Gateway E-100M: The price is right

Affordable ultralight notebook PC sports connectivity, security and storage features

There’s a lot you won’t find in the Gateway E-100M ultralight notebook PC. It doesn’t have a built-in CD or DVD drive. Its display isn’t as crisp and doesn’t offer as wide a viewing angle as some. There’s no fingerprint reader. And the performance of the unit, which is powered by a 1.2 GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 chip, is at best middle of the road.

However, a lot of things you don’t want to find are also missing, including bulk, heft and a high price tag.

The E-100M is svelte — just under an inch thick — and weighs only 3.2 pounds. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that Gateway didn’t trim the unit by skimping on construction. Its matte black case and full-size keyboard have a solid feel.

Of course, you’ll have to forgo a few features to get a unit this portable. For starters, if you want a CD/DVD drive, you’ll have to buy an external one.

We were impressed with the E-100M’s security features. Although it lacked a fingerprint reader, we were surprised to find that it sports Intel’s Trusted Platform Module, a built-in processor that encrypts data.

You can also order the unit preconfigured with Absolute Software’s Computrace Complete, which notifies law enforcement authorities of a stolen laptop’s location when it is connected to the Internet.

The unit is generous when it comes to connectivity. Beyond the expected two USB 2.0 ports, it includes a PC Card slot, an Ethernet port, a VGA port and a FireWire port, though we’d prefer that the USB ports were on different sides of the computer. Optional extras include built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities.

Finally, we were pleasantly surprised by the E-100M’s flexibility when it comes to storage. Our unit came with an 80G 5,400 rpm Serial Advanced Technology Attachment hard drive, though you can configure it with a 40G, 60G or a 100G drive.

The E-100M performed as we would expect a unit with its features to perform. Users doing simple tasks, such as word processing or putting together a slide show presentation, won’t notice any hesitation, but you won’t want to do extensive file conversions, photo editing or other high-end activities — at least not without buying the optional upgrade to 1G of system memory.

On the plus side, the E-100M’s moderate performance means it runs somewhat cooler than many laptop PCs, thanks to the low-voltage processor, and battery life is a tad longer than other laptops. Figure on about three hours of usage with the standard battery. Extended-life batteries are available as extra-cost options.

The E-100M’s main attraction is its price. With a base price of $1,399, it is definitely doing its share to make quality ultralight computers more affordable.

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