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Gateway's Back With an Imperfect But Delightful Budget Gaming Laptop

Illustration for article titled Gateways Back With an Imperfect But Delightful Budget Gaming Laptop
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

I have fond memories of late 90s and early 2000s Gateway computers. Sure, they were my dad’s preferred PC brand. So by proxy, it was ours until us kids went to college. But they were reliable, inexpensive machines. We didn’t need the latest and greatest when our social lives revolved around what we could do with the chore money we earned taking out the garbage. I played too many games on mine, spent too much time chatting with friends on AIM, but I also learned how to take it apart and put it back together. I got more out of it than I ever thought I would, and that’s how I feel about this brand new Gateway Creator series laptop: it’s got some head-scratcher design choices, but the laptop is way better than I thought it would be.

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Gateway, the iconic “cow brand” of laptops, may have had its hey-day over 20 years ago, but the brand has been quietly kicking around since its acquisition by Acer in 2007. The company recently announced a massive new line-up of laptops, covering everything from gaming, creation, work productivity, and tablets—cow-print boxes and all. Gateway (and Acer) wants a piece of the budget laptop space, and with so many gaming/creator laptops configured with higher-end components, it’s nice to see anything for $1,000 and under.

And no, Walmart itself had no hand in designing these laptops itself, unlike its ill-fated desktop and laptop series that released in October 2018. But Walmart is selling these new Gateway laptops exclusively, so if this one piques your interest, you have to go to Walmart.

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The model reviewed here has an Intel Core i5-10300H (4-core/8-thread, 2.5 GHz base, 4.5 GHz boost), RTX 2060, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD for $1,000. Gateway also has another Creator series model that comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H (6-core/12-thread, 3.0 GHz base, 4.0 GHz boost), GTX 1650, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD for $800. Comparing these to the competition, Gateway’s Creator series sits somewhere between Lenovo’s IdeaPad Gaming models and Acer’s Nitro series. Gateway has a better spec configuration for the price compared to Lenovo, but Acer has more memory and more storage for the price.

Looking at Gateway’s Creator series only, the Intel-based model is a better investment than the AMD model because of the graphics card, even at $200 more. With the RTX 2060, you’ll still be able to hit at least 60 frames per second or higher in most games if you bump the graphics settings down from ultra to high. Yet even at 1080p ultra (or highest graphical setting), this laptop spat out an average of: 165 fps in Overwatch; 72 fps in Far Cry 5; 59 fps in Total War: Warhammer II; 63 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider; and 47 fps (38 fps with ray tracing on) in Metro Exodus. Those are some very nice numbers!

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Yes, an extra $200 is asking a lot when it comes to budget laptops, but the performance gap between the RTX 2060 and GTX 1650 is massive, about 20-25 fps higher depending on the game. So any laptop with an RTX 2060 priced around $1,000 is still a good deal.

The storage (256 GB) and memory (8 GB) capacities are on the disappointing side, but again, compared to the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming and the Acer Nitro 5, this Gateway laptop sits firmly in the middle in terms of prices and specs. The Lenovo and Gateway both have 8GB of RAM, but the Lenovo has twice the amount of storage and just comes with either a GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti. One of the Acer Nitro 5s comes with an RTX 2060 like the Gateway, and has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, but also costs more.

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Worse, if you want that Acer for a grand, you’ll have to opt for a 9th-gen Intel Core i5 instead of the 10th-gen. Otherwise, be prepared to sacrifice that RTX 2060 for a GTX 1650. I’d much rather have the configuration with the RTX 2060 and 10th-gen Intel Core processor and sacrifice some RAM and storage space.

More and faster RAM definitely helps with CPU-intensive tasks, but the more powerful your CPU, the better the performance, obviously. We haven’t tested many laptops with Core i5 mobile processors, but the one in this Gateway is close in performance to the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex we reviewed not too long ago. Rendering a 3D image in Blender with the CPU took nearly 13 minutes, or just 20 seconds longer than the Galaxy Book Flex. Transcoding a 4K movie in Handbrake to 1080p at 30 fps took the Gateway the same amount of time, or 38 seconds longer than the Galaxy.

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That’s not a big difference considering the Samsung has a 4-core/8-thread Core i7-1065G7 inside. Its 10nm transistors give it a little bit of a faster edge, compared to the 14nm transistors the Core i5 uses. But the Core i5-10300H is capable of a much higher boost clock speed, 4.5 GHz compared to 3.9 GHz—if you don’t reconfigure the Core i7 up another 1.50 GHz.

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The i5-10300H also uses much more power, 45 W TDP compared to 25 W TDP, and, oh man, did that show in my thermal readings. This Core i5 has a max temperature threshold of 100°C, and it consistently reached up to 95°C under heavy loads, which caused occasional throttling, but nothing detrimental to the overall performance. Chassis temps were a bit of a different story. While the gaps between the keys reached temperatures as high as 48°C, the keys are raised high enough that that heat doesn’t transfer to your skin or make using the actual keyboard uncomfortable.

But the portion above the keyboard reached up to 50°C, so I would recommend keeping your fingers away from there. This seems par for the course across many 10th-gen Intel mobile processors: high temps, thermal throttling, high chassis temps. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i is one of the few laptops that I’ve tested that was able to at least keep the chassis nice and cool.

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Moving away from hardware components, this Gateway Creator series has a few other quirks, like a webcam at the bottom of the screen. It wasn’t a good idea when Gigabyte did it with its Aorus 17G, and it’s still not a good idea now unless you happen to look better from an upward angle for some reason. It’s equipped with THX audio, which sounded great with my THX-certified Razer Kraken Ultimate headset, but the speakers are on the underside of the laptop. So the sound is driven downward, muffling it a bit.

Illustration for article titled Gateways Back With an Imperfect But Delightful Budget Gaming Laptop
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo
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The battery life is so-so, lasting nearly five hours. According to its Walmart product page, battery life lasts up to five hours so at least there’s no false advertising. The display has a max brightness of nearly 300 nits, and is a 15.6-inch IPS screen, so the colors and contrast is decent, but this is a budget laptop we’re talking about here, so no way the colors are as rich as something like the HP ZBook Create G7 or MSI’s refreshed Creator 15.

Budget laptops will always cut corners with some features. If you do a lot of work in Photoshop or Premiere, maybe look around for a screen with more accurate RGB levels or more nits. But if you’re more concerned about how long it takes to render and transcode, the Gateway Creator isn’t too shabby. Any simple, work productivity tasks it’ll handle just fine, and it can tackle almost any game with ease. This laptop is just like the Gateway desktops of 20 years ago: you know they’re going to have some quirks, but when it comes down to performance and reliability, it gets the job done. Gateway has made a surprisingly great comeback with its Creator series.

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README

  • A surprisingly competitive budget laptop for gamers and creators
  • Great value in terms of price vs. specs
  • Nice number and variety of ports
  • Can run hot
  • Odd speaker and webcam placement
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Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

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DISCUSSION

admiralasskicker
Admiral Asskicker

FYI I am almost sure these are (re)branded TongFang OEM laptops. Not necessarily a bad thing, as this is what WalMart’s OverPowered line was (which I assume these are replacing), and the OverPowered laptops were quite well reviewed (unlike the desktops).