Pros: Affordable Windows 8 laptop. Fast and reliable computing. HDMI port.
Cons: No USB 3.0 port. Vertical viewing angle is not satisfactory.
Where to buy
If you are looking for an entry level Windows 8 laptop at $350 without settling for anything less than the most reasonable hardware configuration then you will probably want to end up shopping the Gateway NE56R34u 15.6-Inch Laptop.
Gateway NE56R34u comes with a good hardware configuration for a laptop priced at $350. It sports Intel Pentium B960 2.2 GHz dual core processor, Intel HD on-board graphics card with 128MB of dedicated memory, and 4GB SDRAM. In other words, Gateway NE56R34u is capable of running any latest application without lag or delays (except for high end games and graphically demanding software).
Gateway NE56R34u has a straightforward layout of its ports and connectors. The power-in, LAN, VGA, HDMI, and one USB 2.0 ports are located on its left panel. The left panel also includes the big side vent. On the right panel, it has the Kensington lock, the DVDRW, and two USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, Gateway NE56R34u does not come with a USB 3.0 port. On the bright side, it features a 1.3 megapixel webcam, so you do not have to suffer the low quality video while in a video chat.
Gateway NE56R34u 15.6-Inch laptop certainly does not come with a sharp look of those premium class laptops. The grey and black combination does not give it the stylish look you would like. The casing is slender though, and has a solid construction.
The trackpad blends in nicely with the palmrests. It supports the cool multi-gesture movements of Windows 8. It does not suffer from rough and inconsistent movement. It is well-sized. It gives you enough room to navigate, and leaves enough room for palmrests. The palmrests and the keyboard do not bend even at moderate pressure. The keyboard has full-sized keys. The keyboard is firm enough, so you can type without worrying about keyboard flexing.
Gateway NE56R34u boots up reasonably fast. It installs, runs, and closes software pretty fast. The data transfer rate to and from memory cards, and Pen Drive is fast too.
Gateway NE56R34u did not show any inconsistency, or suffer any delay, freezing, or other problems during our test run that lasted for a continuous 4.1 hours until the battery ran out. Gateway NE56R34u performed flawlessly during our test run. The laptop did not get hot, but the area around the side vent got a little warm, which was acceptable.
As windows 8 started, we found the colors on the laptop’s 15.6-inch LED display were generally good but the depth of black was not as impressive. It was due to the viewing angle. The viewing angles were not as poor as on many budget laptop screens we have seen, although the picture tend to lose its life when started moving far from the screen front. Horizontal viewing angles were okay, but colors started to wash out when we looked at the screen from a 30 degree vertical angle. Moving the screen back resulted in inverted color. So, if you want the best color output from this screen, you need to adjust the position of the screen according to position of your eyes.
Like most other affordable Windows 8 laptops, the stereo speakers on the Gateway NE56R34u failed to impress us. The stereo speakers produced average sound quality. They are not horrible, but you will probably want to use a good pair of headphones or desktop speakers with this notebook. The notebook produced clear, noiseless sound when we attached Bose headphones to its audio out port. The 1.3 mega pixel webcam did give better video quality during a video call on Skype.
Even recently, paying less than $400 for a laptop meant having to put up with a flimsy construction, awful performance, and a lifeless screen. But the Gateway NE56R34u has thrown out that preconceptions, and shows that a budget price does not necessarily equate to limited aspirations. You might also like our post on Best laptops under $500.
Screen Size: 15.6 inches
Resolution: 1366 x 768 pixels
Processor: 2.2 GHz Pentium B960
RAM: 4 GB SDRAM
Hard Drive: 500 GB SATA
On-board graphics chip: Intel HD Graphics
Graphics RAM: 128 MB
USB 2.0 Ports: 3
USB 3.0 Ports: 0
Average battery life: 4.5 hours
Operating system: Windows 8
Item weight: 5.5 pounds
Item dimensions: 15.02 x 9.96 x 1.31 inches
Optical Drive: Type 8X DVD Drive