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Gateway LT2120u

Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010
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While Acer and Asus have multiple Pineview-based netbook models floating around, Gateway has two: the LT21 and LT23 series. There is basically no difference between them, other than maybe color options. In fact, it seems that they even share the same motherboard, but it is important to point out that neither is using DDR3 Pineview-based Atom processors. We have been told by Gateway that the LT21 will be in stores at least until the end of the year. So, since it shares the same specs with the LT23 series, find out which one is cheapest if you are weighing your 10.1” Gateway netbook options.

The entire LT21 series starts at $299.99 and differs very little except for the following:

  • 802.11n support
  • 160 GB vs 250 GB
  • three color schemes: Red/Black, White/Silver, and Black/Black
  • Windows 7 Starter vs. Windows XP Home
  • 5600 mAH or 5800 mAH 6-cell battery

The Gateway LT2120u feels a bit beefy, even though it has a similar weight profile to the rest in the roundup. We say beefy mostly because of the prodigious use of ABS plastic where we don’t expect it. The Asus 1001P is all ABS, and this also goes for the LT21 series. However, once you open up the system, you find that the high-gloss display bezel is almost twice as thick as what you find on other systems. This makes for a very sturdy display, but it also means that the LCD screen is a further recessed.

There are other surprises here. The power  and “pseudo” wireless buttons are integrated into the hinge as "peddles." It is a bit deceptive, but the wireless button isn’t a button at all. It is simply an LED. Honestly, this seems like a missed opportunity. Gateway should have made this a WiFi button for symmetry. At the moment, the wireless enable/disable functionality is provided via Fn+F2.

The excellent layout design that Gateway implements here shows up in the large touchpad real estate. I just wish there was some more tactile feedback in the power button; otherwise, overall it is an excellent layout.

You’ll find basically the same 93% keyboard on the LT21 series as you do on many of the Aspire One netbooks. It has good tactile feedback and key size, but this isn’t what we are going to rave about. Instead, the real winner here is the integrated touchpad. This looks similar to the touchpad on the Asus 1005PE, which we have yet to try, so its hard to compare. On its own merits, this is the best touchpad of the six netbooks we have in the lab and netbooks we have used in the past.

In what feels like either ABS or a possibly a polycarbonate/ABS composite, the upper casing of the LT21 feels unpolished to the touch. The simple dots on the case mark off where the touchpad starts and ends. The dots seem to be almost painted on. They are most definitely not dimples, but we aren’t quite sure if this part of the fabrication process or if they are added on later. Honestly, the texture of the dots is as perfect as you can get. There is enough texture to get feedback and contrast with the rest of the case, but it in no way feels distracting or unnatural.

There is a separate scroll bar, which feels more intuitive than the use of this touchpad’s multi-gesture functionality. However, this area does not pull double-duty as touchpad navigation. What makes the touchpad even better is the use of a well-designed button. The rocker-style button is made of what seems to be polycarbonate in the guise and texture of brushed aluminum. This long button sits slightly beveled against the front edge of the notebook, but there is excellent feedback and depression space. The fact that Gateway chose to make this a longer bar helps avoid the middle-click confusion. In fact, you can’t actually make a middle click. The button is designed so that you need to be at least 45% to either side to perform a click operation.

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