The Gateway 15.6-inch Ultra Slim Notebook is a classic budget PC. At $399 from Walmart (go. pcworld.com/w399), the price is hard to beat, especially considering its solid performance, decent storage space, and roomy screen size.
The trade-offs come from all the things that don’t show up on a spec sheet. The display is harshly lit, with subpar viewing angles. The trackpad is abrasive. The plastic enclosure is creaky and wobbly, and battery life is woefully brief.
None of these compromises are new to the budget price range. Basic productivity is the realistic expectation here, and this laptop does have some strong points. If you’re undeterred by the downsides, and you really can’t spend more, Gateway’s 15.6-inch Ultra Slim Notebook might fit your bill.
Our Gateway 15.6-inch Ultra Slim Notebook review unit includes the following features:
Display: 15.6-inch 1920x1080 IPS matte display
CPU: Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor
Memory: 8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD(W800SH)
Biometrics: Fingerprint scanner
Left side: HDMI, USB-C, USB-A 3.0, barrel charger
Right side: USB-A 3.0, headphone jack, MicroSD slot (up to 512 GB)
Dimensions: 14.75 x 9.5 x 0.77 inches
Weight: 4.2 pounds (4.7 with power adapter)
Walmart, Acer’s exclusive partner in resurrecting the Gateway brand (go.pcworld. com/gwbr), offers several other configurations. A version with AMD’s Ryzen 5 3450U CPU sells for the same $399 (go. pcworld.com/g349), while a version with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 512GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM sells for $579 (go.pcworld. com/g499). There’s no 512GB storage option with the Core i3 processor, but the MicroSD card slot—an increasingly rare feature on any laptop—provides an easy way to add more storage.
For those who like to tinker, this laptop is delightfully upgradable. A small hatch on the underside lets you throw in more memory. All you need is a Phillips-head screwdriver to pull off the entire rear panel, where you can access the battery and the M.2 SSD.
Sadly, the laptop’s sole USB-C port doesn’t support charging. That means you always have to use the included barrel charger, which charges slowly and comes with a space-hogging power adapter.
DESIGN AND DISPLAY
If not for the appealing, ocean-blue finish on this particular review unit, Gateway’s 15.6inch Ultra Slim Notebook would look much like any other low-cost, all-plastic laptop. It has thick bezels surrounding its matte display. The chassis will creak and crunch under your hands from the moment you pick it up.
Display quality is usually the first thing to go downhill in budget laptops. The 15.6-inch screen on this model is roomy but a little dim. It also emits an unnaturally bluish hue that puts a strain on the eyes. Although the display’s IPS technology is supposed to enable a steady image from wide angles, you’ll notice the screen darken and brighten as you tilt it. The screen’s matte finish does have one advantage, though: It’s easy to read outside, even on a sunny day.
KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
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