Introducing the Gateway ID49C

We've seen a trend as of late towards sleeker, lighter mainstream notebooks. The days of cheap, bulky machines are slowly fading behind us as Intel's Core 2010 processors are being engineered into slimmer, lighter chassis. Gateway's entry (in some ways on behalf of its parent company, Acer) is the ID49C, a unit designed to be portable and at least a little flashy without being gaudy. Does it deserve to be shortlisted for your next purchase, or is the bling wrong-headed? That's what we're here to find out.

Gateway ID49C08u Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-450M
(2x2.4GHz + HTT, 2.66GHz Turbo, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT330M 1GB DDR3 Optimus Technology
Intel HD Graphics IGP
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
LG Philips LP140WH2-TLA2
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400 RPM Hitachi Travelstar Hard Disk
Optical Drive 8x DVD+/-RW SuperMulti
Networking Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet
Realtek RTL8192SE Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
Audio Conexant Cx20585 HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone (combination digital out) and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 4400mAh, 48Wh battery
Front Side 4-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side Ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
Kensington lock
USB 2.0
Microphone jack
Headphone/SPDIF jack
Right Side 3x USB 2.0
Optical drive
AC adapter
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.46" x 9.64" x 0.87-0.99" (WxDxH)
Weight ~5.0 lbs
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
86-key keyboard
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Backlit touchpad
Aluminum lid and inside surface
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing MSRP $849

Gateway seems to be betting on the form factor and style of the ID49C to sell the machine, but they at least didn't skimp on the configuration. The usual mainstream contenders make themselves known: married to the Intel HM55 chipset and two 2GB sticks of DDR3-1066 running in dual-channel mode is the Intel Core i5-450M processor. It's a dual-core affair sporting a 2.4GHz nominal clock, able to turbo up to a reasonably fast 2.66GHz. Intel's "Core 2010" series of mobile processors hasn't been very wanting for performance, and the 450M should allow the ID49C to handle most tasks with aplomb.

A welcome inclusion is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M, which brings NVIDIA's Optimus technology with it. Getting a decent mobile GPU in a 14" form factor from any vendor other than ASUS is actually fairly uncommon, so we're happy to see it here. The GT 330M isn't that exciting on paper: 48 "CUDA cores" and a 128-bit memory bus recalls the milquetoast desktop GeForce GT 220, but we're not looking to have our minds blown here, we just need enough juice to game comfortably at the unit's 1366x768 resolution. It does bring Optimus to the table, though, allowing the notebook to completely and typically seamlessly shut down the GT 330M and just use the Intel HD graphics built into the i5 processor when running on the battery.

Spec-wise, the rest of the ID49C is a bit of a head-scratcher, a mish-mash of poorly chosen cuts aimed at hitting a price point. There's a healthy amount of storage in the 500GB hard disk, but that drive runs at a meager 5400 RPM when prices on 7200 RPM notebook drives are going through the floor. In fairness you'll need the capacity, since there isn't an eSATA port or really any expansion connectivity other than the four USB 2.0 ports. There's also your bog standard DVD rewriter, but it doesn't have a physical eject button on it: you have to use the touch-based eject button above the keyboard. That makes sense for the kinds of in-built slot-loading drives you'll find on Dell's Studio series, but on a regular tray-based drive it's unusual. The standard multi-card reader and webcam are included, and the HDMI and VGA ports on the left side are welcome. Wireless networking is handled by a Realtek 802.11bgn controller, and the Ethernet jack is good for Gigabit wired networking.

The ID49C is a Land of Confusion
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  • HibyPrime1 - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    Looking at the spec sheet, the visual layout of the laptop, and the price, I was actually quite interested in this one. Ugh.

    Back-lit trackpad but no back-lit keyboard? I want what they are smoking.

    How much would it honestly cost to turn this into a usable keyboard? 5 cents worth of plastic under the keyboard to help a little with the flex, maybe a total of 2 engineering hours (come on, I could design that on a napkin), and a short conversation in a design meeting. That might increase the cost per laptop of a whole 10 cents. I'd be willing to let them charge me a 1000% percent profit on that.

    To the authors of Anandtech, don't give up on the LCD bashing (when needed). Manufacturers need to hear it from somewhere.
  • vol7ron - Sunday, September 26, 2010 - link

    I'm one of those people that don't need a backlit keyboard if it means cheaper.

    If necessary, the lighting from the screen should be enough; but mostly, I can't remember the last time I looked at a keyboard when typing. I don't even look at the iPhone on-screen keyboard anymore. My fingers are just used to the positioning and the second-nature of typing.

