Gateway E-6100 Review

The Gateway E-6100 system sent to us for testing would make a superb small- or medium-office server — either an application or file server, considering its blazing Pentium 4/3.0C processor, 1GB of DDR400 memory, Gigabit Ethernet networking, and whopping 320GB of Serial ATA storage.

But someone in Gateway’s review-loan assembly department has a sense of humor: They also outfitted the thing with an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro world-class graphics accelerator, so it’d make a killer 3D game system if only it had a sound card, or a high-end graphics workstation if only it had a CD-RW or DVD instead of bare-bones CD-ROM drive. As is, this made our $2,629 test configuration a bit of an oddball — or maybe it shows that the E-6100 can tackle any tough job an office manager might throw at it.

Tower of, To Use a Clichi, Power

The E-6100 is the top of Gateway’s “managed business desktop” family, which ranges from small-form-factor, Celeron-and-integrated-graphics secretarial stations to this full-sized, seven-drive-bay tower chassis. It’s the corporate version of the 700-series desktop that Gateway sells to consumers — and, changing from E-6000 to E-6100 just last month, it was the last Gateway PC to abandon the original-recipe Pentium 4 RDRAM platform in favor of the newly dominant DDR memory.

The system’s IT-manager audience means you shouldn’t expect radical, limited-edition components, but Gateway took advantage of the changeover to choose the very best from Intel’s parts bin: the D875PBZ motherboard with 875P chipset, including dual-channel DDR400 memory controller, Gigabit Ethernet, and Serial ATA support, and 3.0GHz Pentium 4 with 800MHz front-side bus and Hyper-Threading Technology. (The latest 3.2GHz Pentium 4 is available for an extra $290.)

There’s plenty of room to get at the motherboard inside Gateway’s black tower case, which opens in seconds without tools: Remove one thumbscrew and squeeze a car-door-handle recess at the top, and the side panel lifts away to reveal the mainboard, Newton Power Limited 250-watt power supply, and seven drive bays with handy quick-release levers. A 256MB module in each of the four DIMM sockets adds up to 1GB of DDR400 memory; opting for 2GB would raise the price by $560.

We counted five front-accessible bays — three 5.25-inch, the top one occupied by a Lite-On 48X CD-ROM, and two front-accessible 3.5-inch bays, the lower holding a 3.5-inch floppy drive (removable for a $5 credit, which you could spend on a case lock with keys). Each of the two 3.5-inch internal bays held a Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 hard disk — two times 160GB of 7,200-rpm capacity, connected to the motherboard Serial ATA controllers and serving as one 320GB RAID 0 volume.

All five of the motherboard’s PCI slots are vacant, though a card in the first would be a tight squeeze against the 128MB ATI Radeon 9800 Pro mounted in the adjacent AGP 8X slot. The hot-rod graphics card shares a power-supply cord with one of the hard drives

Silent Lightning

The motherboard’s built-in connectors provide the eight USB 2.0 ports — two up front, beside the floppy drive, and six in back — as well as parallel, serial, PS/2 mouse and keyboard, and Gigabit Ethernet ports. No sound card is supplied — black plastic plugs cover the headphone and microphone jacks near the bottom of the front panel, and a strip of tape hides the three audio jacks at the rear.

Even apart from having no audio except for infrequent system beeps, the Gateway proved quiet in operation — while some tower cases are crowded with cooling fans, the E-6100 makes do with a hefty one on the power supply and a smaller second fan on the CPU heat sink.

As an i875P system with an 800MHz-bus Pentium 4/3.0 processor and gigabyte of PC3200 memory, you’d expect the Gateway to perform like the comparable Dell Dimension XPS we tested last month — in other words, spectacularly fast — and it did. The E-6100 ran roughshod over BAPco‘s SysMark 2002 benchmark with a score of 319 — posting a 438 in Internet Content Creation and 232 in Office Productivity.

The Radeon 9800 Pro made mincemeat of our graphics speed tests, too, with a FutureMark 3DMark 2001 SE Pro score of 17,938 — or 5,621 on the download version of 3DMark03 — and an absurd 365 frames per second in Quake III Arena in High Quality 1,024 by 768 mode. The Gateway tied the Dell XPS’ Codecreatures 1,024 by 768 benchmark result of 46 fps without and 31 fps with 4X antialiasing, and managed a fractionally better Unreal Tournament 2003 demo flyby of 227.4 fps.

The A-La-Carte Menu

Clearly, anyone ordering an E-6100 for workhorse server duty could save money by choosing a less game-worthy graphics card — according to Gateway’s configuration page, an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 would subtract $300, more than enough to add the company’s handsome VX930 19-inch (18-inch viewable) monitor. For that matter, most servers would be fine with the 2.6GHz Hyper-Threading CPU that’s priced $250 below the 3.0GHz chip.

On the other hand, someone seeking an image-editing or CAD workstation would probably not only keep the ATI card, but add $60 for a CD-RW or $210 for a DVD-RW recordable instead of our system’s humble CD-ROM drive. But he or she, in turn, could probably settle for something less than our colossal 320GB RAID array — perhaps a single 160GB hard disk, stepping down slightly to parallel rather than Serial ATA speed, and saving $300 in the process. Either buyer would get Windows XP Professional and Intel’s LANDesk Client Manager software, but no productivity software, preinstalled.

Unless the Gateway was destined for a server closet, we suspect almost any customer would be willing to splurge an extra $25 or so to replace the economy-model keyboard and mouse that came with our system — the former a generic, rattly plastic affair with no multimedia, sleep, or program-launch keys, and the latter an old-fashioned mechanical rather than smooth-gliding optical mouse.

But again, while our particular combination of the plain CD-ROM drive and fancy Radeon 9800 Pro graphics clashed, the E-6100 impressed us as an almost alarmingly potent update of the traditional office-PC tower, with speed and storage capacity truly beyond users’ dreams of just a year or so ago — and the comfort of a three-year parts, labor, and onsite-service warranty. Who says business PCs have to be boring?

Adapted from

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