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Gateway SX desktop review: Gateway SX desktop

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MSRP: $499.00

The Good The Gateway SX2870-UR10P offers competent workhorse PC capabilities in a compact, versatile chassis.

The Bad Gateway's online service is in a state of disarray.

The Bottom Line Budget desktops might not be all that exciting, but the Gateway SX2870-UR10P slim tower shows you can still find a worthwhile day-to-day PC for under $500.

Visit for details.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 5

It's been almost a year since I've reviewed a traditional budget Windows desktop. As evidenced by the $499 Gateway SX2870-UR10P, the segment seems to have grown stagnant. That not necessarily a bad thing for those who simply want a cheap, familiar PC. You need to spend more if you want newer features, including Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs, but I can recommend this Gateway if all you need is a low-cost workhorse desktop.

Gateway's SX line is one of the most compact and polished-looking slim-tower PC lines out there. Parent company Acer has an Aspire X1 line that offers similar slim towers in the same price range, and as much as Acer has put its own brand before its Gateway subsidiary, for whatever reason the SX line still seems to benefit from a more pleasing fit and finish.

Gateway SX2870-UR10P Dell Inspiron 620 HP Pavilion P7 1070T
Price $499 $803 (at time of review) $729 (at time of review)
CPU 3.3GHz Intel Core i3-2120 3.1GHz Intel Core i3-2100 3.1GHz Intel Core i3-2100
Memory 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 64MB Intel HD Graphics 1000 (integrated) 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6450 graphics card 64MB Intel HD Graphics 2000 embedded graphics
Hard drive 1TB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n 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) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

I've had to reach back into the review archives to compare the Gateway with the last batch of budget PCs we tested. As you would expect, falling prices and new technologies mean that today's $500 desktop looks an awful lot like last year's $700-to-$800 PC. The present-day equivalents of the Dell and Hewlett-Packard systems in the chart above include Intel's third-generation Ivy Bridge Core chips, and the second-generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core chips in those older systems have become the de facto standard at the $500 price level. If you compare $500 slim-tower PCs from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and others, you'll find that the Gateway SX2870-UR10P offers the best assortment of hardware and the most compact case in its class.

As pedestrian as the SX2870 might appear -- its 1TB hard drive, its DVD burner, and its Core i3 chip are practically universal at this price -- the Gateway actually has one feature I didn't expect. USB 3.0 ports may no longer be that exotic in more expensive PCs, but they were hardly common in budget PC or $750 desktops last year. You get two of them in this Gateway system. HP also offers USB 3.0 ports in its Slimline slim towers, and Lenovo has them in its slim H520 systems as well. Still, if the CPUs and basic components in these systems seem like hand-me-downs, at least these vendors have worked to keep the motherboard connectivity options current.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS5 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)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs
Rendering single CPU

The Gateway SX2870 lands where I expected on our performance tests. It can't overcome the true quad-core Core i5 chip in the Dell and HP Pavilion systems, but due to the 3.3GHz clock speed and more current system and application software, it outperformed many of the older Core i3-based units. Even the Gateway's win on our iTunes test is no great shock. That test relies almost exclusively on single-core CPU speed, and in that regard the Gateway is the fastest PC of the six compared here. But with only a dual-core Core i3 chip, even one that can emulate a quad-core CPU as workloads demand via Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, the faster clock speed can't elevate the Gateway over PCs that have true quad-core processors.

Very few of these wins and losses are dramatic, of course. And presumably you have modest expectations for the capabilities of any PC that costs $500. The Gateway SX2870 can't play games well, and it's not particularly suited to HD movie editing or other demanding tasks. You should have no problems using it as a basic home or office productivity system, however.

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.

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