I would say either the 1st or the 3rd one. The Gateway has the faster GPU, but it is lacking in CPU horsepower which you would need more. The Acer has a decent GPU for your basic gaming needs and has a stronger and newer CPU. The Asus has the same, slower CPU as the Gateway and uses a 9500GS which I have never seen before. Can't say what it's performance would be.
Agreed 8800GTS 512 blows away a 8600GT in games but the Gateway version has slower CPU , so u have to choose
P.S: My uncle has a CoreDuo version of the GATEWAY CPU which is T2300 and its a good CPU and it has a X1800 Mobility card and it runs fine, i played Prey with it with no probs so dont worry a T5450 wont be bad for things u want to do
I would choose the Asus for one reason - compatibility.
If you were to go to a local shop that custom builds laptops, most of the time it will be an Asus.
You may think that whatever you pick has all it needs already, but situations change and the Asus is the one most likely to have updated hardware - like a mini-pci card - swapped out without issue.
Also consider that it uses more standard components, so if you needed to replace a motherboard you won't be raped as severely as you would with a large oem.
I've never forgiven Gateway for their use of known defective parts in the mid 90's. They would buy large lots of sound cards and other components that didn't completely pass QA, but which did work for basic functionality, then disable the advanced features in their 'oem' drivers.
The end user was none the wiser - until they upgraded their OS, and the new non-bastardized drivers would reenable the defective component and crash the system.
I'm sure Gateway isn't the only oem to do this, but I do know for a fact that they did, and that it personally caused me a fair bit of annoyance back when I was a phone dog for Win95, so GW isn't allowed to have any of my money, nor any of my employer's.
With the Gateway, the selling point will be the 8800M GTS which is the latest and almost greatest in terms of GPUs. With the Acer you are getting the latest in CPU technology.
IMO, if your gaming needs are light, you could get away with the Acer. I have no idea what the 9500GS is supposed to be in the graphics world so I really can't advise you there. Pretty sure it's not much better than the 8600GT.
As for the copy of Vista, I've only bought from Dell and Sager and all times I have gotten full OS disks. Wouldn't see why any of these companies would be different.
As far as the e-SATA, I'm not sure of the performance benefits of it over USB 2.0, so again I'm not much use to you there.
Sorry if I wasn't much help, but I at least wanted to give you some info to go off of.
Yeah, the Z5500, I wish I could afford them, or have the room to set it up properly. I realized that in a university situation (in a dorm or rented house) I wouldn't have the space to set up a full 5.1 system, and the wiring would be a mess. Not to mention that turning up the volume on a 500 watt system is just toooo tempting, and I'd probably piss all my housemates off
And yes, the 350 dollar price tag is a bit steep, the Z2300 set only cost me a hundred bucks