Gateway SX2851-41 review: Gateway SX2851-41

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CNET Editors' Rating

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

The Good Continues Gateway's winning slim tower formula by offering fast, budget performance and living-room capability; friendly looking new design; wireless networking card included.

The Bad New look marred by Intel and Microsoft badges on front of the case; hard to recommend a desktop with Intel's older chips.

The Bottom Line Gateway knows how to market a compelling budget slim tower, and the SX2851-41 is no exception. We're wary of buying any new PC right now with an Intel chip refresh on the way, but if you need an affordable desktop for work or living-room duty, this system is a solid pick.

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While we've written appreciatively about Gateway's SX line of living-room-friendly slim tower PCs, we've never been overly impressed by its case design. Despite a new exterior look for the Gateway SX2851-41, our opinion remains the same. The matte black case is a noticeable departure from the glossy black of the previous version, but this is still a plastic, inexpensive-looking chassis that does little to challenge Apple's design dominance. Since the launch of Intel's new CPUs, we also have to ask whether it's wise to buy any desktop using older Intel chips. Perhaps you can justify spending $549 on this system or one like it if you have an immediate need for a basic productivity system or a PC-based home media box with a lot of storage. If you can wait, it won't be too long before you see a noticeable bang-for-the buck improvement as Intel's new CPUs begin to show up at these lower price points.

Gateway hasn't taken a great risk with the tweaks to the SX case. The matte black plastic perhaps looks a bit friendlier than the older glossy black design. You may also appreciate the exterior accent lighting that rims the top tray and illuminates the Gateway insignia on the front of the case. We like the dedicated light power toggle on top of the case. We also can't help but feel that the combination of the Gateway logo and Windows and Intel badges on the front of the case really takes away from what could be a pleasantly simple design. Apple was successful in beating back Intel's demands that it include an Intel Inside logo on its systems. We'd love to see Gateway, its Acer parent, or any Windows PC company take a similar stand.

Gateway SX2851-41 HP Pavilion Slimline S5660f
Price $549 $759
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550 2.9GHz AMD Phenom II X4 840T
Memory 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

We're not overly impressed by the configuration Gateway is offering with this PC. Aside from the chassis, the only difference between this system and the older SX2850-33 is the upgrade from the older model's 640GB hard drive to a 1TB drive in the new PC. We're also anxious for Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPUs and their improved integrated graphics chips to make it down to PCs in this price range. If there were no new Intel CPU, this system would seem a fairly priced, if rather formulaic take on the slim tower that Gateway has nailed with relative consistency over the past year. It will perform most of the tasks you can reasonably ask of a PC in this price range. In light of the fact that we expect the new Intel Core i3 2000 family to appear in PCs of this price range by the back-to-school shopping season, it's hard to argue for spending $550 on this desktop today.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway SX2851-41
92 
Lenovo IdeaCenter H320
96 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCenter H320
280 
Gateway SX2851-41
359 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCenter H320
119 
Gateway SX2851-41
120 

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCenter H320
416 
Gateway SX2851-41
438 

Cinebench (score)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Lenovo IdeaCenter H320
2.78 
1.12 
Gateway SX2850-33
2.67 
1.07 
Gateway SX2851-41
2.67 
1.07 

Despite our ambivalence toward this PC, it's still a fair deal and competitively fast. You can see from its test results that its performance is almost identical to that of the SX2850-03, which makes sense given that they share the same processor, the same memory allotment, and the same motherboard. The minor performance deviations between the two PCs likely have to do with different firmware and testing variability, but in the grand scheme of $500 to $800 slim towers (along with Apple's now underpowered Mac Mini), the Gateway SX2851-41 will serve you well.

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Where to Buy

Gateway SX2851-41

Part Number: CNETSX2851-41 Released: Jan. 1, 2011

MSRP: $549.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan. 1, 2011
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0
  • Capacity 1 x 1 TB
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Monitor Type None.