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

The incessant fan noise rankles as much as the meager memory and storage.

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Gateway GWTN156-3BK cinebench Gateway GWTN156-3BK

While the Gateway’ laptop's Cinebench scroe is lackluster, it shines brighter in other tests.

We use the real-world HandBrake tool to transcode a Hollywood movie into a format that’s appropriate for an Android tablet. HandBrake is most useful for evaluating how well a laptop's CPU holds up under prolonged load, and how well its cooling system manages the stress. As with the Cinebench test, the Gateway's performance is unremarkable.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK handbrake Mark Hachman / IDG

Again, Gateway’s GWTN156-3BK doesn’t perform all that well against more expensive gaming laptops. Testing with the Turbo setting enabled lowered the encoding time to 2,131 seconds.

Our last synthesized test is 3DMark’s Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, designed specifically for gaming PCs. Gateway’s modern RTX GPU gives it an advantage over laptops with older parts.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK 3dmark fire strike Mark Hachman / IDG

Here, the combination of the 10th-gen Core chip and the RTX 2060 GPU elevate Gateway’s notebook considerably. Here, using Gateway’s Turbo setting generated a score of 7,372, a 2.5% difference.

Our real-world gaming benchmarks reinforce how the GWTN156-3BK holds its own. We use 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider and the 2014 game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Anything above 60 frames per second is generally considered to be playable by most gamers, and the RTX architecture really starts delivering higher frame rates in the second game, consistent with other RTX 2060 hardware we’ve evaluated. While we don’t show a comparative analysis here, Rise’s 2018 sequel, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, produced average frame rates of 63 fps on its internal, DirectX 12 benchmark at 1080p, Ultra settings.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK rise of the tomb raider Mark Hachman / IDG
Gateway GWTN156-3BK shadow of mordor Mark Hachman / IDG

While the performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider was possibly a bit disappointing, Gateway’s notebook redeems itself in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

To provide two more data points, I ran the built-in benchmarks on two other recent games: A Total War Saga: Troy, which was released in August 2020, and 2018’s gorgeous open-world racer, Forza Horizon 4Total War, a real-time battle simulation, uses a modified version of the Total War: Warhammer 2 DirectX 11 engine, and ran acceptably at 1080p Ultra settings, with 4X antialiasing, 16X anisotropic filtering, and V-sync turned off. Our tests averaged 44 frames per second, which for a real-time strategy game seemed acceptable. Forza’s marvelously detailed PC benchmark generated average frame rates of 77 fps on Ultra, which should be sufficient for most gamers.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK forza horizon 4 Mark Hachman / IDG

Finally, there’s battery life, which always feels like a bit of an afterthought with a gaming laptop. Hardware designers spend their budgets on GPUs, not battery. The 46.7 Watt-hour battery on the Gateway is quickly gobbled up by the CPU, GPU, and display. Between four and five hours isn’t that bad for this class of laptop, though.

Gateway GWTN156-3BK battery life Mark Hachman / IDG

Should you buy the Gateway GWTN156-BK?

Any budget gaming laptop will have its flaws. In the case of the Gateway GWTN156-3BK, its omnipresent fan noise detracts from the everyday experience. The minimal memory and SSD also mean that you'll be itching to upgrade soon. Given that it offers well over 60-fps gaming performance at 1080p and Ultra settings, however, we’d say that it's still worth considering for your next budget gaming PC.

This story, "Gateway GWTN156-3BK review: A gaming laptop that lives a bit too loud" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • Gateway's GWTN156-3BK budget gaming laptop starts off well with its 10th-gen Core Comet Lake processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. Meager RAM and storage, plus a noisy fan, are notable drawbacks.

    Pros

    • 10th-gen Core Comet Lake-H CPU
    • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU
    • Good value at around $1,000

    Cons

    • Noisy, incessant fan
    • 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD are stingy
    • Webcam has mediocre image quality and awkward location
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