    There are a few things that make the perfect laptop for me:
    1) Price
    2) CPU
    3) GPU
    4) Battery
    5) Size

    The other, still important factors include memory/hd capacity/performance and ports, but But backlit keys and glossy vsmatte aren't on my top-10 list.
  • xype - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    The more I read the reviews here, the more I think Apple's approach is smart on many levels—even though some people complain at the lack of diversity in their laptop lineup. If you have 3 models that differ in size mostly, "fixing" a keyboard means doing so once (especially since the keyboard is the same size/layout on all models). Fixing the screen on a, say, 13" means that, while some customers get screwed if they got an older model using a bad one, you're basically fixing the 13" model. No being left with a different model with a better screen, but perhaps a differently messed up keyboard.

    Sure, it doesn't please the geek in me to be able to choose the _optimal_ model, since with just 3 different ones (I'm buying MBPs) that are mostly the same, I'll have to compromise. But for Apple it's just so much more effective—and they can spend the time focusing on getting the 4 laptops they offer as "right" as they can.

    Now, before someone accusses me of Apple fanboiism—perhaps I am one, but I'll freely admit that I know little of the product palettes of other manufacturers. The biased view I have is that each of them produces a ton of different models, trying to differentiate them with color covers and what not, and often get much less things "right" than they could get if they focused on making less models.

    Also, I'd be interested to see the comparison tables include Apple laptops, where applicable, just because I'm interested in where other manufacturers do a better job so I can go compare them in the shop (I'm sometimes asked for buying advice and yapping "get a mac!" all the time is not something I want to do if there are better alternatives out for a budget/need).
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I know Anand and Brian both use MacBook Pros and having seen them in action I can understand why: the MBP has an excellent combination of form factor and screen quality. The screens on those are among the best I've seen on notebooks, high-resolution screens with great uniformity and viewing angles that are clearly designed for work.

    I'm not an Apple fan, I don't like their politics, and the desktop Macs are a rip-off in my opinion, but credit where credit is due...they make awesome notebooks.
  • xype - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    I've been pretty happy with MacBook(Pro)s for the past 4.5 years, but without a relative comparison the comparison tables just draw a blank stare from me. So I've wondered how they compare—of all the colleagues and friends, there's not one using a PC laptop, since we're all in the same lame-hipster-web-app-and-design business... so if you say they're among the better/best screens, I'm gonna go with your experience on this. :)
  • vol7ron - Sunday, September 26, 2010 - link

    Apple has historically only targeted the high-midend market, not cutting edge technology, but not the economy scale either.

    While this is good for Apple, if everyone had a business model like this, there wouldn't be anyone competing at the upper-and-lower end spectrums; the lower-lower and lower-middle end is where the majority of the market is.

    Because Apple focuses on a niche market, they charge more. More importantly, they focus more on aesthetics and emotional marketing - trying to sell you something beyond performance/options, which is generally meaningless.

    There are products that are less expensive and kick Apple's hind-side in almost everything except battery, which is partly due to the battery technology Apple uses, and the fact that Apple uses a Linux-based OS.
  • vol7ron - Sunday, September 26, 2010 - link

    In general, given the same $$, you can get better performance elsewhere when compared to Apple.

    What you can't get is that "elitist" social recognition. ... It used to be that you also bought that superior casing that Apple is known for, but many companies are now offering artsy, slim, and sleek packaging that competes nicely.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, September 27, 2010 - link

    While I agree that there's a certain "my computer's better because it's a Mac" mentality that's prevalent among Mac users, in the case of the MacBook Pro line...I still don't think you're going to find a more balanced design anywhere else. The screens on those notebooks are phenomenal. Someone else brought up HP's Envy line, and those can probably compete, but I can't think of anyone else who produces mainstream notebooks with quality, high-resolution screens.

    For what it's worth, I reviewed here the two laptops I use, and my desktop is a custom. I won't spend a dime on Apple technology. But I can see why some people would go for a MBP.
  • Ivan Karkour - Monday, September 27, 2010 - link

    Dell competes perfectly with the XPS 16, and the Adamo, but Adamo is kinda pricey.
    The Studio XPS 16 has the exact same screen as the mac book pros have. --and guess what, it's a little less expensive :)
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    MBP's screen are decent, but no where near the best in term of "high-res" and "uniformity" and "view angel".
    go check out any lenovo tablet, any HP dreamcolor 2, or fujitsu T5013 tablet for that matter.. (they are all pretty expensive (1.6k~4k) and are never on display in BestBuy, so i won't be surprised that none of you guys actual saw it in your life, especially if you are student that are not targeted audience).

    just because you are in "lame-hipster-web-app-and-design business" doesn't mean you need a good screen. apples' screen is 6 bit TN for god sake, the same part that used in NUMEROUS windows PCs (Dell M4500, Lenovo T/W510, W701/ds, Dell Studio XPS 16)... your argument is akin to say the Core 2 Duo used in Mac Book Pro must be faster than i7-960 because it was in a apple package.

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