Gateway Solo 9500xl

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  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good

Pros

  • Fast processor
  • large screen
  • optical digital audio out.

Cons

  • No built-in network or IEEE 1394 connectivity.

The Solo 9500xl from Gateway is an updated desktop replacement system featuring Intel's flagship 1GHz Mobile Pentium III processor. Fast it may be, but the rest of the specification isn't as competitive: a few features missing from this notebook make it less desirable than some others on the market.

No desktop replacement system is going to be compact or particularly portable, and the 9500xl is no exception with dimensions of 33.9cm wide by 28.6cm deep by 4.2cm high and a weight of 3.58kg with the DVD-ROM drive installed. If the DVD drive is replaced by a weight saver, the load comes down to 3.38kg.

The 5,400mAh Li-ion battery delivers a BatteryMark score of two hours 23 minutes with SpeedStep and power management disabled, which is reasonable, if not startling. The Solo 9500xl comes with 128MB RAM as standard (expandable to 512MB), and this combination gives an impressive Business Winstone 2001 score of 31.9 under Windows ME.

You get an 8-speed DVD-ROM drive and a floppy drive as standard, both removable. CD-RW and CD-ROM drives are available to fit in the optical drive bay. The 20GB UltraDMA/66 Toshiba MK2016GAP hard drive can be supplemented by adding a second hard drive in the optical drive bay, which can also house a second battery (£75 ex. VAT). The floppy drive can be swapped for a 120MB LS-120 drive if required.

The Solo 9500xl's huge 15.7in. TFT display has a native resolution of 1,280 by 1,024, although the 16MB ATi Mobility M4 chipset driving it supports a desktop size of up to 1,600 by 1,200, which you navigate by scrolling. The Mobility M4 chipset also supports a second monitor on the VGA port; this can either display the same desktop as the internal screen or extend it.

Intervideo WinDVD is supplied, allowing you to watch movies on-screen or on TV through the video out connector. There's also a S/PDIF digital audio port -- quite a rarity on a notebook -- that allows you to connect to a digital surround-sound decoder, should you have one with an optical interface. Stereo speakers at the front of the notebook and the usual analogue audio jacks complete the subsystem.

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The Solo 9500xl's two USB sockets are at the front of the right-hand side of the notebook, making them easy to plug peripherals into, although the cables may get in the way of the optical media drive. The rear of the Solo 9500xl features the connector for the optional port replicator (£50 ex. VAT) or docking station (£230 ex. VAT), plus parallel, serial, PS/2, VGA and TV-out (S-Video) ports.

The 86-key Windows keyboard is very tactile, almost to the point of stiffness, and is supplemented by four programmable application launcher keys. The two-button touchpad provides tap-to-click and tap-and drag features.

You get a built in V.90 modem to connect to the outside world, but rather disappointingly no built-in Ethernet or IEEE 1394 connections on our review model. You can get the Solo 9500xl with these connections if required, but otherwise you'll have to use one of the two Type II PC Card slots if you want to connect to a LAN. The lower of these two stacked slots is Zoom Video enabled, and both are CardBus-compatible.

The Solo 9500xl has Windows ME installed, and comes bundled with Microsoft Works Suite 2000. You also get a system restore CD-ROM and a separate driver CD-ROM.

The Solo 9500xl provides enough features to get most mainstream jobs done, but the presence of a fast processor alone doesn't justify the price. The digital audio output is a nice touch, but for the £2,249 (ex. VAT) you'd expect built-in networking, and probably IEEE 1394 too.

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