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Test drive: Gateway digital device is all-in-one
Is it a PC or TV? Stereo or Web appliance?
Yes -- to all of the above.
The Gateway Performance 1500xl is a Swiss Army knife for the digital set. It's a showcase for what's happening in technology, as the lines blur between television, the Internet and personal computer.
This $3,299 system does so many things, it isn't likely to get your undivided attention. You almost can pull your hair out deciding what to do next.
Plug in a cable TV line or antenna to a jack on the back, and you can watch television on the 19-inch monitor that comes with the system.
The screen won't replace a 52-inch projection set, but it is plenty big enough to accommodate three or four viewers in a modest-sized room. Images are every bit as sharp as they appear on a standard TV set.
If you have a high-speed Web connection, you can even watch video footage while your TV is on. That's a lot of moving pictures on one screen, but the tools are there if you want to play.
Depending on your level of involvement, you can view TV programs in a small window or utilize the full display space.
If you want to work on a memo or spreadsheet and simultaneously follow a favorite TV show, just reduce the size of the TV picture.
There's room on the screen to open a window for surfing the Web or handling e-mail too. So you could be watching TV, browsing the Internet and scrolling through your e-mail.
What? You can handle even more multitasking?
Launch a favorite game and play while channel surfing in your TV window.
There's also a DVD drive, allowing you to play movies or music CDs.
A built-in CD burner -- pretty much standard equipment on personal computers these days --fulfills several functions.
You can download music from the Web and copy it to a CD. You also can back up your system files on the burner.
Sound is furnished by a five-piece speaker system with digital stereo.
TV shows, movies, and MP3 music files will all deliver crisp, room-filling sound, thanks to the Boston Acoustics digital speakers and subwoofer.
The PC itself is as powerful as anything on the market. Driven by a Pentium 4 processor at 1.5 GHz, it is loaded with 128 MB of memory and loads of storage space.
Aiding the video capabilities of the system is a built-in graphics accelerator with 64 MB of memory. You don't need a technical grasp of this hardware to appreciate the speedy graphics delivered by the system.
The Pentium 4, Intel's newest and hottest chip, was designed with multimedia in mind. The Gateway system takes full advantage of the chip, so sound and pictures never get bogged down.
Just try to prioritize before sitting down in front of this do-it-all system.