EDITORS NOTE - The following review and updates are from a series of forum comments/remarks posted by myself on another website. While reading, keep in mind that this post includes my review and my remarks at comments not shown here.
This is a review I posted on another forum. Since Gateway and Best Buy won't allow me to post this on their website (strange), I'll post it here:
These are my first impressions of the Gateway P-7811FX. After reading many rave reviews on several different websites and sources, my experiences may surprise some.
PROS: Attractive specs and price
CONS: Pretty much everything else
Having read the many "expert" reviews on Best Buy's website that so "highly praise" this product, I actually went out and BOUGHT one. Sadly, I must tell you, it is a useless piece of rubbish.
For starters, the build quality is as cheap as they come from China. The bezel on the optical drive always catches when you try to close it, so much so that it came off in my hands after only a few disc swaps. The battery on the back squeaks and wobbles because the holding mechanism uses only a single latch. The clickety-clack mouse buttons feel cheap and are annoyingly loud. The shiny gloss finish on both sides of the lid attracts fingerprints like mad - you'll be wiping it after every use.
Second, the LCD has serious backlight bleeding problems along the bottom, making dark scenes in DVD movies impossible to watch.
The speakers on this laptop are also horrendous. I'm talking almost transistor radio quality. They are so bad, you will not want to listen to music on this.
But the most serious problem though, is with the graphics. No matter what game I tried (and I have a dozen altogether) all have failed to run on this machine because it would simply freeze and lock up. And I'm talking serious lockups, where the display would freeze, the keyboard would go dead and the only way to get out was to hold down the power button until the unit rebooted.
This is NOT a driver related problem, it is defective hardware. I tried MANY different drivers (laptop2go.com and even the updated Gateway driver released on 9/9) and none worked - the machine would lock up 5-20 minutes into any game.
I should NOT have to spend hours searching online for drivers and stress-testing a laptop just to make sure it works properly out of the box. Gateway makes the customer do it's quality control??? - that says everything!!!
Trust me, I have had three units returned to one Best Buy store already with this problem, another 2 returned to another location and am looking to see if other stores all carry the same defective units.
For something that is advertised as a GAMING LAPTOP, it is COMPLETELY USELESS. I have not been able to get ANY GAME of mine to run on the units that I have been through so far, and no driver update in existence is going to fix a hardware issue.
One final pet-peeve of mine, especially for something touted for gaming, is the compressed cursor key (arrow key) arrangement on this laptop. From my experience games mostly use 8 keys on a keyboard, the WASD keys and the up/down/left/right arrow keys. The arrow keys on the Gateway are spaced very tightly together, making comfortable use difficult if you have larger fingers. While most average users won't care much or pay attention (or even gamers themselves at first), you will realize that having full-sized cursor keys makes a big difference once you see what it's like without it. This is a 17" form-factor with plenty of keyboard real-estate, I see no need to compress the cursor keys, and many other manufacturers do have laptops with the correct isolated inverted-T cursor keys on them.
Also, watch out - the control and function keys have been swapped around on the bottom left. Why the hell they would do that is beyond me.
Best Buy needs to pull these units quick and should send them back to Gateway or have them issue a recall. Gateway also better have a warehouse big enough to handle the RMA pile.
I am well aware that there are plenty of users out there that have perfectly working P-7811FX units out of the box, but I have also seen just as many users with units showing the same problems as I have described here. I cannot explain why this is, and perhaps Gateway may have an answer for us. My guess is they have made some changes in the past few weeks since the unit was announced. I can only hope that as this is the first of the Montevina units to go retail the ODM will correct the flaws in the coming months and have something that I can look at again maybe later this year.
On the plus side though, I do have to admit is an easily upgradeable unit - CPU, HDD, RAM and optical drive are all user-replaceable. With a 9800GTS GPU and WUXGA screen already installed, it would seems worthwile for hard-to-please users to bump up the unit with a Blu-ray drive, T9600 CPU, and add a second hard drive later on.
While I know some others will criticize my review here and come flaming back at me, the bottom line is I have had 5 out of 5 units fail, and have yet to get my hands on a working unit that HASN'T.
RECOMMENDATION: DO NOT BUY!!!
