This PC will perform most day-to-day and light-duty media editing tasks with reasonable quickness, and HD movies play smoothly as well. You might get away with playing a few older and current-generation games. Our Left 4 Dead 2 experience was tolerable, but we had to crank down both the image quality and the resolution on Fallout: New Vegas. Add a low-profile graphics card to the free PCI Express slot, and you should have better luck with current-generation titles. One of the anticipated benefits of budget Sandy Bridge PCs, though, is better gaming performance from the built-in graphics processing chip. We're anxious to see how that chip will transform PCs in this price range. Your only other expansion options for this system are a pair of free memory slots.
We're also hoping that the new generation of Intel CPUs will bring more robust motherboards to these low-end PCs. The last few iterations of Gateway's SX-Series mainboard have disappointed in terms of their external connectivity options. We welcome the HDMI output on this PC, as always, since that makes it a versatile PC in the living room as well as the office. We also like that Gateway has included a wireless networking card at this price. Otherwise the connection options are limited to USB 2.0 jacks, a VGA video out, 5.1 analog audio output, and a pair of PS/2 ports for legacy mice and keyboards. FireWire, eSATA, and digital audio outputs are all sorely missing. While none of those features are exactly crucial for a light-duty consumer PC, they're also not terribly exotic extras, either.
|Gateway SX2851-41||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.88|
|Sleep (10 percent)||2.14|
|Idle (25 percent)||36.39|
|Load (5 percent)||78.69|
|Annual energy cost||$6.79|
If our reviews of the Sandy Bridge gaming PCs are any indication, we can also expect better power efficiency when Intel's new chips become more mainstream. The power draw in this category isn't terrible now, and you'll barely notice the Gateway SX2851-41 on your power bill from month to month. Still, we welcome any technology that can reduce even modest power consumption, and the Core i3 200-series of Sandy Bridge CPUs promises to provide that kind of efficiency.
Gateway gives you one year of parts-and-labor coverage for the SX2851-41 along with 24-7 toll-free phone service and a variety of help resources available online. The system also comes with a few diagnostic apps to help you monitor the status of various components yourself.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550; 4GB 800MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550; 4GB 800MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive
Lenovo H320 40411FU
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 6GB 1,066MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive