First, my thanks to SiliconValley, who posted a thoughtful review of the Gateway Black 15.6" NE Series NE56R41u on March 15, 2013.
I bought this machine at a Walmart store on April 4 for web-surfing, emailing, skyping, watching videos and working on a blog. Price and value were critical to me. I feel as though I got some bang for the buck with this purchase.
The NE56R41u worked out of the box, after a short time charging the battery, which easily snapped into place. Prior to the purchase, I was concerned that the machine might not recognize my older router. But it recognized it right away.
I also had a bit of trepidation about Windows 8, which I solved in the short term by downloading Classic Shell. That gave me the equivalent of a traditional start button. It may seem odd, but Windows 8 made much more sense to me after the Classic Shell download. I've played with Windows 8 for a few days now and find it very enjoyable. It gives the laptop a tablet feel and I'm buzzing around quite comfortably now and looking forward to experiencing more of the benefits of Windows 8.
I tested the Skype software, the web camera and the microphone; they work fine. Also was able to move copies of key docs/files to the Gateway via a 32GB thumb drive I bought separately at Walmart.
Based on SiliconValley's review, I purchased the two-year maintenance agreement. Sure enough, it came with a year's free subscription to McAfee. The checkout cashier didn't mention that. But she did give me a receipt and a packet titled "Product Care Plans," and instructed me to read it and keep it. Instructions for registering the plan online were included in the packet. After I filled out the info, I was taken to a page for the free download of McAfee with a year's subscription.
Through the first days of ownership, the laptop appears to be working well and producing little heat. A little warmth is noticeable just to the right of the touch pad, but it's nothing that concerns me.
I have noticed some lag with the wireless mouse I'm using from my old laptop. Windows have occasionally not opened or closed when clicked the first time, so I may need to adjust some settings. Two of the USB ports are in the lower right corner of the machine, so some right-handed operators may be mousing a bit more to the right than they'd prefer.
The screen is displaying beautiful, bright colors. The text is a little washed out for my decades-old eyes, but it's still easy to read. I'd say the sound quality is a bit tinny, but it is perfectly passable for my purposes.
I am very pleased by this purchase. This low-cost machine with a 500 GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM came as advertised. It has a solid feel, and the DVD tray opens and closes well. Treat it gently, though.