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Gateway NO50 review

Verdict

Gateway's NO50 is a solid, no-frills business laptop with an impressive turn of speed.

Review Date: 7 May 2009

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed:

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Gateway and its distinctive cow-print packaging may have retreated from British shores for a time, but the brand has now been rejuvenated by the global giant, Acer. Friesian-packaged consumer PCs are now but a distant memory, however, and Gateway finds itself striding into the professional arena with a new range of business-focussed PC hardware.

The laptop lineup currently consists of just two models, the 12.1in NO20 and the 15.4in NO50 which we're looking at today. But from the moment we clapped eyes on it, there was something incredibly familiar about the NO50. Something we couldn't quite put our finger upon.

Old faithful
Then the penny dropped. It's the spitting image of Acer's Travelmate 5000 series. A few elements of the design have changed - a dash of black plastic here, a swoosh of metallic silver there - but the chassis' heritage is undeniably familiar. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, and despite its familiarity the NO50 does feel like a quality laptop through and through.

Indeed, grab a hold of the NO50's 3.08kg frame and there's no doubt that this is a laptop built to last. The lid feels strong and resilient and it's a similar story for the rest of the laptop, with the base of the chassis proving impressively stiff and flex-free.

It's far too chunky and dour-looking to set the pulse racing, but it does get most of the basics right. The keyboard has a gentle smile to it, no doubt to make it more ergonomic, and to some extent it works. Keys fall easily under the finger, and there are no horrific aberrations such as half-height enter keys and the like.

Better by design
It's not perfect by any means, though, and the combination of large hands and the slightly squat keys was less than ideal. Smaller fingers will have scant problem, but set it against the very best business laptops, such as Lenovo's superb T500, and the indistinct key action and somewhat spongy feel leave it lagging behind.

The popular business laptop combination of a trackpad and trackpoint is far more successful, though, and the presence of a fingerprint reader nestling between the two trackpad buttons is a welcome one.

Gaze upwards and, while the screen's 15.4in diagonal is nothing to write home about, the generous 1,680 x 1,050 resolution is more noteworthy. But while this leaves no shortage of desktop space, image quality isn't stellar, with cool colour reproduction leaving images tainted with a blueish cast. Viewing angles are a touch narrow, too. It's still plenty good enough for screen-hungry office work such as working with huge spreadsheets, but colour-critical work is out of the question.

Performance
One area where the NO50 certainly doesn't disappoint is performance. It's available with a variety of Intel processors ranging from 2GHz right up to 2.8GHz, and our review model came with a sprightly 2.66GHz T9550 processor along with 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 250GB hard disk. It's a winsome combination, too, racking up a breathtaking 1.41 in our benchmarks.

Dedicated graphics also make an appearance courtesy of ATI's Radeon HD 3470 chipset, although those more interested in making the most of their budget will be glad to hear that Gateway will also be offering the NO50 with Intel's GMA X4500 integrated graphics chipset.

With a huge, 9-cell battery jutting from its rear, we'd have hoped that the NO50 might have wowed us with its stamina but it wasn't to be. The power-sapping demands of the fast processor and dedicated graphics chipset left the Gateway dashing back to the mains after just 4hrs 48mins.

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