Gateway EC1803h: Netbook or Ultra-portable?

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Gateway EC1803h: Netbook or Ultra-portable?

September 9, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product Gateway EC1803h
Manufacturer Gateway

With much attention lavished on netbooks, the fact remains that for many consumers, netbooks like the Asus Eee 1005HA just aren't an option. The screen and keyboard size along with the lack of processing power are limiting factors for many. The alternative that most netbook-haters suggest is a "regular" laptop, that is to say a cheap 13-15" screen model. However, these machines weigh much more and have larger footprints, the opposite of what makes netbooks appealing in the first place.

A perfect compromise between the two would be a CPU more powerful than an Atom with a form factor just big enough for a high resolution screen and a full-sized keyboard, but without the weight and girth of a traditional notebook. Apple, Dell, Toshiba, Sony and Lenovo produce such products but they are marketed as luxury items, priced at well over $1,000 in most cases.

More affordable solutions are just becoming available from Acer, MSI, and Asus in the form of their Timeline, X-Slim, and UL series, respectively. They are thin, light, 13~15" laptops that use CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) single core processors based on Intel's Core 2 architecture. This cuts down the price and also the power draw, resulting in much longer battery life. Aside from that there's little to differentiate these devices from an ordinary notebook. There is a still a gap between the 10" netbook and the 13" ultra-portable.

Acer recently released its Timeline 1810T in Europe and Asia, an 11.6" screen model. The unit sports a weight of about 3lb, a thickness of 1" and a massive 8 hours of battery life. Like the rest of the Timeline series, it offers a lot more power under the hood than your average netbook thanks to its Core 2-based processor and Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics. The 1810T unfortunately isn't yet available in North America, but a slightly cut down version has appeared on our shores that's garnering a great deal of interest: The Aspire 1410. It is equipped with all the same hardware only with a smaller battery (4400 mAh instead of 5600 mAh), no Bluetooth, and an attractive netbook-like price of $450USD.

The Gateway EC1803h.

The Gateway EC1803h appeared recently in Canada at Future Shop, a major big box store owned by Best Buy. The EC1803h shares the same specifications and dimensions as the Aspire 1410. This is no accident as Acer owns Gateway. Except for cosmetics, the two can be considered identical. Incidentally, the Canadian versions of these devices are equipped with 3GB of RAM while the US variant only has 2GB, despite the price being about the same after the exchange rate adjustment. This is unusual as it is rare to find a better netbook/laptop deal on the northern side of the border.

So is the EC1803h a netbook, an ultra-portable, or something in-between? Ultimately, performance will determine which side of the line it falls on, or whether it is truly a balanced compromise. It will be undoubted faster than an Atom netbook, but the degree of difference and its effect on battery life will be key.

The top of the unit has a smooth glossy finish.

Gateway EC1803h Specifications
11.6" LED Backlight Screen (1366x768)
Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500
(1.40GHz, 3MB L2, 5.5W)
Chipset Intel GS45 Express (ICH9M-E)
Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD
(VGA + HDMI out)
3GB DDR2 (dual channel)
250GB 5400RPM HDD
Networking Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 802.11n
Atheros Gigabit Ethernet
0.3 megapixel (640x480)
Card Reader
5-in-1 (MS, MS Pro, MMC, SD, xD)
Synaptics Multi-Gesture
6-cell 4400 mAH
Physical Dimensions (measured)
285 x 203 x 23~28mm
(11.2 x 8.0 x 0.9~1.1")
1.44kg (3.17lb)
Operating System
Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit
(Free Windows 7 Upgrade)

Except for its physical dimensions, the lack of an optical drive and the less than stellar processor, the specifications read like that of an average notebook computer: The mobile version of Intel's latest integrated graphics chipset, 3GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, 802.11n, gigabit ethernet, webcam, card reader and a multi-gesture touchpad. Our sample was purchased directly at a Future Shop store in Vancouver.

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