Gateway SX 2850-33 - Core i3 550 3.2 GHz review: Gateway SX 2850-33 - Core i3 550 3.2 GHz

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.9
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good One of the fastest budget PCs we've tested; wireless networking and HDMI port make it perfect for the living room; room to upgrade via free expansion card slot.

The Bad Only USB 2.0 for data connections; had to manually correct overscanning when we connected it to an HDTV.

The Bottom Line The latest in Gateway's line of versatile slim towers, the SX2850-33 stays current with a fast Intel Core i3 CPU, and more importantly adds Wi-Fi to improve its suitability as a living-room desktop. It might cost more than a Nettop or a dedicated video-streaming device, but for its overall speed and flexibility, we'd pick this system as a budget PC or an online living-room content center.

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The Gateway SX2850-33 is one of a wide selection of Gateway slim tower desktops. As with the others we've seen, this model works well as a budget PC, and it also has the right design and feature set for living-room content delivery. The $549 SX2850-33 is no cheap Nettop, but it also offers the performance and most of the connectivity options we expect from a PC in this price range. Wireless networking and a fast, up-to-date Intel Core i3 dual-core CPU separate the SX2850-33 from the other SX models, in exchange for a hard-drive space reduction and fewer connectivity options. This system's Wi-Fi card alone, a rarity in the SX line, may be enough to earn this desktop fans among living-room PC enthusiasts. We'd also recommend it to anyone interested in a small, capable budget desktop.

The SX case is over a year old at this point. Perhaps that's not quite enough time to justify a redesign, especially when the current design is attractive enough, but we can't help thinking that we'd like to see a new take on this PC. Maybe it's because we've already reviewed three of them. In any case, we don't expect many people will be offended by the black and silver plastic exterior. From an aesthetic standpoint, you can put the SX2850-33 anywhere.

Thanks to its HDMI video output and wireless networking capabilities, this system's technology also lends some flexibility to how you might use it. You get a traditional VGA video output as well, so you can connect this system to most, if not all, monitors on the market. The HDMI port also makes this system a near-seamless living-room resident. The wireless networking helps minimize cable clutter, always a bonus when you're installing a PC in a nontraditional space, and you get a single standard network adapter for wired connections.

Gateway SX2850-33 Gateway SX2801-01e
Price $549 $549
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550 2.8GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5500
Memory 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 640GB, 7,200 rpm 1TB 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Other vendors have PCs that would seem to compete with the SX2850-33, but Gateway has consistently nailed the formula for this kind of computer, which means that the decision arguably boils down to choosing which Gateway SX2800 model to buy. We last reviewed the SX2801-01e, which retails for roughly the same price as the SX2850-33, but you'll find several differences between the two.

The SX2801-01e uses an older, slower Intel chip and only comes with a wired Internet connection, but it does feature a larger hard drive and more RAM than the SX2850-33e. Practically speaking, the extra memory doesn't make a huge difference in the range of tasks these PCs can perform--you won't be editing large HD video files with either, for example, so the primary difference comes down to choosing faster overall performance and wireless networking or an extra 360GB of hard-drive space for about the same price. Given the SX2850-33's performance edge, we'd happily sacrifice the extra drive space.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway SX2850-33
440 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Dell Inspiron i570-7034PBK
10,176 
2,974 
Gateway SX2850-33
9,644 
4,436 
Asus Essentio CM5671
6,141 
3,288 
Gateway SX2801-01e
5,947 
3,183 
Dell Inspiron i560-2050NBK
5,684 
3,076 

The Gateway SX2850-33 outperforms both its linemate and competing desktops in its price range on almost every performance test. That Dell Inspiron i570 enjoys an edge on our multicore CPU test due to its true quad-core AMD CPU, but the Intel Core i3 530 chip in the Gateway is fast enough to outperform it elsewhere, and the Dell's multicore edge is minimal. All of these PCs are relatively capable, but the Gateway SX2850-33 should provide a noticeable performance benefit in day-to-day use.

We also found that the Gateway provided flawless HD movie playback, at least for HD YouTube and QuickTime content. It had no trouble with less demanding sources like Netflix and Hulu, and we were also impressed with its gaming capabilities. This is not a gaming desktop, and we expect you will come across many titles this PC won't be able to manage, particularly more recent shooters. We were pleasantly surprised, though, to find that it provided a playable Portal experience, even at 1,920x1,080. We would expect a similar experience for other less-demanding games like World of Warcraft, the Sims series, Civilization V, and others.

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Where to Buy

Gateway SX 2850-33 - Core i3 550 3.2 GHz

Part Number: RB-L-PT.GAZ02.032 Released: Sep 1, 2010

MSRP: $549.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 1, 2010
  • Color Black