Product Review: Gateway Essential 866

SAN FRANCISCO (11/02/2000) – WHAT’S HOT: The Essential 866 packs a Pentium III-866 CPU into a basic $1499 system–you do, indeed, get only the essentials. The small case, which can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, easily squeezes onto a crowded desktop. The 15-inch Gateway Inc. EV500 monitor, though small compared to the monitors accompanying most other systems on our charts, produced crisp images and realistic color. It also preserved fine image details up to a resolution of 1024 by 768. An included instruction poster clearly illustrates the setup process, and a well-written manual covers maintenance and troubleshooting issues.

WHAT’S NOT: Despite its fairly hefty CPU, the Essential 866 fared poorly in our performance tests, in part because of its limited amount of system RAM (64MB) and an integrated graphics processor that consumes from 2MB to 11MB of that memory. The Essential’s PC WorldBench 2000 score of 129 is 15 percent slower than the score posted by an average PIII-866 system with 128MB of RAM and a graphics card. That’s still fast enough to run most mainstream applications comfortably; but the system’s low-end, integrated graphics chip cannot display 32-bit color (the mode we use in two of our 3D game tests–Quake III and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000), and it ran Rage Expendable poorly. The 7.5GB hard drive is tiny by modern standards.

WHAT ELSE: This legacy-free system provides five USB ports (the keyboard needs one) in lieu of the traditional parallel, serial, and PS/2 connections. Its two free PCI slots take a bit of wrestling to access, and the slim case will only hold special low-profile expansion cards sold by Gateway. The system supplies no open bays, so forget about adding a Zip or CD-RW drive. The sturdy USB keyboard offers complete audio and CD player controls, as well as four programmable buttons and two additional USB ports to accommodate the bundled mouse or other peripherals. The small Boston Acoustics BA265 speakers produce adequate sound. The Essential 866 comes with Microsoft Works Suite 2000.

BEST USE: A good low-priced system for basic tasks like Web surfing and homework, but not suitable for graphics and 3D games.

Buying Information

Gateway Essential 866

$ 1499

PC WorldBench 2000 score of 129,

Pentium III-866 CPU, 64MB of SDRAM, 256KB of L2 cache, Windows Me, 7.5GB hard drive, 22X-48X CD-ROM drive, integrated Intel 810 graphics with UMA, 15-inch Gateway EV500 monitor, integrated sound, Boston Acoustics BA265 speakers, V.90 modem, compact case, Microsoft Works Suite 2000. Three-year parts and labor warranty; free, unlimited, 24-hour tech support.


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