In your High Tech Home, do you have all the space you need? Do you like complicated computer setups?
If, like me, you answered, “NO!” to both, then you’ll want to read about the Gateway 610 Media Center PC available in three configurations priced at $1499, $1699 and $1999. Here is this sleek and stylish digital entertainment and productivity solution. This attractive, WIRE-FREE and space-saving design looks great and integrates very nicely in the bedroom, office, kitchen, or, outside the High Tech Home, in a student dorm room.
Let’s look a bit deeper into this Microsoft Windows-based PC. This is the first consideration for prospective buyers. In other words, it’s not a Mac. Consumers must first decide whether they want a Mac or a Windows PC. Considerations for either platform will not be discussed here, but consumers can be assured that BOTH operating systems and the computers that use them are viable choices. So, let’s assume that you have decided upon the Windows product for the purpose of this article.
Rather than offer a traditional-looking PC, Gateway is to be commended for thinking outside the box and offering something really smart in both functionality and aesthetics. In the Windows PC world, this thing is certainly a looker! EVERYTHING is inside what you see in the photo. The beautiful 17-inch widescreen LCD display is more than what you see. Looking behind the screen, you will see the rest of the PC itself. That’s right. The guts are right there behind the screen.
Don’t look for the big box with the motherboard and everything else that makes the computer a computer, because it doesn’t exist. And notice that the keyboard and mouse are not wired to the computer either. Gateway has cleverly supplied wireless keyboard and mouse with this unit, and a TV-like remote control, too.
Internet connectivity on my sample is also wireless. It includes 802.11g WiFi. Here at Gadget Central we are networked through an 802.11g Netgear wireless router. All of the computers, both Macs and Windows PCs, connect to the Internet using a shared DSL line connected to the router, and it was easy to connect this Gateway to the router. The “g” refers to the latest high-speed standard, which I recommend, that is many times faster than its predecessor, 802.11b, though “g” will not get you faster Internet performance. This faster standard means there is more available bandwidth for the purpose of sharing data from within my network, such as when transferring data from a computer in one room to a computer in another room, all without wires. Confused? Simply put, “g” is better than “b” and there is no reason to buy “b” where there is a choice. The difference in price is not very much.
You’ll want (and need) that remote for the very reason this is called a Media Center PC. The Microsoft Windows version on this computer is called Windows XP Media Center because it integrates a wealth of functionality under the hood and it’s all available through the remote control that will remind you of a TV remote.
Sure, it’s a computer, but it also is a TV with a built-in recording and playback function, so you can use it as a digital VCR without the tape. I set mine up with the GUIDE that shows all the programs on my cable system. All I have to do is navigate through the listings and press the RECORD button. The Gateway 610 then automatically records the program.
I can watch, fast forward, rewind, pause, and all those good things, whether watching a live broadcast or a show I recorded. Mine is capable of recording more than 80 hours at the best quality.
The Gateway 610 Media Center PC is also a digital music hub. I can listen to Internet radio or any of my own tunes, whether a CD or through the software into which I have copied any or all of my own CDs. The software lets me organize by artist or lots of other criteria. The combination DVD/CD drive is on the right side of the screen.
When I listen to my music (or watch TV), I listen to very pleasing and satisfying sound through the built-in high-quality stereo sound system that includes a sub-woofer built onto the back of the LCD monitor.
Because this is a media center, I can also plug in the digital media from just about any digital camera using the on-board media slots, and then I can transfer all my digital photos to the My Pictures area of the Media Center user interface. All the slots are behind a door on the left side of the screen. And, I’m not done yet!
I can even bring in my digital video from a camcorder through the built-in IEEE1394 (FireWire) connector, and then I can edit my work and even create and burn my own DVD. (FireWire as well as Ethernet, Modem, and USB connectors are in the back of the monitor base.) Of course, using that DVD drive, I can watch my favorite DVD movies.
If that is not enough, Gateway includes an FM radio tuner with external antenna and connector, and a user interface so I can find and remember my favorite FM stations and then listen. I used both the supplied FM antenna as well as a higher quality FM source for my evaluation. The FM reception is rated poor on my sample, but Gateway assured me that this is not the norm.
Yeah, it’s all in there, and all in this beautiful package.
With its starting price of $1499, it’s only about $300 more than some stand-alone 17-inch widescreen LCD TVs that do not offer all the extra functionality of this PC.
It is fun, functional and powerful. In my tests, the sound and picture when playing DVDs was very good. PC performance was also very good, but occasionally the Media Center software misfired and unexpectedly crashed. In my experience, this is a somewhat common Microsoft problem (and not a Gateway problem), and, as I understand it, Microsoft is working on a fix. Overall, these problems were not frequent occurrences and did not dramatically detract from my enjoyment, nor deter me from recommending this system.
Watching TV was another matter. Watching ANY current LCD computer monitor as a TV is not as good as watching a traditional tube-based TV or a dedicated LCD TV. So don’t expect it to look as good. Remember, this is a compromise, as is any all-in-one appliance. Yet, this one is appealing for its style and functionality.
The integration of all the media center functionality into the functionality as a PC is well done and easy to use.
I can guarantee that this PC will garner lots of compliments from visitors. If you are looking for a new PC with the added functionality of all the Media Center has to offer, you will not be disappointed.
The Gateway 610 Media Center is available now through all of Gateway’s sales channels. Call 1-800-GATEWAY, click www.gateway.com or visit one of their Gateway Country stores nationwide.