Gateway GWTN156-3BK review: A gaming laptop that lives a bit too loud

Gateway’s back! This once-famous PC company from the 1990s was purchased by Acer some years ago. It sat idle until Acer resuscitated the Gateway brand earlier this year, complete with spotted-cow mascot, as a Walmart exclusive. One of the first new offerings, the poetically named Gateway GWTN156-3BK, builds a Comet Lake-H mobile CPU and a modestly aggressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 chip into a laptop costing just $999 at Walmart.

Does it deliver? Absolutely. While both the available memory and SSD are sparser than we’d like, our tests revealed satisfactory to very good gaming performance. The design has its highlights too, including a decent keyboard and a good mix of connectivity options.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. 

Gateway GWTN156-3BK logo 1 Mark Hachman / IDG

The Gateway spotted-cow logo reappears on the lid of the laptop.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK: Specs and features

In a year when everyone needs a laptop to work or study from home, even a vintage PC brand like Gateway can get some traction—we saw this laptop move in and out of availability during our review period. (There is also a version with a Ryzen 5 4600H and a GeForce GTX 1650 for $799.)  There’s no relationship to Walmart’s own Motile house brand, of which we reviewed the surprisingly good Motile M142 budget laptop (currently out of stock). 

With most premier gaming laptops priced at several thousand dollars, the question we want to answer is where Gateway (or Acer) cut corners to bring this gaming laptop down to its $1,000 price point. There are no variations on memory or SSD size, for instance, though the amounts you get are adequate. Here are the primary specs:

  • Display: 15.6-inch LCD IPS (1920×1080, 120Hz) non-touch
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-10300H (“Comet Lake”)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
  • Memory:  8GB Micron DDR4-3200 
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD (PM8256GPTCB4B8TF-E13T2A)
  • Ports: 1 HDMI 2.0, 2 miniDisplayPort 1.4, USB-C (charge+data transfer), 2 USB 3.1, ethernet, microSD, Kensington lock
  • Camera: 720p (user-facing)
  • Battery: 46.7 Wh (design and full charge)
  • Wireless: WiFi 6 (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions (inches): 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.8in.
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Color: Black
  • Price: $999 at Walmart

The external design is plain, with a charcoal plastic shell and the classic Gateway spotted-cow badge adorning the lid. The quirkiness of the brand—there’s another cow peering quizzically at you from the laptop’s desktop background—is somewhat at odds with the gamer aesthetic, especially with the cow gazing down at the RGB-lit keyboard.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK power performance toggle Mark Hachman / IDG

Gateway’s GWTN156-3BK provides a button to the left of the power button to switch between Office, Gaming, and Turbo modes, but it has little effect.

What does scream “gamer” are the aggressive ventilation openings to the sides, bottom and rear. The fans scream too, unfortunately—almost always whining gently in the background, even when manually set to the low fan mode in the Control Center utility. It was often loud enough to annoy me until I donned headphones.

Related, to the left of the power button above the keyboard there’s a secondary button with three modes: Office, Gaming, and Turbo. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why Gateway had included it, as our performance testing revealed that the modes did absolutely nothing that our tests could discern. Once the fan dropped down into “low” and shut off in Office mode, I finally grokked why the toggle was useful.

The port layout is plentiful and yet frustrating. USB Type-A ports adorn both sides of the laptop, supporting an external keyboard and mouse if you so wish. A dropjaw version of the ethernet connector provides both high bandwidth and reduced ping times. There’s a single HDMI port and two miniDisplayPort connectors, perfect for my existing miniDP-to-HDMI cables. There’s even an increasingly rare SD card slot.

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