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Gateway NV51B08u (NV51B-Series)

Three Sub-$500 AMD Brazos-Based Notebooks Rounded Up

The NV51B-series employs two APUs: Zacate and Ontario. The unit we picked up at Best Buy uses an Ontario APU. Architecturally, this is no different than the Zacate APUs, which we’ve evaluated previously. Instead, the processing and graphics engines are simply run at lower clock rates in order to achieve a 9 W TDP.

Given lower power consumption, reliance on the Ontario APU should introduce additional battery life benefits. At the same time, we're concerned with how much performance we're potentially giving up here (on a fairly substantial 15.6” notebook, no less), but we’ll discuss the benchmarks shortly.

When you examine the exterior of this notebook, you’ll notice that it is encased in matte black ABS plastic. Only the palm rests and the top of the notebook are molded in a wave pattern that is designed to help offset annoying fingerprints. Having forgone the use of a glossy surface, it succeeds. But if you like to use your notebook in well-lit rooms, the piano black display trim creates distracting reflections.

Another problem with this notebook is its keyboard. Although it is the standard full-sized keyboard seen on other Acer and Gateway systems, it suffers from poor tactile feedback, despite having good depression depth.

The touchpad is well-designed. It is situated slightly to the left because of the keyboard layout, which makes it easier to type and navigate. Likewise, the single touchpad bar doesn’t suffer from mid-click confusion. Instead, you must click 30% to either side in order to activate left- or right-button functionality.

Ideally, Gateway shouldn’t recess the touchpad bar. In its present form, there is little depression depth and a bit too much resistance, which are characteristics shared by the power button, oddly enough. You can still feel the click of the button, but that is the result of a slight depression for the tip of your finger.

Audio is a disappointment. Although this is a budget notebook, every 15.6” system we’ve ever seen has featured a stereo sound system. The NV51B is only equipped with a mono setup. This really won't matter if you're using headphones. However, we found that the placement of the single speaker off to the left makes listening to any video slightly more difficult to enjoy. If Gateway had managed to place the mono speaker closer to the center, we would at least be able to perceive the audio level evenly.

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