Jon L. Jacobi
Monday, November 1, 2010; 12:19 AM
Gateway's ID49C13u, a thin and sedately handsome all-purpose laptop, is a giant step forward for a company whose recent notebook PCs seemed stuck in the doldrums. Gateway has even included a glowing touchpad that pulses in hypnotic rhythms while you boot up.
Beyond looking good in coffee shops, the $849 ID49C13u we tested offers a configuration that provides plenty of oomph for everyday chores and even light gaming. Among the main components are an Intel Core i5 460M Processor running at 2.53GHz, 4GB of DDR3 memory (1066MHz), and an nVidia GeForce GT 330M. The only weak link is the capacious 500GB hard drive, which spins at just 5400 rpm.
A 7200-rpm hard drive might have improved the ID49C13u's already more-than-competent WorldBench 6 score of 106, but the laptop's gaming scores were quite respectable anyway: Frame rates in Unreal Tournament 3 tests exceeded 90 frames per second at medium detail and 70 fps at high detail--more-than-adequate numbers.
Video--even high-bit-rate movies that tax lesser notebooks--played smoothly on the unit, and looked quite nice on the 14-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel, LED-backlit LCD display. The laptop's 1.3-megapixel Webcam supports up to 1280 by 1024 resolution; and though video is jerky at that setting, it is useful for quick one-off photos or surveillance. Audio through the speakers sounds a bit muffled, and bass is virtually nonexistent--par for the course for an all-purpose laptop. Still, the Dolby Home Theater delivers reasonably good audio through headphones.
Connectivity on the ID49C13u is top-notch, with 802.11n wireless and gigabit ethernet. Included in the usual array of ports are four USB 2.0 ond one each HDMI, VGA, and audio in/out, plus a MS/MMC/SD/xD memory card reader. An 8X DVD burner serves as the optical drive.
The ID49C13u's input ergonomics are just shy of perfect. The Chiclet-style keyboard has a decent amount of travel, and the layout isn't cramped, which facilitates quicker touch-typing. The touchpad/rocker button has a long-travel feel, but its glass-smooth surface is a bit too slippery until you've used it a bit.
The touchpad's scroll areas function as such only when the cursor is positioned over a scroll bar, though you may scroll by double-dragging anywhere--a nice touch by the vendor, Alps. The touchpad is also perfectly situated on a keyboard deck that has plenty of room for your palms. The front edge of the deck is a bit too angular for maximum comfort during long typing sessions, but it's not as bad as on the current Macs.
The thin (0.85 inch thick) design of the ID49C13u makes it a bit lighter than a typical mainstream laptop. It weighs only slightly more than 5 pounds in your hand, and its traveling weight with the AC adapter is 5.5 pounds. For a laptop with such strong performance, battery life is quite good: 4 hours, 23 minutes.
The cluttered desktop and uninspiring background image you encounter when you boot into the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system are out of harmony with the laptop's clean physical lines. Some of the clutter, such as Netflix, a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security, and the user's guide may be useful, but they belong on the Start menu. Windows Live is the productivity software, and Nero is on hand to sharpen the capabilities of the DVD burner.
With the ID49C13u and its compatriots, Gateway seems to have gotten over its infatuation with ugly designs; and the 13u variant offers a nice combination of performance and battery life. You can get a cheaper ID49C configuration ($679 and up as of October 25, 2010) without drastically diminishing the overall experience, but that's your call.