Gateway DS50 review

Gateway used to be associated with cheap and cheerful desktop machines but, after the name was revived by Acer in early 2009, the focus has been on corporate systems. The first system to benefit from this new emphasis was the diminutive DU10G (web ID: 263047), and now the larger DS50 – sporting the familiar orange stripe – has arrived in the Labs.

Remove the side panel with three orange thumbscrews and, while the DS50 can’t compete with the kind of ingenious engineering that Lenovo prides itself on, the DS50 is still easy to access and upgrade.

Three clips hold the front of the chassis in place, for instance, and removing the plastic facade allows for quick access to the DVD writer, which slides out through the front of the machine. A cleverly-designed hard disk bay can be unclipped to allow the disk to slide out the side of the machine too.

The Intel Core i3-530 processor is hidden beneath a cooler, similar in shape to Intel’s standard HSF, and this can be easily removed. Three spare DIMM slots can be easily loaded with up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The Gateway’s small form factor means upgrade room is limited, but the DS50 still offers empty PCI Express x16 and x1 slots ready for half-height cards.

In other areas, though, the Gateway falls behind its rivals. Unlike Lenovo’s business desktops, for example, there’s no way to remove the motherboard – even if it’s unscrewed the cage that holds the hard disk and optical drive blocks access. That cage proves troublesome elsewhere too.

The main power connection, SATA/300 ports and a variety of USB headers and other jumpers are hidden underneath, so the DS50 will be a tricky machine to service should problems arise. It doesn’t help that this area sprawls with cables, and it lacks colour coded ports too.

Gateway DS50 - interior view

Build quality isn’t up to scratch, either, with side panels that feel thin and flimsy, and struts that feel particularly weak. The matte finish ensures the DS50 won’t fall prey to many scrapes and scratches, but there’s little here to make the Gateway stand out.

Sitting beneath the Foxconn CPU cooler is an Intel Core i3-530 processor.

Even without the dynamic overclocking technology of Turbo Boost, it still returned an impressive benchmark score of 1.66 – more than enough to plough through most intensive business applications. The Core i3 processor contributes to a low power draw, too. The DS50 used just 29W when idling and 68W when stress-tested, around a third lower than the Lenovo’s power usage.

The rest of the specification comprises 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a DVD writer and 320GB hard disk. Graphics are handled by the Intel GMA 4500HD chip that’s built in to the processor. All perfectly acceptable for an office workhorse.

However, there are problems. While other manufacturers offer a raft of customisation options, at the current time there’s no way of changing the DS50. Gateway’s website lists a variety of processor, memory and hard disk options, but this model is the only SKU that will be available in the UK. And Gateway doesn’t offer much in the way of software either. The DS50 comes with nothing beyond Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

As for the warranty, there’s little to compensate, with only the standard one-year deal on-site deal or three-year upgrade to that on offer for £68 exc VAT. Lenovo offers the same for just £42, and also provides a four-year deal for £66 exc VAT; Dell, meanwhile, offers a three-year deal as standard alongside a wide range of upgrade options.

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