You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shake your head in amazement at the run time of the $350 (at the time of this review) Gateway LT2118u. With Intel's Atom N450 CPU and 3150 GPU at its heart, as well as 1GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive and a 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution display, Gateway's pride and joy carried on for an astounding 11 hours and 17 minutes in our battery tests.
However, the outstanding battery life brought up a very interesting question. How could a netbook that supposedly differs from its LT2120u sibling only in color run more than an hour and a half longer? As it turns out, the LT2118u uses a model UMO9H36, 5600 milliamp-hour/63 watt-hour battery, and the LT2120u uses the model UMO9H56, 5800 milliamp-hour/63 watt-hour model. Just looking at the specs, you'd expect the UMO9H56 to run longer, but we found no other difference in the BIOS or components, so apparently the UMO9H36 is the better option.
The LT2118u's upper cover is a rich red while the rest of the unit is done up in dark grays for a surprisingly classy look. The standard array of netbook ports is on hand: two USB ports on the left side of the unit with the AC jack and VGA port, and one USB on the right with the audio in/out and 10/100 ethernet port. A Kensington lock port is also on the right edge of the unit as well as an SD card slot for loading, saving images, and such.
At 2.76 pounds, this netbook has about average heft for a 10.1-inch system with a 6-cell battery. The hard drive and memory module are both easily accessible via screw-secured access panels on the bottom of the unit. A vacant mini-PCI Express slot is underneath the hard-drive panel for a possible broadband or other upgrade. You get only one accessible memory slot, but kudos to Gateway anyway, as overall the unit is a hardware tweakter's delight.
The hands-on experience playing video was exactly that same as with the LT2120u. The 640-by-480 Webcam's images and recording were exceptionally smooth, and a pop-up Webcam utility appears when you roll over it with the mouse at the top of the screen. The unit played 720 HD WMV, QuickTime, and MP4 videos smoothly, while online FLV and flash gaming were noticeably jerky--extremely so with higher-resolution content. Audio was fine through headphones, and decent enough for any kind of portable computer through the speakers.
The LT2118u, though it handled video a bit better than the average N450/3150-based netbook, scored the same 33 points on WorldBench that most units do--including the LT2120u. Overall, this gives the unit the same less-than-snappy, but doable feel we've become used to with Windows 7 Starter netbooks.
Most people should adapt to the LT2118u's keyboard just fine. Most of the keys are where you'd expect them, and the feel, while a tad light, easily lends itself to touch-typing. One caveat: A rather large gap between the keys leaves a ton of space for dust and other particles to collect. You'll want to vacuum this puppy regularly.
The touchpad is stylish, but instead of being recessed, it consists of an area of raised bumps that make it easy to find by feel while remaining unobtrusive. Thankfully, due to more contrast in the color scheme, it's easier to distinguish visually than with the LT2120u. Gateway has put a single rocker button on the front edge of the unit for clicking, a comfortable location for it.
You'll want to spend a few initial minutes ditching the software flotsam from the LT2118u. Unless of course, you want the icons for eBay, Google Desktop (rendered useless by Vista/Windows 7's search), Norton Online Backup trial, Netflix, Gateway games, Office Student trial, and so on, that blanket the desktop. Dig around a bit, and you will find a real copy of the ever useful Microsoft Works.
The LT2118u is all about style and endurance. It's a cut above the average netbook in appearance and is easy to upgrade--and you certainly can't complain about the 11-plus hours of run time.
This story, "Gateway's LT2118u: Style, Super Battery Life" was originally published by PCWorld.
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