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Gateway's LT3103u: Mighty micro machine

Model Gateway LT3103u
Processor AMD Athlon 64 L110  processor at 1.2GHz with 800MHz HT
Memory 2GB DDR2-667 at 480MHz (1 DIMM)
Chipset AMD RS690M/SB600
Graphics ATI Radeon X1270
Display 11.6" TFT with WXGA (1366x768) resolution and LED backlight
Storage Seagate Momentus 5400.6 250GB 2.5" 5400 RPM SATA 3Gbps hard drive
Audio Stereo HD Audio via Realtek codec
Ports 3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100 Ethernet via Realtek controller
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 SD/MMC/Memory Stick/xD
Communications 802.11b/g Wi-Fi via Atheros AR5B95
Input devices Keyboard
Synaptics touchpad with multi-gesture support
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3 megapixel webcam
Dimensions 11.26" x 7.99" x 1.03" (286 mm x 203 mm x 26.4 mm)
Weight 3.04 lbs (1.38 kg) with 6-cell battery
Battery 6-cell Li-Ion 5200 mAh

I walked out of Best Buy with a cow-spotted box containing the system configuration above after plunking down $399.

The Gateway LT3103 shares an awful lot with the Aspire One 751, as you can see, but the Gateway has AMD parts under the hood that make it rather distinctive. If you'll allow me to hit you with more codenames, I have a few queued up for you. We've not seen this exact hardware configuration before, but it's essentially comprised of the same bits and pieces we saw in the AMD "Yukon" platform that powers the HP Pavilion dv2.

The processor is a 65nm, single-core variant of the Athlon 64 with 512KB of L2 cache. AMD's marketing folks have dubbed this the "Huron" core, but I believe it's just a 65nm "Brisbane" Athlon 64 X2 chip with one core disabled. This 1.2GHz L110 variant of the Athlon 64 is "a special off-roadmap CPU" intended for low-power systems, according to AMD, with a TDP rating of 13W—way more than an Atom, but not too bad for an ultraportable laptop CPU.

The other anchor in the Gateway's platform picture is the RS690M chipset, a mobile variant of the 690G that includes the SB600 south bridge I/O chip. Among other things, that means this little netbook has been endowed with Radeon X1270 graphics. Before you get too excited, though, realize that this is an older Radeon GPU core, dating back to ye olde Radeon X700. In this setup, the integrated graphics processor has to share memory bandwidth with the CPU, and the memory involved is a single channel of DDR2 running at only 480MHz. Even the typically superior graphics drivers available for Radeon GPUs are hamstrung here by the fact that Gateway more or less controls access to new driver revisions for its users. Downloading and installing the latest Catalyst release didn't work for me.

Still, I presume AMD has given this IGP the "Radeon X1270" name because it has a higher clock speed than the original 690G's Radeon X1250. This IGP supports Aero themes perfectly, since it traces its heritage to the GPU that essentially defined the DirectX 9 and Pixel Shader 2.0 specifications. And the IGP's video unit can assist with decoding common video formats, including MPEG2, MPEG4, and WMV9. Unfortunately, though, HD formats like H.264 and VC-1 aren't on that list; only newer Radeons can handle them.

In a further contrast to the 751, the RS690M chipset's TDP is 8W, so you'll pay in the form of power to get all of this, uh, power. Still, that's quite similar to the 7W TDP of the Intel 945G chipset present in so many netbooks. In light of this platform's higher power draw, Gateway's decision to ship the LT3103 with a beefier six-cell, 5200 mAh battery makes good sense.

Like the 751, the Gateway came with Vista Home Basic. I quickly decided to upgrade both machines to the Windows 7 RC for a variety of reasons, mainly because I wanted to use them with the operating system I'd likely end up installing on any new system at this stage. Also, unlike Vista Basic, the Win7 RC has its Aero theme enabled, so I could try that out.