Price: $1,400.

Weight and screen: 4.3 pounds (5.1 pounds with power adapter), 14.1-inch LCD (1,024 by 768 pixels).

Processor and memory: 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512 MB memory, Intel Extreme Graphics 2 (8 MB shared).

Storage: 37.2 GB hard drive, 24x/24x/24x CD-RW/8x DVD-ROM combo drive.

Communications: 100-Mbps Ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, v.92 modem.

Expansion: One PC Card slot, one four-pin FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports, one VGA monitor port, one S-Video port.

Support: One-year warranty. One year of 24-hour, toll-free phone support; $2.95/minute afterward.

Losing three pounds may not matter much to the average person, but on a laptop it makes a huge difference. If you've ever lugged an eight-pound laptop, this light, slim machine -- 4 pounds 5 ounces without the power adapter -- will feel like some kind of low-carb treat.

But a more realistic weight for the Gateway 200X factors in that accessory -- its poor battery life means you'll usually need to tote the power brick, which adds most of a pound by itself.

In a DVD-screening test, with the screen at maximum brightness and the WiFi adapter on, the 200X ran for a measly 81 minutes. It lasted for 122 minutes in a digital-music playback test (with the screen at half-brightness and WiFi on); with WiFi off and the screen dimmed as low as feasible, it endured 184 minutes. Those figures are poor for any laptop using Intel's efficient Pentium M chip.

To Gateway's credit, the machine did stay cool enough to permit actual lap use.

The 200X isn't a powerhouse in its other specifics. Subtracting memory reserved for its weak graphics circuitry leaves an unremarkable 248 megabytes of RAM. Its 37.2 gigabytes of hard-drive capacity is nothing special either, even if Gateway ships a real Windows backup CD instead of carving a system-restore partition out of the hard drive.

Expansion is available via two USB 2.0 ports -- one on each side -- and one, four-pin FireWire port. Its touchpad includes a scroll wheel, although its position between the touchpad buttons makes them slightly awkward to tap.

Calls to tech support reached live, friendly and mostly well-informed humans after four to seven minutes.

Gateway's thoroughly unremarkable software bundle is built around Microsoft Works and the basic version of Musicmatch Jukebox (which repeatedly nags you to buy the "Plus" edition). Equally pushy marketing occurs in Gateway's promotion of the Rhapsody music service.

Pinnacle Instant Video Album, a slightly more elegant editing suite than Windows Movie Maker, and Nero Express, which creates video, data, AAC, MP3 and Windows Media Audio CDs, are the only major high points among bundled programs. The low point is Windows XP Professional; the preinstalled copy lacked patches dating back to July 2003.

This laptop needs a round of security updates and either a second battery or Gateway's optional, higher-capacity battery before it's a real contender.

-- Bob Massey