One of the things I like most about slim-tower PCs is the versatility you get from their small design. Living-room PCs don't appeal to everyone, but the fact that this system is small enough to fit unobtrusively in a media cabinet lends it some intriguing possibilities. Its HDMI video output makes it a friendly companion to any current television or display, and its 802.11n wireless networking adapter will help you get the unit online with minimal cord clutter.
The Gateway doesn't have all the trappings of a purpose-built home theater PC. There's no TV tuner in this system, no Blu-ray drive, and no remote control. You can add all of those things post-purchase, of course. Even if you don't, the Gateway's 1TB hard drive will provide storage capacity for a reasonably large collection of video, image, and audio files to play directly through your home entertainment center. Another limitation here is that the Gateway only supports audio output via its HDMI port or via its 5.1 analog audio jacks. If you want 7.1 audio or digital audio output, you'll need to add a dedicated audio card.
Rather than expanding its audio output options, though, gamers would probably rather use the Gateway's 16x PCI Express slot to add a graphics card. The narrow chassis and 220-watt power supply will limit you to low-powered, half-height graphics cards, but for gamers, anything would be an improvement over the integrated Intel HD graphics chip. Other expansion options are limited. You can add two more memory sticks, but there's no room for a second internal hard drive.
Gateway's service and support policies fall in line with those of its competitors, but its online options still seem to be caught up in Acer's brand consolidation efforts. You get a one-year parts and labor warranty with the system, but phone-based tech support, according to Gateway's Web site, operates from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Bangkok time, Monday to Saturday (6 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. PT). Gateway's Web-based support is limited to driver downloads. A service program section seems to offer more help, but as of now it has only filler text for an assortment of service call centers.
With tablets getting so much attention these days, it's perhaps not surprising that the budget PC segment has become a bit stale. Still, plenty of people need PCs in this price range, and as long as you keep your expectations reasonable, and don't need much in the way of customer support, the Gateway SX2870-UR10P should satisfy most of your general computing demands, at a better price than competing budget PCs.
Performance testing for this review was conducted by CNET editor Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
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