In the last six months we've seen a wide variety of cost effective, yet powerful, video cards hit the market. First came NVIDIA's superb GeForce 8800 GT last October which
despite being introduced at an upper mid-range price point, provided top-notch performance not far off from the best cards of the day at nearly 1/3 the price. The 8800 GT was followed closely by the launch of the thrifty GeForce 9600 GT just a few months later which provided similar performance for even less. Then, last week, ATI fired back with the excellent Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 video cards which retail at the same affordable mid-range prices but provide strong performance that is eclipsed only by the most monstrous and expensive cards currently available. Indeed, building a capable gaming computer hasn't been this cost effective in years and at this time we have an unprecedented number of solid video card choices in the mid-range price segment.Unfortunately, nearly all of the action has been on the desktop. While notebook graphics have received a few updates in the last year, relatively little progress has been made in terms of performance in the mid-range. Since its debut last May, the GeForce 8600M has been the poster child for mid-range mobile graphics. Until recently, it was the graphics card most commonly seen in multimedia and gaming inclined mid-range notebooks. This is unfortunate since the GeForce 8600M has shown that it simply isn't an ideal gaming card and it can't begin to compete with the superb mid-range desktop video cards of today. The introduction of the GeForce 9600M series and the Mobility Radeon HD 3600 series greatly expanded the number of graphics card choices available for mid-range notebooks, but unfortunately performance has not improved much over the previous generation.
The result of this stagnation in the mid-range mobile graphics segment is that gamers will need to upgrade to a high-end GeForce 8800M equipped notebook in order to enjoy gaming performance similar to a mid-range gaming desktop system. While there are quite a few manufacturers building 8800M equipped notebooks, almost all of them are high-end products that demand top dollar for the pleasure. Gateway's "P-Series FX" line-up of 17" gaming notebooks seems no different at first glance. However careful inspection of product specifications reveals that their most junior P-Series FX model weighs in at just $1,349.99, a decidedly mid-range price point. Yet it's still powered by a GeForce 8800M, just like the rest of the otherwise high-end FX notebook line-up. This GPU choice alone potentially makes the junior P-Series FX model one of the best gaming and multimedia machines in the entire mid-range notebook price segment, so we couldn't resist taking a closer look.