Sunday, January 16, 2011

# 5: Gateway LT3119u 11.6-inch Netbook (black night)

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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars A netbook with laptop performance, September 22, 2010 This review is from: Gateway LT3119u 11.6-Inch Netbook (NightSky Black) (Personal Computers) Pros: Good performance, nice size screen
Cons: Large, heavy battery, battery life

I got this netbook to have something small and light to do light stuff like surf the web and write the occasional letter. When I opened the box I was surprised by the size of the battery. It did not look like the one in the picture. When I inserted it, it stuck out of the back of the chassis for about an inch. You do not see this in the pictures. The battery shown in the pictures is inaccurate, and appears to be a three cell battery rather than the chunky six cell battery that this thing actually comes with. So beware, with the battery this thing is nine inches wide, not the 7.9 listed in the specs. It also adds at least a half pound of weight to the listed 3.02 pounds in the spec. And for all this, you still only get about four hours of regular use. If you are looking for a small, light netbook that will run on battery all day, this is not for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking for performance that is equivalent to a low end laptop but much better than the average netbook, this is the one. It comes with 2GB of memory instead of the 1GB standard in most netbooks. It has a larger screen than most. It comes with the full version Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit instead of Windows 7 Starter 32 bit (read handicapped). This means that you get Windows 7 Aero and all the other normal Windows stuff that is missing from the starter version.
I uninstalled Windows Office trial and MS Works. No need to buy much software these days. I then loaded OpenOffice (MS Office compatible office suite), VLC Media Player (plays any media you need), Google Chrome (the fastest browser out there), Picassa (for organizing and sharing photos), Photo Pos Pro (great full feature picture editor), and TrueCrypt (creates encrypted virtual partitions to store the stuff you don't want seen if the netbook is stolen), all free open source programs. I also uninstalled the Norton 60 day trial software and installed Vipre (not free, but currently the best protection). Then I tested watching videos, editing photos, working on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, etc. This little guy handled everything without a hitch, many times handling having several of these programs open at the same time.
In conclusion, I really like this netbook and have started using it for more things than I originally envisioned. If you want a mini laptop, this is it. You just have to live with the clunky battery.

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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice netbook, November 11, 2010 This review is from: Gateway LT3119u 11.6-Inch Netbook (NightSky Black) (Personal Computers) Overall, I very much like the Gateway LT3119u. Compared to my previous notebook (HP tx1020us tablet with Vista), I enjoying using this notebook a lot more.

I bought this laptop from [...]. It includes a 6-cell battery, which is different from the 3-cell battery that are in the pictures. The 6-cell battery juts out from the back; if you search for "Gateway LT3103u", you can see how it looks.

-- Look and Feel --

The netbook is fairly light (less than 3.5 lbs), even with the 6-cell battery. The design feels solid, and overall, I am happy with the look and feel. With the extra battery, the back looks a little ugly on first impression. However, after a few days, you really won't care about it. Also, it angles downward so that the netbook is lifted up from the desk surface to allow better ventilation. In other words, there is a reason why the battery juts back and down like that.

The actual act of opening the cover is not as easy as other netbooks, but I got used to it quickly.

Pros: Feels nice and sturdy. Looks nice from the front view.
Cons: Looks a little ugly from the back view, but you get used to it.

-- Keyboard, Touchpad, Screen, Speakers, Webcam --

I love the keyboard; it types very well compared to my previous laptop. The keys are big and I have had very little trouble typing. I would like the arrow keys to be a bit bigger, but when I compared to other netbooks, the sizes are comparable. Thus, there is nothing to complain about when comparing to other models.

The touchpad works after I reinstalled the driver (more details below). After that, it does multi-touch as advertised, and I am happy with it. The touchpad button is a single bar where you can press either side to get a left click or right click. I know some individuals do not like this, but I have no problem with it.

The screen is lovely, though I may be biased because I came from a touchscreen notebook which had grainy look. On full brightness (which occurs automatically when it is plugged in), it looks very crisp and clear.

