Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gateway's New Notebooks for the Extreme Budget: 15.6" with AMD Fusion

Gateway announced this past Moday that they're releasing to the market a trio of value-oriented desktop (well, really nettop) replacement notebooks built around AMD's Fusion platform. Brazos has been a big hit with OEMs as nearly every major manufacturer is producing machines based around it, particularly the extremely popular E-350 APU.

The new NV series from Gateway features across the board 15.6" LED-backlit 1366x768 displays, wireless-n connectivity, HDMI, 1.3-megapixel webcams, and six-cell, 44Wh batteries. They also feature the now-traditional Acer/Gateway island-style keyboard that remains the bane of my existence, much to Jarred's continued amusement. As a whole the line may not seem too exciting, but remember these notebooks are gunning for users on the strictest of budgets and top out at an MSRP of $470.

Gateway's flagship model is the catchily-named NV51B05u. This is the $470 one, and it ships with the AMD E-350 APU, 3GB of DDR3, and a 500GB 5400-RPM hard drive. Presently, the NV51B05u is the only model on Gateway's website, but it can be found here. Gateway quotes over four hours of running time on the battery, and our experience with the E-350 suggests that figure is probably accurate for moderate loads.

On the other hand, Gateway is a little more cagey with detailed specs about the other models that are rounding out the line. At $450 is the NV51B02u, which also features the E-350. Odds are good this model has a smaller hard drive and/or less RAM. And at the extremely entry-level $400 price point is the NV51B08u which swaps out the E-350 for the C-50. The AMD C-50 retains both cores, but runs at a much slower 1GHz and clocks the graphics core at just 280MHz, though it also features a TDP of just 9W, half that of the already frugal E-350.

Unfortunately these prices seem a little on the high side for what you get. Compare the NV51 series to Gateway's own NV50: starting at $450, you get bumped up to a 2.1GHz Phenom II triple-core and 4GB of DDR3. Of course you'll sacrifice mobility and battery life for the privilege, so for users who are going to want to take their 15.6" notebook onn the go, the newer NV51 with the E-350 may seem like the better call. Ultimately, though, an important takeaway is that this extreme budget market segment may not be for you, but users who don't need much from a machine are going to get more mileage out of these notebooks. This is a market that used to be served by AMD's dire V-series processor, so the E-350 is going to be a major upgrade.

And just to sweeten the pot, we'll have Toshiba's 15.6" Brazos model, the C655D, in house soon.

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