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Gateway Ultra Slim 15.6 review: The best cheap laptop of 2022

Updated ·6 min read
Gateway's $229 Ultra Slim comes in three stylish colors: blue, green and red. (Photo: Gateway)
Gateway's $229 Ultra Slim comes in three stylish colors: blue, green and red. (Photo: Gateway)

Price mistake?

That was my first impression of the new Gateway Ultra Slim 15.6, a $229 laptop that looks like it should cost 2-3 times more. Available in three stylish colors (red, green and blue), it's solidly built and comfortable to use, with a big screen, wide keyboard and huge touchpad.

It even comes with a one-year license for Microsoft 365 Personal, a $70 value. So what's the catch? Does the Ultra Slim deliver a good user experience, or should school and other light-needs shoppers look elsewhere?

$229 at Walmart

Some answers can be found in the specs, which are as follows:

  • Processor: Intel Celeron N4020

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 128GB

  • Screen: 15.6-inch IPS (1,366 x 768)

  • Ports: 1 HDMI, 3 USB 3.1

  • Expansion: microSD slot

  • Speakers: 2

  • Webcam: 1 megapixel

  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi (version not specified)

  • OS: Windows 11 Home (S Mode)

Did you spot the problem? That Celeron processor, coupled with just 4GB of non-expandable RAM, makes for a computer that won't win any speed awards. Although it boots quickly enough (about 20 seconds, according to my stopwatch), the system sometimes felt sluggish.

For example, although Microsoft's Edge browser snaps open and loads sites within just a few seconds, things bog down when you start using more than a few tabs. When I tried watching a Netflix movie or YouTube video, it played just fine — but if I opened additional tabs and loaded other sites (because short attention span), the video briefly stuttered or disappeared entirely.

Overall performance was similarly inconsistent; sometimes peppy, sometimes slow. Whether or not you'll mind this depends on what you're used to and what kind of computing you need to do.

There's one rather unconventional workaround: You could install something like CloudReady or Zorin OS (both free) and run this as a Chromebook or Linux-based PC, respectively. Those very capable operating systems demand much less power than Windows, meaning the Ultra Slim would likely feel much faster. Just a thought.

True to its name, the Ultra Slim is an amazingly skinny laptop, and a relatively light one at just 3.5 pounds. You pick this up expecting it to be heavier.

The screen, however, was a mixed bag: It looked sharper than I expected given its relatively low resolution, but viewing angles weren't great. If you move left or right of dead-center, the display gets washed out. Not a deal-breaker, just something to note.

I was impressed by the quality of the built-in speakers, which tend to be pretty horrible in laptops; the Tuned by THX audio subsystem probably plays a role in that. The webcam, though limited to just 720p resolution, delivered a sharp and reasonably well-lit image. I liked the presence of a physical webcam shutter, a nice nod to privacy.

Is it crazy that I also really like Gateway's stock Windows wallpaper, which consists of a startled-look cow looking directly at you? It just cracks me up.

Although this isn't a machine built with power users in mind, it's definitely a budget win for folks who tend to focus on just one or two tasks at a time, like checking email, browsing Amazon, or doing some basic word processing. The Microsoft 365 Personal license adds considerable value, too — and helps explain the Gateway Ultra Slim 15.6's spot on my list of the best laptops you can buy in 2022.


  • Bargain price

  • Big screen

  • Nice design

  • Above-average sound system

  • 1-year Microsoft 365 subscription


  • Pokey performance

  • Screen resolution and viewing angles

  • RAM not expandable

$229 at Walmart

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Originally published