The speakers are mediocre. The are located at the bottom front of the notebook, and they do not sound very good. My previous laptop had Altec Lansing speakers, so I guess I am spoiled.

Webcam works. I don't use a webcam.

Pros: Keyboard, Screen
Cons: Speakers
Nothing special: Touchpad (after software fix), Webcam

-- Performance, Graphics, Battery Life --

I found the performance to be good:

- Bootup time is very fast.
- It only occasionally lags when running applications, but never to the point of frustration.
- I did disable Windows Aero, as I am somewhat picky with my performance, and I found closing windows to be slightly slower than what I would like if Aero is enabled.
- I was able to stream a 720p YouTube video with no issue.

I have not tried pushing the graphics of the machine, as I do not believe it is reasonable to treat this machine as a gaming / graphics device. It is a netbook to be used, at most, for casual gaming. I did try turning on the Bubbles screensaver (built-in), and it lags after about 10 Bubbles. I found that amusing, but it also illustrates that this machine cannot support good graphics. It *can* play videos, though, and that's really all I need.

Battery life is low compared to other netbooks. I do not use my netbook intensively, so I am okay with this. However, if you want a netbook that can last 6+ hours, this will not do it unless you are willing to carry around a spare battery. I should point out that, given how nice this netbook is, you may seriously want to consider getting a spare battery instead of getting different netbook.

The netbook stays cool. The AC adapter gets hot, though.

Pros: Basic Performance (after disabling Aero), Stays cool
Cons: Battery Life, Graphics, AC Adapter gets hot

-- Software --

This netbook has the full Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), not Windows 7 Starter. This is a very good thing, as Windows 7 Starter is limited in what you can do.

Amazingly enough, this machine has essentially no bloatware. I am unsure if this is due to Gateway's choices of pre-installed software, or the Microsoft Signature program, which claims to remove bloatware. I only uninstalled 2 or 3 items. Definitely a nice thing.

Looking at the C:\ , it claims it has a capacity of 219 GB. About 17 GB or 19 GB was used out-of-the-box for the OS and pre-installed software. After doing a Windows Update and installing my own software, I have 194 GB free out of the available 219 GB.

NOTE: I believe the remaining 30 GB of the 250 GB hard drive is used to contain backup data. The Gateway Recovery Management program probably accesses this hidden 30 GB section. I do not see a separate partition through Windows Explorer, so this is just a guess.

One thing to note is that, out-of-the-box, the touchpad did not support vertical scrolling (on the right side of the touchpad), nor did it support multi-gesture. I am unsure if this is b/c Gateway failed to properly configure my netbook, or if the Microsoft Signature program removed this support unintentionally. In any case, I had to reinstall the driver. After I did that, everything works fine. More details below.

Pros: Windows 7 full (not Starter). Virtually no bloatware.
Cons: Touchpad does not work out of the box, you will need to install the driver. Note that after you do this, this "con" goes away.

For those interested, I installed the following software on my machine: Adobe Flash Plugin, Digsby, Foxit Reader, GNOME Office (AbiWord, Gnumeric, Dia), K-Lite Mega Codec Pack (32-bit) (comes with Media Player Classic), K-Lite Codec Pack (64-bit), Launchy, Notepad++, Opera Web Browser, PhotoScape, Picasa, Synergy+, Ultimate Windows Tweaker, uTorrent, Vista Start Menu, Winamp.

I uninstalled the following: Adobe Reader (I use Foxit Reader instead), Microsoft Office 2010 app thingy (it was 6 mb, so I'm pretty sure it's not the actual MS Office suite), Microsoft Zune.

-- Ports / Accessibility --

I will not list the ports / card readers / etc. here, but I will mention that this does not have an HDMI port, nor Bluetooth hardware. For external video, it only has a VGA port.

The bottom of the computer has panels to access the hard drive and RAM. Unfortunately, the RAM support is capped at 2 GB, so you cannot really upgrade that. Though, if you ever have bad RAM, you can rest assured you can switch it easily. Personally, I'm thinking about switching to a solid-state hard drive in the future, since that makes the machine lighter and faster.

