Gateway breaks from the netbook norm

Gateway breaks from the netbook norm

Leading the charge with Acer’s recent relaunch of the Gateway brand in the local market is the LT netbook series.

In an increasingly crowded netbook market this model had to differentiate itself from the competition, and in this regard it doesn’t disappoint.

You could describe the LT3106a, the more highly specified of the two locally-available configurations alongside the LT3105a, as a netbook on steroids.

Chief among the distinguishing features are a bit of extra screen size and quality, optimising its multimedia capability, the incorporation of a 1.2GHz AMD single core processor rather than the more commonly used Atom CPU, and 2GB of RAM (the 3105a has 1GB but can be expanded to 2GB). In addition, you can’t mistake the fact it’s a Gateway because of the cow spot print on the box.

The screen size of 11.6 inches makes the unit that much easier to use than netbooks with nine or 10 inch screens, and the HD LED-backlit 16:9 widescreen display is vivid and crisp thanks to the 1366 x 768 resolution and 200 nit brightness.

The 3106a’s hard drive has a capacity of 250GB (with 160GB for the lower specified configuration), and each has integrated ATI Radeon graphics supporting DirectX 9.0.

Acer hasn’t skimped on battery power, with the six-cell lithium ion good for up to five hours. However, the battery does add to the netbook’s bulk, by jutting out the back. Overall, the unit weighs slightly under 1.4kg with the battery on, so there’s a trade-off on portability.

This model’s build feels solid and is complemented by good looks – there’s a distinctive silver metal strip on the metallic black lid, glossy black screen bezel and a textured wrist rest.

The keyboard is comfortable to type on but as the keys are closely spaced and flat, there’s a danger of striking the adjacent key to the one you meant to hit.

A multi-touchpad is becoming the default standard on notebooks and Acer has followed suit with this Gateway model. Gestures include moving one finger in a circular motion for scrolling, pinching to zoom and flicking two fingers sideways to “flip” between pages. Dedicated left and right buttons underneath the touchpad would have been an improvement over the single mouse button though.

For connectivity, there’s Bluetooth, along with b and g wireless and 10/100 Ethernet networking.

There’s also three USB ports and a VGA port to hook up an external monitor. The F5 function key will toggle between the native and external displays. Other shortcut keys include power options, Bluetooth, sleep mode and a volume mute.

The card reader supports major file formats: SD, MMC, MS and xD.

This machine has been loaded with trial versions of Microsoft Office and Norton Internet Security, along with Adobe Reader.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about this offering from Acer Gateway, but the operating system of Windows Vista Home Basic may dissuade buyers looking to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon.

The LT3106a retails for $1099. This falls within the higher range for a netbook, but the more powerful specifications and the bigger screen size mean it’s value for money.

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