Mini Laptop Review – Gateway LT3201u
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When it comes down to mini laptops, Gateway is probably on the top of your list but you might want to have a closer look as Acer’s sub-brand has launched some interesting netbooks over the last few years. One fine example would have to be this LT3201u that came out in 2010. Instead of adopting the usual Intel Atom platform, Gateway decided to go down the AMD route which was a wise move in our opinion as there are real performance differences.
At the time of its launch it had a retail price tag of $449 which we say that it is a fair price for what it offers. At the heart of this Gateway netbook is an AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor clocked at 1.70 GHz. It is configured with 2GB of DDR2 memory running at 667 MHz while for storage it packs a 250GB hard drive that’s spinning at 5,400 rpm. It comes with an AMD M880G chipset while in the graphics department it comes with an integrated GPU in the form of an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 with shared system memory.
The netbook is running on the 64 bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium and has the following dimensions: 11.2 x 8 x 0.9 – 1.1 inches and it tips the scales at 2.9 pounds (3.7 pounds if we take into account the AC adapter). As far as the design is concerned, the styling reminds us of the more expensive Acer Ferrari One which back in 2010 was a great netbook. That Acer model cost about $150 more than this Gateway LT3201u which belongs to the mainstream laptop segment.
It comes with a generous keyboard which makes typing a pleasurable experience, but we have to mention that the flat, wide and closely packed keys feel quite wobbly, especially those keys that are located in the middle of the keyboard. As far as the touchpad is concerned, Gateway unfortunately installed an undersized unit which is manufactured from the same material as the wrist rest. A faint raised line is the only thing that demarcates the touchpad from the rest of the wrist rest.
You will be happy to hear that this touchpad offers support for several multitouch gestures, like two-finger scrolling for example. However, performing these gestures is a little bit tricky to do due to the size of the laptop and also because the netbook fails to register the gestures most of the times. We appreciate though that Gateway decided to opt for left and right mouse buttons which are in fact separate buttons instead of the awful thin rocker bar that we’ve seen on many laptops.
This Gateway LT3201u has been fitted with a 11.6-inch display that has a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels, which is the standard nowadays among screens that have a size of up to 15 inches. This display is suitable for watching HD videos (720p) without any loss of fidelity.
As far as the ports and connectivity features offered by this netbook, we would like to mention the inclusion of both VGA and HDMI for video connectivity, while in the audio department it has the usual headphone and microphone jacks. For data transfer needs, the LT3201u comes with three USB 2.0 ports and also an SD card reader. In the networking department we find the regular 802.11n Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port. As you would expect from a mini laptop, there isn’t an optical drive with this model. We like the fact that Gateway decided to install an HDMI port for linking the netbook to an HDTV which almost makes up for the absence of Bluetooth. Aside from this drawback, you get the regular set of connections and ports.
If you have used an Intel Atom-based netbook and you switch to this Gateway, you will certainly reach the conclusion that the LT3201u is considerably faster than the low-powered Atom platform. With the integrated ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 you won’t be able to play a lot of video games, but this GPU is suitable for watching HD content and also doing some light & casual gaming. It is also great at streaming flash video in HD thanks to the inclusion of the Broadcom Crystal HD video accelerator. Getting back to the difference between the AMD Athlon II Neo and the Intel Atom CPUs, you will notice that the loading times are considerably lower with the Gateway, especially since the LT3201u comes with 2GB of RAM, unlike a lot of the Atom-based netbooks that came out in 2010 which had only 1GB of RAM, this being one of the reasons why Atom-based netbooks come with Windows 7 Starter while the Gateway LT3201u is running on the 64 bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium which is definitely an upgrade as far as the operating system is concerned.
An area where this Gateway LT3201u isn’t as good as most of the netbooks based on the Intel Atom platform is in the battery department where it manages to last for approximately three and a half hours in a battery drain test consisting of video playback. Most of the Atom-based netbooks are able to last for six hours of anecdotal use while this Gateway should be able to hit the four hour mark during the same conditions. Two hours of battery life is a big deal especially when we are talking about a netbook, but for some people four hours is enough. However, there’s always room for improvements in this area.
All things considered, it might not be the most impressive netbook launched in 2010 but in an era of Atom-based netbooks, the Gateway LT3201u is a breath of fresh air, managing to be considerably faster and also perfectly capable of playing HD content. Although some might say that there is no future for netbooks, we think that these 11-inch models have real potential, especially since AMD now offers the E-450 APU which is far superior than the Athlon II Neo and it can even do some decent gaming thanks to its good integrated GPU.