Black Friday came early for me – Wednesday to be exact.  I went to Best Buy to see what I could grab before the rush.  I found the Gateway LT2032u for $279 – much less than what I saw anywhere – and this wasn’t a sale price! So I grabbed it and am happy I did.  I made one other purchase that I will write about later.  For now – here is my Amazon.com review of the netbook.

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GatewayLT2032uThis Gateway LT2032u Black Netbook has turned out to be a great deal.  I’ve had it for less than a week now and so far I’m loving it.

If you’re getting a case for it, be aware that the 6-cell battery makes it too big for most slim cases (the battery ads about an inch to the size when closed).  I have mine in a slim case, but the battery sticks out the zipper (and thus can’t be fully closed. I just wanted something so that it would be protected in whatever bag I put it in and it serves that purpose ok for now.

Speaking of batteries  – the life on the six cell is amazing.  In power-saving mode and with the screen brightness dimmed to 10%, Windows has estimated 9 hours of battery life.  Even in normal mode you’ll get at least 6 hours of of it. It’s great to be able to leave the house without a power adapter and not worry about running out of juice! I do occasionally use a Clear WiMax broadband USB adapter and that sucks a LOT of power (the machine estimates 3 hours of battery life with it running).  I’ve tethered with my iPhone and that set up doesn’t eat the battery nearly as fast (I think I can get 4-5 hours with that set up).

One challenge on netbook screens in general is software that assumes your monitor is taller than 600 pixels – so every now and then you’ll find a fixed size window with an “ok” button that is below the edge of the screen. You might have to hit Tab and Enter until you “select” the right button to continue.  This is only an occasional issue when installing software or on setup / preferences screens (like the one on Adobe Reader 9 which comes pre-installed)

Windows Starter 7 won’t let you customize the desktop or colors, but you can legally install the free “Window Blinds” application from Stardock to let you do some customizations including colors and background images.

I’m hunting around for a good price on the 2GB ram upgrade.  I’m thinking about getting 800Mhz gaming memory – but I don’t yet know if this machine will support the higher speed. I notice that web based flash games (like Farm Ville and Cafe World on Facebook) can be quite unresponsive, so I’m hoping the added RAM will solve that.

Netflix runs just fine at full-screen.  NBC online videos are choppy at full screen but run just fine in the regular size view (which still fills up a good portion of the screen.  I haven’t tested out HD YouTube videos on it yet.

The speakers don’t get very loud, but I wouldn’t want a bigger machine just for louder speakers.  The headphone and microphone jacks are conveniently located on the side so they are out of the way.

The brightness of the LED display is REALLY BRIGHT.  I find that most of the time, I run it at a reduced brightness (70%) and don’t loose any detail in the images.

The track-pad is tiny, but very functional.  Lots of great customizing options for it as well.  The Multi-touch gestures are handy too, I’m glad they are included on the gateway machines.

The video on the webcam is nice – not stellar, but very nice – better than the cam built into my larger laptop. The built in microphone was decent as well.  This is great for Skype calls while sitting at my desktop or full-size laptop working.  I can run Skype full screen and still be productive on my other computer!

The keyboard buttons are sized nicely.  I don’t have too much trouble with typing  — the exception being the undersized backspace key.  I would have liked that to be larger and sacrificed the size of the – and = keys instead. I occasionally find myself hitting = instead of backspace. Also, the keys don’t have any traction / friction so you never quite feel like your fingers are in the right spots. Also, the “fn” Functions are in a deep red – which can be a little difficult to read on the black keys.

I’ve read elsewhere about the fan being loud – haven’t experienced that (and don’t expect to). The machine doesn’t run hot either.

The hinges open and close smoothly through the full range of motion.  The machine feels solid yet not too heavy.

Overall this computer is one of the best values out there for this kind of product and I’m happy with my purchase.