The Gateway DS series is designed with office workers in mind, but modern components give these desktop PCs the flexibility to handle the fun things in life as well. Our review configuration of the mid-range DS50 uses an Intel Core i3-530 CPU, 2GB of DDR3 memory, and a 320GB hard drive. It's available now for around £440.
The DS50 isn't as small as the machines in the hyper-petite DU series, nor as large as the full-tower DT-series PCs. It also sits smack bang in the middle of the DS series, which includes its DS10 and DS70 brethren.
It's not especially attractive, but Gateway's tried to spice up the matte black bodywork, which won't scratch as easily as many of its glossy black counterparts, by throwing in a distinctive, bright orange stripe across the front.
Also on the front are four USB ports, mic and headphone jacks, and a DVD rewriter drive. At the rear, there are a further six USB sockets, plus an eSATA port, DVI and D-Sub video outputs, and an old-school Serial port for connecting the legacy devices that are gathering dust in the IT cupboard. Sadly, there's no multimedia card reader, which means accessing files on a digital camera or MP3 player is slightly less convenient than it ought to be.
The DS50 is available in a range of specifications, including a choice of four processors. Our not-quite-entry-level review model shipped with a dual-core, 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530 CPU. Although it's not as fast as the Core i5 or Core i7 chips available in other DS50 machines, it's a willing performer that rarely struggles to cope with the demands of day-to-day use, and even some advanced tasks, such as 3D rendering and video editing.
Graphics are taken care of by an Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics adaptor built into the CPU. It won't run 3D games very well, but that's probably a good thing given that the machine's target audience is more likely to be elbow-deep in spreadsheets. Those who fancy upgrading the machine's graphics capability can do so, thanks to the PCI Express 2.0 x16 graphics port.
Although the CPU is plucky, our review model shipped with just 2GB of DDR3 RAM. This is on the low side, so you may struggle with opening large documents, but the RAM can be upgraded to a whopping 16GB and is easily installed, thanks to accessible memory-module bays. Just turn the screws on the rear of the machine and three empty memory slots stare you right in the face, ready to be filled.
The DS50's 320GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive is ample for a machine of this ilk, but those wishing to upgrade can do so quite easily. Removing and replacing the unit is a simple case of unplugging the serial ATA data and power cables, then pinching a pair of clips together and sliding the drive from its bay. The DVD drive is easily upgraded too, slinking out of its 5.25-inch bay following the adjustment of a sliding green clip.
Sadly, the rest of the machine is difficult to upgrade. A significant chunk of the motherboard is obscured by the metal cage housing the PC's drive bays, meaning it's exceptionally difficult to access the motherboard's Molex power connector, some of its jumpers and serial ATA ports, although there's no room inside to add more drives anyway, so this is no huge loss.
The DS50 comes with a range of operating system choices. Gateway can provide Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows XP Professional SP3, and even the Linpus or FreeDOS flavours of Linux, so there's plenty of choice to suit your needs.
Gateway chucks in some useful software, too. The company's own Recovery Management package makes an appearance and allows for one-click data back-ups. You also get a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 and Nero 9 Essentials so you can create, rip, burn and share your digital media.
Our DS50 was a solid all-round performer. Its Intel Core i3-530 CPU helped it romp to a PCMark05 score of 7,010, which makes it ideal fodder for tackling a range of tasks. It'll help you through the daily technological grind -- word processing, emails and Web browsing, for example -- without batting an eyelid. It will also happily turn its hand to more intensive tasks, such as video editing and rendering 3D graphics.
Gaming isn't really on the agenda, however, since the DS50 uses an Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics card, which is fairly inept as far as moving polygons is concerned. It helped the machine to tally up a 3DMark06 score of 1,880. That's enough for playing back 1080p video, but, gaming-wise, the most you can expect from this machine is a quick blast in older 3D titles.
The Gateway DS50 is an unspectacular machine, with few frills. It's quick and affordable, though, so, if you're looking for a PC designed to chug merrily and unobtrusively through office work, you could do far worse.
Edited by Charles Kloet