I used the beefy Gateway M685-E as my desktop unit for a few months, and could easily keep this as my main computer at work or at home.

The M685-E has a full keyboard and number keypad, and 17-inch widescreen, which made working with side-by-side documents much easier. If necessary, I could take the unit home with me. But for business trips, I'd rather be without a computer than lug this beast with me. Initially 7.7 pounds doesn't sound like much ... until you carry it through airports, and on and off planes all day.

Performance-wise, the M685-E's transflective screen at 1,440x900 native resolution was bright and crisp, but even the 12-cell battery (which increases the unit's weight to 8.3 pounds) didn't hold much life -- less than three hours.

The M685-E features the Intel Core Duo processor T2300 at 1.66 GHz, a FireWire port, a 6-in-1 memory-card reader, four USB ports and an S-Video port, as well as an integrated 8x multiformat double-layer DVD writer and a 100 GB hard drive.

This laptop is big on graphics, sporting NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 Graphics with 128 MB of DDR video memory. These are great features for architects and graphic designers, and those who work with computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing and three-dimensional applications, but the M685-E probably packs more horsepower than the average office worker needs.

The nice thing about this unit is that it can share accessories with other Gateway notebooks, such as batteries and power adapters -- a handy feature in a government office full of various Gateways.

Compared to the M685-E, the Gateway M255-E is a better traveling companion, as it has a 14.1-inch screen versus the 17-inch, and weighs 5.47 pounds.

The M255-E sports four USB ports, VGA and S-Video ports, FireWire; a SmartCard reader; an Intel Core Duo processor; a 40 GB hard drive; and an internal 24x CD-ROM drive, a nice feature compared to the external optical drives I've dealt with lately. Unfortunately the six-cell battery lasts less than three hours.

I ran into a few problems when I put the M255-E through its paces. It got rather warm, for instance, when I used it on my lap. When typing, I sometimes had to hit a key a second time to get it to register, which was rather frustrating.

My other issue was with the wireless -- while in Toronto for a conference, and again while attempting to write this review, the notebook couldn't find any wireless networks in range when there clearly were networks in range. My personal laptop hopped on my home wireless network with no problem, yet the M255-E couldn't find any networks in range (and there were about seven).

This was extremely annoying for business travel. After more than 24 hours of not finding networks in range -- and calling the local wireless provider, who assured me the connection was fine -- the M255-E finally connected me to the Internet on its own. At home, unplugging the unit and removing the battery fixed the problem.

Depending on what you're looking for, each machine has its pros and cons.

The M685-E is an impressive desktop replacement, particularly for those who use demanding applications. Its portability makes it handy for users who occasionally take their work home, but don't buy the big M685-E with the intention of having it double as a road warrior. The M255-E's physical size is perfect for travel, but the wireless glitches made me question if I could trust it on a business trip again.

M255-E Specifications:

  • Base price: $1,285

  • Intel Core Duo processor T2300 (1.66 GHz, 667 MHz FSB, 2 MB L2 cache)

  • 512 MB 533 MHz DDR2
  • Jessica Jones  |  Managing Editor