Top 10 budget desktop PCs
Aimed at the value conscious consumer, these budget desktops will tackle your computing needs -- without breaking the bank
LX6810-01 Review, by David Murphy, PC World September 10, 2009
CPU: Core 2 Quad Q8200; CPU speed: 2330GHz; Graphics adapter: Nvidia GeForce GT120; Monitor: No; Hard drive size: 640GB; WorldBench rating: Very Good
Strong performance considering the price
Easy-to-access hot-swap drive bays
Gaming performance suffers
No next-generation device or display connections
At first glance, Gateway's LX6810-01 value PC seems to be an excellent choice priced at a reasonable $800 (as of 8/23/09). The system throws gaming to the curb, however, and while that won't matter to everybody, its failure to match the general performance of one particular PC--one that's $100 cheaper--might make anyone pause.
A single 650GB hard drive is the LX6810-01's sole storage offering, above-average capacity for a budget PC. As for horsepower, on paper the machine's 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200 CPU, alongside 8GB of DDR2-800 memory, looks like it would fall behind faster-clocked rivals on PC World's general benchmarks. But whether it's due to hardware differences in the motherboards and graphics cards, to updated drivers, or to fancier firmware, the LX6810-01 actually put up a fair showing against rivals such as the $1100 HP Pavilion Elite m9550f and its 2.5GHz Core 2 Quad 9300 CPU. Similarly, the LX6810-01 dished out benchmark scores so close to those of the $1449 Dell XPS 625 (which has a 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 940 CPU) that they're identical for all practical purposes.
While the aforementioned HP and Dell machines received scores of 107 and 109, respectively, on our WorldBench 6 benchmark, the LX6810-01 earned a mark of 105--a great score for the Gateway when you factor price into the equation. But to shine in both performance and price, something in a system has to give, and in this case it's the graphics. The included nVidia GeForce GT120 video card produced unplayable frame rates on our standard suite of game tests, including our runs through Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament 3 (at 2560 by 1600 resolution and the high-quality setting). When we dialed back the resolution, the PC unsurprisingly delivered better performance, but nothing nearly as playable as the frame rates we've seen from some machines on our Top 10 Value PCs chart; in some cases the gap between this system and its competitors was 40 frames per second or more. The most eye-opening difference: The Micro Express MicroFlex 82B outperformed the LX6810-01 in both our general benchmark and our gaming measurements--and it undercuts the Gateway's price by a cool $100.
The LX6810-01 comes with a good amount of connectivity for a value PC, but it has no superhigh-speed ports for external devices or advanced connectivity for displays. The rear of the machine supports up to four USB devices and one FireWire 400 device, as well as gigabit ethernet and integrated 7.1 surround sound. A 15-in-1 media card reader joins two USB ports and a single FireWire 400 port on the system's front. They're swell offerings, but nothing that differentiates the LX6810-01 from the norm. Some kind of next-generation connection would have helped.
An unpleasant but not insurmountable tangle of wires awaits you inside the LX6810-01. It hurt my eyes, but it shouldn't give you much pause in your attempts to access the system's single free 5.25-inch bay. The hard-drive bays, of which one remains free, face toward the side of the case. They're as easy to access as the two hot-swap bays that open on the case's front--an extraordinarily simple way to add more storage without having to pop the side off your computer. That said, the empty space underneath the drive bays inside the chassis is pointless; airflow can't possibly be that big of a concern for this kind of system, and owners would have benefited had Gateway exploited this space to fit in more drive bays. As for the motherboard slots, the LX6810-01 has room for only one additional PCI card, and that's a tight wedge in itself given the proximity of other cards.
The black-and-gray chassis design of the LX6810-01 is a nice alternative to the black base and orange accents of Gateway's traditional look. Enhancing the case's slick appearance is Gateway's dedication to camouflage: All of the system's front-panel connections hide beneath pop-out panels, and the optical drives (and hot-swap bays) are stealthed under simple black coverings.
The system's included input devices are similarly barren in their look, but that isn't a good thing. The two-button mouse shipped with our test system is attractive in form yet drab in functionality, a perfect match for the jet-black keyboard, which is generic in every way but for the presence of three extra volume-control buttons.
It's hard to top the combination of price and performance you'll get in the Gateway LX6810-01--hard, but not impossible. For the most part, you can find faster systems in the value-PC category, but you'll have to jump up significantly in price to acquire that speedier performance. The Micro Express MicroFlex 82B is the sole rival to Gateway's machine, but it, too, is not without its flaws. The LX6810-01 presents a compelling all-around package. If you care about the fastest speed for the lowest price, however, you may be a tad disappointed.