Gateway EC39C 13in laptop
Gateway EC39C review: A thin and light 13in laptop with a Core i5 CPU and an Intel SSD
- Thin and light design, Intel Core i5 CPU, solid-state drive
- Screen too glossy, poor touchpad, keyboard could be better
Gateway's EC39C is thin and light, yet it packs plenty of speed under its hood thanks to its Intel Core i5 CPU and Intel solid-state drive. It's a decent laptop that's let down by a poor touchpad and an overly glossy screen, and we think its keyboard could be better, too.
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The Gateway EC39C is a thin and light ultraportable notebook with an Intel Core i5 CPU and a solid-state drive (SSD) within its chassis. And it's a pretty thin chassis, too. It's only 16mm at its thickest point and only around 30mm with the lid closed. This slim profile is the Gateway's biggest selling point and lots of people in our office commented on how attractive it looks. However, there are some bad aspects to this notebook, too: Its touchpad is essentially a huge, awful button, its screen can sometimes double as a mirror, and its dual graphics cards didn't auto-switch properly in our tests.
Specifications and performance
The EC39C isn't MacBook Air–style thin, but the inclusion of an Intel Core i5-470UM CPU a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD give the laptop a good combination of mobility and speed. Furthermore, because of the ultra-low-voltage CPU and the solid-state drive, the notebook doesn't get too warm, so it can comfortably be used on your lap for a prolonged period of time. There is a fan on its side though that is audible when the CPU is under full load.
Around the Intel CPU and SSD, there are 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and two graphics adapters: Intel HD graphics and an NVIDIA GeForce 310M graphics adapter. In our benchmarks, this configuration produced good all-round results. It recorded times of 1min 34sec and 1min 35sec in our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, respectively; the MacBook Air took 1min 48sec, while other 13in Intel-based notebooks we've seen, such as the Dell Vostro V130, took 1min 40sec. The Gateway even managed to transcode a DVD file to an Xvid file in under two hours. However, the EC39C shouldn't be thought of as a machine with which to perform taxing tasks; it's built to be swift when dealing with typical office applications and Web and communication tasks.
In the graphics department, the Gateway can use either the integrated Intel HD adapter or the discrete 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 310M adapter. There isn't a physical switch for the adapters: The notebook is meant to do this automatically, or you can set manually choose which applications use a certain adapter in the NVIDIA adapter's driver program. But in our tests, the notebook didn't switch between them properly, nor did it register our adapter assignments until we updated the NVIDIA driver. When it came to performance, the Intel adapter recorded 1287 marks in 3DMark06, while the NVIDIA adapter recorded 3686 marks. The extra speed doesn't make the Gateway a candidate for gaming — it just gives it better capabilities when it comes to processing video and images.
The solid-state drive not only allows the notebook to run cooler than it would using a conventional, spinning drive, it also gives it plenty of speed when it comes to file transfers, and this was shown in our tests: The EC39C averaged a transfer speed of 64.24 megabytes per second.
As for battery life, the EC93C produced a reasonable time of 2hr 55min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It's a decent time for a 13in laptop with a first-generation Intel Core CPU.
The Gateway EC93C feels sturdy enough and it has hinges that allow the screen to tilt all the way back. The keyboard has isolated-style keys and they feel a little too shallow to press. We're not fans of the notebook's touchpad, which illuminates for no apparent reason, and which is also a button for no apparent reason. The whole touchpad is a button and it feels terrible to use when you have to right click — the entire pad moves. We're not sure why gateway has adopted such an awkward design. The status lights for the power button and Wi-Fi toggle are also too bright and colourful. A couple of nice white lights would suit it better.
Around the edges you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone ports and an SD card slot. You also get a built-in webcam, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. There is an option to get built-in 3G as well.
Overall, the Gateway EC39C is a good machine, with a nice configuration that provides plenty of speed for everyday office applications and Web tasks. We like its thin and light design. You should consider it if you want a thin and light, yet well-performing laptop, but test out its keyboard and touchpad before you buy to see if they are up to your liking. They weren't to ours.
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