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.

Index Test Setup
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  • solgae1784 - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    If you look at the magazines, Gateway's track record hasn't been that impressive, scoring pretty low on many aspects. So I'd be a little more wary when you're considering them. Your experience may be different from what the responses were after all.
  • Adamantine - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    All of the press releases, like the one I referenced above, concerning how many shaders are in the new 9800M chips states that the GTS is 64 shaders, GT 96 shaders, GTX 112 shaders.
  • Adamantine - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link"> 64 SP's"> 96 SP's

    Confirming that the press release is accurate, at least on the SP count.

    BTW, Gateway has never used a GTX in any of their gaming notebooks.

    Way too many mistakes in this review.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    Lack of details from NVIDIA is partly to blame. Wrapping things up at 2AM is another issue. While there were admittedly some errors on the number of SPs (caused by NVIDIA's crazy naming decisions), the vast majority of the text is correct. I have also added the clock speeds, now that I was able to access both laptops again. (I was out of town on family matters, so I was wrapping things up without access to the hardware.)

    Initially, I thought the GPU in the 7811 was more SPs but with a lower core/shader clock relative to 8800M GTS, but it turns out it's the same number of shaders as the 8800M GTS but with a 20% higher core clock (600MHz compared to 500MHz). Also worth noting is that I had all of the SP counts correct in my">mobile buyer's guide, so this was just a slip caused by the confusing names.
  • Adamantine - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    "One alternative was to simply shop online and purchase a similarly configured notebook from Gateway, and although the price was a few hundred dollars more you also got some upgrades. also carries many Gateway notebooks, including the P-173X FX for $1350, which bumps the processor up to a T7500."

    This isn't entirely accurate. The Best Buy version has always had a identical Gateway Direct version, 6831 = P-171, 6860 = P-172. The P-173X has no Best Buy equivalent and could be bought direct from Gateway around the first/second week of May. The P-173X became available through online retailers when Gateway ceased their direct sales operation.

    On the specs page, the 7811 FX is listed as having a 8900M GTS, which should be 9800M GTS.
  • djc208 - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    I think there are quite a few situations where you might need a gaming laptop (not like you "need" food of course but you know what I mean).
    I've been reading with interest because I have to go on travel for 6-8 months next year. I'll want something to play my games on but don't want to ship my desktop system out with me. This could be worth the investment and a huge upgrade from my current notebook.
  • sephiroth135 - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    Page 2, 3rd table

    NVIDIA GeForce 8900M GTS 512MB

    should be

  • homerdog - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    Same mistake on page 3.
  • fabarati - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    The 9800m GT is just a rebranded 8800m GTX. So it is a faster card than the 9800m GTS.
  • fabarati - Friday, August 15, 2008 - link

    Ohterwise, good review.

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