This morning at the Acer, Gateway and Packard Bell Press Conference here in Budapest, Gateway debuted its MC Series. The new system is a breath of fresh air for Gateway’s current lineup. With a color customizable lid with a leather strip running down its center, it’s one of the best looking Gateway machines we have seen in a long time. Sporting a 16-inch, edge-to-edge glass display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the MC Series will go head to head with HP’s latest HDX 16 and Sony’s FW Series. Check out our first impressions and video hands on below. A New Look Gateway has a painters palette of colored laptops in its current M and T Series line up, but the MC series has, in our opinion, the best aesthetics of any Gateway system out there. The burgundy lid (also available in black) is just the right amount of glossy, and a black leather strip runs vertically down the center of the lid. While Gateway hit the mark with the color and extending the sleek design under the hood, some may prefer a less boxy look. Backlit Keyboard, Touch Controls Under the fashionable lid is an orange backlit keyboard. We expect that the orange lights won’t appeal to everyone, but the keys and the brushed metal palm rest were comfortable. Straddling the right and left of the keyboard are touch-sensitive buttons, which also glow orange. These buttons (most of which control media playback and volume) were responsive to our finger pads, but seemed a bit finicky when we touched then with our finger tips. The large touch pad provided plenty of room for navigating around the desktop, and the two buttons below it were responsive and not too loud like we have found on the Gateway M-Series. Flush Glass 16-inch Display Very similar to the display found on HP’s Pavilion HDX 16, the 16-inch screen on the Gateway MC series sports a 16:9 aspect ratio and supports resolutions up to 1920 x 1080. The elegant edge-to-edge glass stretches all the way across to the corners, which adds to the sleek look. We couldn’t fire up the Internet (Wi-Fi would have been nice at the press conference) but a preloaded clip in Windows Media Center looked sweet. Early Performance Impressions Gateway hasn’t officially released the specs on the MC Series yet, but we saw both an AMD and a Centrino 2 version. In our short hands-on with the system running a a 2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 64-bit Vista, Windows Media Center opened briskly, and it reported a Vista Experience score of 5.0. We assume that the experience score will be lower on production units. The MC Series will be available with both discrete and integrated graphics. Outlook It is too early to say if the Gateway MC Series can rival HP’s HDX and Sony’s FW Series for the title of best 16-incher, but based on our early impressions, it certainly has a fighting chance. Stay tuned for our full review of the Gateway MC Series closer to November. There’s no word on pricing yet.