic license, dammit! :-)
  • Hrel - Sunday, August 17, 2008 - link

    Since I never run anything over 1440x900 I don't want to be forced to pay for a screen that costs more money when I see no benefit from that high of a resolution; not to mention it would make everything too small. Gateway needs more user customization on their website; like HP. Also, you can't say with a straight face that anyone needs a gaming laptop? What wrong with you? If you expect to be able to play current games on a laptop you bought 4 years ago you need a gaming laptop; even though you'll be playing those new games on min settings. Who doesn't need a gaming laptop? Who doesn't play games when they're away from the house if they have the ability?
  • strikeback03 - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    I think the point was that with the possible exception of some people who work in the gaming industry, not many people NEED to be able to play games.

    I'm with Jarred on wanting the highest resolution LCD available, so we both agree that they need more customization options.
  • spuddyt - Saturday, August 16, 2008 - link

    I want one A LOT!!!! but i'm in the UK, so i'm effectively screwed and am just going to end up getting some crappy dell POS....
  • MamiyaOtaru - Saturday, August 16, 2008 - link

    I would never buy a laptop with a glossy screen. I'd rather look at what I'm working on (or playing with) than a reflection. Glossy screens are idiotic bling for idiots. Unfortunately mot people are idiots, as glossy screens sell better from stores than matte (it's shiny!).

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