Pros: Easy access for upgrading / switching parts.
Cons: No HDMI, no Bluetooth.

-- Price --

About $400 at Amazon, Microsoft, Newegg, and Microcenter. Very good price for a dual-core netbook.

-- Wrap-up --

As stated at the beginning, I really do like this device. It satisfies my basic needs of a netbook fairly well, and is small enough that I do not feel as if I am lugging around a heavy object. It has a few disadvantages, most notably the battery life, but, personally, most of the disadvantages do not really matter to me. This is especially true given the low price tag.

-- Touchpad Issue --

The touchpad only works with basic functionality, out-of-the-box. You cannot use it to scroll (i.e. moving your finger up and down on the right side does not scroll), nor can you use any multi-touch gesture. Furthermore, you cannot change any settings in the Mouse settings under Control Panel.

Search for "Alps Touchpad" at the Gateway Drivers support site. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE 64 BIT VERSION FOR WINDOWS 7. When I installed it, it told me that I was about to install an older driver than the one that came with the machine. I installed it anyways, and now everything works. More options appear in the Mouse settings under Control Panel.

I should state that I do not know the cause of this. As mentioned above, either Gateway incorrectly configured my machine, or Microsoft uninstalled it through their Microsoft Signature program. In any case, re-installing the driver fixes the issue.

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars Blurs the line between netbooks and laptops, September 29, 2010 This review is from: Gateway LT3119u 11.6-Inch Netbook (NightSky Black) (Personal Computers) I like bullet point reviews, so I'll try that here with a review of a nice little netbook made by a player I didn't realize was still in the game: Gateway.

Pros:

- 11.6" screen is larger than most "standard" netbooks on the market. The extra inch makes a big difference (supply your own Michael Scott joke here)

- Dual AMD processors. They're only running at 1.2gHz, but again, this makes a big difference. I run Office2K7, light gaming (Braid, Fate, World of Goo), Magellan MapSend, Netflix streaming, and others all without even the slightest hitch. This might also have a little to do with...

- 2GB RAM. The "standard" is 1GB and the priority when you get one of those should be to upgrade up to 2GB as soon as possible. Especially if you're running Windows 7. The 2GB supplied in the Gateway gives you plenty of breathing room and saves you about $50.00 right off the bat since you don't have to worry about buying another GB of RAM.

- Windows 7 Premium. Speaking of saving money, this will save you another $80 because you won't have to upgrade the ridiculous Starter version that most 'books are bundled with. The last netbook I had was an ASUS that came with Win7 Starter and after 2 days of yanking my hair out, I wiped it and installed Ubuntu because I couldn't deal with how hamstrung Starter is.

- Etc: ATI Radeon X1270 graphics adapter...pretty nice. Textured palm-rest. Not overly burdened with bloatware (I only had to uninstall 3 or 4 things). Long power cord. Good looking. Runs as cool as other netbooks.

Cons:

- The battery. I replaced an ASUS netbook with 14 hours of battery life with this one and I'm lucky to get 4 hours out of it. Not only that, but (as another reviewer has mentioned), the battery sticks waaaay out of the back. It's really kind of silly looking and is somehow heavier than the 14 hour ASUS battery. It also seems to take quite awhile to charge.

- The keyboard. It's a chiclet style, and for some reason I just don't like it much. The keys seem too big and flat. The layout is otherwise OK, though.

- Still won't get mistaken for a "real" computer. This is a pretty well equipped machine, but it's still a netbook. Relative to other netbooks, it's great! But compared to even lower class laptops, the warts show. This is not a ding on this particular netbook, but rather the class of machine as a whole. But hey, you're not buying a netbook to run Photoshop and Premiere and to render your 3D movie, right? Keep your expectations where they should be and you ought to be pretty happy.

Overall I'm very pleased with this Gateway and can honestly say it's the best netbook I've owned (of 4 others). For the price, you really can't beat it.

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