I HAVE actually owned and used the units extensively, therefore I feel I am competent enough to post my experience about the P-7811FX, be it a fairly negative one.
I have worked with and owned many laptops and many brands over the last several years - COMPAQ, HP, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Dell, Asus etc.. and I am very critical about how I judge a good laptop.
Think about it - if you go out and buy a laptop that has the CNET editors choice stamp of approval, wouldn't you expect it to perform flawlessly? You would definitely not expect it to crash after 5 minutes on every game and go through 5 bad units in a row as I did.
The price of the Gateway does reflect the level (or lack) of quality and attention to detail put into the unit. The Toshiba X305 is a comparable gaming laptop in a similar price range, yet is of much better build quality, has much better speakers and doesn't exhibit the inherent backlight bleeding problem the Gateway's display suffers. Move up into the $2000 range and a HP HDX16/18 or dv7 will also be of better quality, despite subpar graphics hardware.
Call me biased if you will, but my four-year-old 17" HP zd7000 has better speakers and a better keyboard. It is also one of only a few laptops I have ever worked with that is built like a tank. The zd7000 isn't even designed for gaming, yet has held up better than expected.
A good laptop should work out-of-the-box without the user having to hunt the web for drivers or search through forum posts to troubleshoot problems.
A good GAMING LAPTOP should provide a crash-free gaming experience, a problem-free display and better speakers than an average notebook. In that regard, the Gateway is in my opinion a failure, even with the appealing $1400 pricetag.
To put it into another perspective, if I could correct all the problems with the P-7811FX and sell it for $1800, it would still be a profit maker for Gateway.
Suffering with one bad unit is understandable and I would not be raising any arguments at all. Going through 5 bad laptops though, and reading posts and reviews of user after user reporting lock-ups and freezes (essentially the same problems as mine) on not only this but other sites across the web only leads me to believe that Gateway has a serious issue with their product and underscores my negative rating.
To those out there that have a working, crash-free P-7811FX - my congratulations!
My review only came AFTER I had exhausted my other options and AFTER reading about the problems other people had also encountered. Giving your first impressions of a product and detailing your experience is a great research tool. Had I been perfectly happy with my purchase, I would have written a review just as critical giving all praise and recommendations. Would the folks with bad units then come back scathing at me for having a marvelous problem-free working unit? I don't think so.
The average user doesn't spend 3 days reading through 100+ pages of forum posts online, downloading/uninstalling/installing multiple drivers, reinstalling an OS, installing game after game and stress-testing a laptop for hours just to make sure it simply works out-of-the-box.
The average user doesn't drive 12 miles across town and back going from one store to the next and end up returning units to both stores because they don't work.
The average user doesn't walk in to a Best Buy armed with a USB thumbdrive with tools to stress-test a laptop before he buys it because he thinks it won't work out of the box.
And the average user will most likely give up after two bad units and buy something different, not keep thinking maybe the 5th one will finally work!!!
What the average user does do is see a laptop with the CNET editors choice stamp of approval on it, reads one or two rave reviews on Best Buy and notebookreview.com, sees the awesome specs and price and takes the unit home, only to find out that it does not perform as advertised.
The average user then goes back to Best Buy and listens to some guy in a white shirt tell him to buy a laptop cooler and go to Gateway.com to get a fresh set of drivers. When that doesn't work the average user goes back to the guy in a white shirt a second time and gets an exchange or a refund. If he is past the 14 days, the guy in the white shirt tells the average user to send the unit in for repairs and wait 2-6 weeks.
I'm not the average user, I'm smarter than those guys in the white shirts, and I pretty much know what I'm talking about when I take more than one laptop back that doesn't work.
Be happy if your P-7811FX is working great, and you did not go through the effort and troubles I went through before posting my review.
Gateway has since discontinued the P-7811FX and replaced it with a newer model, the P-7801u. Same terrible keyboard/speakers but hopefully with the other kinks worked out? Thanks, but no thanks!
Gateway almost had a winner with the P-7811FX, but they cut corners with reliability, stability and quality-control, the three very things a manufacturer should NEVER overlook just to keep the price down. This was, I have to say, the first and last time I will ever purchase a Gateway product.