As Windows Vista replaces Windows XP with new computer shipments, we’re still slowly getting used to the new operating system. Additional Vista software support by developers is announced every day, which means the day we can whole-heartedly endorse the idea of embracing Vista is coming sooner than we thought it would.
An example of a new system now shipping with Vista is Gateway’s FX530XG, which Gateway positions as a catchall solution for “…digital creation enthusiasts, tech-savvy users, serious PC gamers and anyone who wants the ultimate PC with the latest technology.” We think Gateway did a pretty good job in finding this niche – there’s definitely a good deal of overlap among these types of users. The wide variety of ports for importing assets will satisfy the digital creation enthusiasts. The tech-savvy users, gamers and ultimate PC seekers alike will be impressed by aspects like bleeding-edge video cards and factory overclocking. Let’s dive in to see what this machine can do.
The machine is reasonably beefy out of the box, with fairly good fit and finish. The machine we reviewed featured some sharp red, er, “Redline” accents on the case’s ventilation shroud and the lettering on the side of the chassis. You can alternately choose from three other accent colors at the time you place your order: “Copper Core,” “Black Steel” or “Blue Carbon.”
Our machine arrived configured with a factory-overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processor. To compensate for the rather high heat, the machine includes a very beefy heat sink and effective use of airflow between the front-panel ventilation shroud and the 120mm fan at the rear of the machine, as well as a very clean cable arrangement. The machine also upgrades to a 700-watt power supply.
Video is certainly bleeding edge, including an ATI Radeon X1950-based video card, with 512MB of DDR4 memory. Paired with Gateway’s great-looking FPD2485W 24″ 1920×1200 monitor, our configuration also included the six-speaker Gateway TDX Audio Sound System, so it sounds great too. The system also comes with a DVI cable – our wishes from our last Gateway review were answered! The monitor pivots, a technology that seems to have had a renaissance over the past few months with the recent availability of true HD computer monitors. The monitor includes a USB hub that multiplies one USB port on your computer to four on the monitor – a very convenient feature. Combined with HDCP to play copy-protected sources (and comply with Vista’s DRM demands), a 1000:1 contrast ratio, 178 degrees viewing angle and 6ms response time, it’s a winner, no matter how you slice it.
Any content creators worth their salt would be pleased with the machine’s selection of ports: there are two front and one rear 6-pin FireWire ports, along with two front and four rear USB 2.0 ports. Digital still photographers will be happy to see that the machine’s front-panel card reader includes Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, SmartMedia, xD, Memory Stick (standard/Pro), CompactFlash and MicroDrive readers.
For marathon CD burning sessions or copying DVDs that you created, the machine also includes a Lite-On SOHC-4836V combo drive in addition to the LG DVD burner.
The machine’s two Hitachi 250GB hard drives are set up as a stripe (RAID 0), using the onboard Intel SATA RAID controller.
Rounding out the hardware offerings are a Gateway PS/2 keyboard with media control buttons and a Gateway USB optical mouse.
The Gateway FX530 ships with an interesting array of software: there’s Adobe Reader 8, AOL, Google Desktop Search (and toolbar installed in Internet Explorer), Napster, BigFix, Intel VIIV, McAfee Security, Microsoft Works and CyberLink Power2Go. Ours didn’t ship with video editing software, but Gateway lists Adobe Premiere Elements and Premiere Pro, Pinnacle Studio and Roxio Easy Media Creator on their Web site as additional software titles you can buy along with your system.
Oddly, when we booted the machine for the first time, Vista’s usual welcome screen didn’t appear. We thought nothing of it. Then, when we wanted to access the control panel so we could report what’s under the hood, we found that we couldn’t, for some reason. Leave it to the angry little red X in the system tray to tell us what was awry: Gateway shipped the machine to us with Vista’s User Account Control feature turned off. We don’t think this is a good thing – while it certainly can be one of the most annoying aspects of Windows Vista (depending on what features you end up using day to day), it’s apparently a necessary evil to access the control panel. We turned User Account Control back on, and things went back to the way we expected to see them.
Mind you, we still don’t think Vista is quite ready for prime time… little things like the internal file decompressor still exhibit rough edges. We’re left wondering when the first update rollup or service pack will come down the line from our friends in Redmond.
We also noticed the display had some color banding out of the box, prompting us to check the color depth. For some reason, the display was set to 59Hz, 16-bit color, but using the preferred 1920×1200 resolution for the monitor. Simply flipping over to 32-bit color caused the monitor to freak out, but it was happy when we bumped up the refresh rate to 60Hz and then asked for 32-bit color. We won’t ask why, we’re just happy to have figured it out.
One little annoyance we found was that the mouse froze quite a lot when we tried Gateway’s EzTune utility, which provides simple controls for changing the display settings and also manages monitor-pivoting functionality. Removing this utility solved the mouse-freezing problem, though we still can’t figure out why, exactly, it caused a problem with this machine.
Overall, this is a very powerful computer at a reasonable price point. We think this machine could handily satisfy the needs of pretty much any user. If youve been building your own systems but are looking for another way, take a hard look at the entire FX530 family – you’ll get all the components you like, and you can use the three or so hours you’d otherwise use to build your machine for something more exciting.
OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (Windows Experience Index=5.3)
RAM: 2GB, dual-channel DDR2-667
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (Quad-core), 2.66GHz, factory over-clocked to 3.2GHz
Chipset: Intel 975X
Number of Physical Processors: 1
Hard Drives: 2 Hitachi 250GB, 7200RPM
Video Editing Software Included: Windows Movie Maker
Analog Video Capture Card Included: No
DVD Burner: LG GSA-H11N
Disc Authoring Software Included: CyberLink Power2Go
Multiple Monitor Connections: Yes
- Attention to detail under the hood
- Great monitor
- User Account Control disabled by default
- Random mouse freezes caused by EzTune monitor software
A powerful machine with a very well-balanced personality.
Charles Fulton is Videomaker‘s Associate Editor.
$2,939 as configured (24″ widescreen monitor: additional $679, TDX Audio Sound System: additional $70)
7565 Irvine Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618