Gateway SX2800-01 review: Gateway SX2800-01

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MSRP: $510.00

The Good Sleek, compact design; best all-around performance among budget retail PCs; up-to-date motherboard outputs offer all kinds of connectivity options.

The Bad Memory slot access takes a few more steps than usual.

The Bottom Line Gateway's SX2800-01 offers a strong combination of performance and features all wrapped up in a design that fully embraces the merits of a slim tower PC. We recommend this system to anyone looking for a fast, affordable desktop for the home office, the living room, or anywhere in between.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

Thanks to a strong set of features for its $510 price tag, Gateway's SX2800-01 impressed us enough to earn an Editors' Choice award. This PC demonstrated the best all-around performance in its budget PC class, making it a strong system for general productivity. An HDMI video output also lets you take full advantage of Gateway's particularly compact slim tower design if you're looking for a cheap PC to double as a media server. The SX2800-01 strikes such an even balance in its price, performance, and features for its price that we'd recommend it to anyone looking for a versatile, low-cost home computer.

It's clear from the design of the SX2800-01 that Gateway takes the slim tower PC concept seriously. Coming in at 11.5 inches high, 4 inches wide, and 14.25 inches deep, the SX2800-01 is smaller in every dimension than both the Dell Inspiron 537s and HP's Pavilion Slimline systems.

With that smaller size comes fewer expansion ports in the Gateway, and it's also harder to access the internal memory. You could also argue that because it only sells fixed configurations, Gateway doesn't have to cater/upsell to online customers with customization like Dell and HP, and can sacrifice some expansion room for a more compact design, That lets the SX2800-01 appeal to anyone looking to generally save space, and especially those interested in bringing a PC into the living room.

  Gateway SX2800-01 Dell Inspiron 537s
Price $510 $480
CPU 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 32MB Intel GMA X4500 32MB Intel GMA X4500
Hard drives 640GB, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit

For core components, the primary difference between the Gateway SX2800-01 and the similar Dell Inspiron 537s is the CPU. Dell's Pentium Dual Core chip has a slightly faster clock speed, but you can see on our performance results below that the Gateway's Core 2 Quad makes up for its lower clock speed with better workload distribution, and thus better performance than the Dell on almost every test. That performance edge alone might be enough to justify the Gateway's slightly higher price tag.

Beyond the individual specs and its faster performance, the Gateway surpasses the Dell just as convincingly by way of its more up-to-date motherboard connections. On the back panel of the Inspiron 537s you'll see four USB 2.0 ports, a VGA video output, analog audio outputs, and an Ethernet jack. The Gateway has all of those as well as an HDMI output, an extra USB 2.0 port, digital audio out, and also a pair of PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard. HP's Pavilion Slimline, also a $510 slim tower, is similarly outclassed by the Gateway's sheer array of inputs.

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 (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multi-CPU  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2800-01
Asus CM5570-AP002
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y
HP Pavilion p6110y
Dell Inspiron 537s

As our tests demonstrate, the Gateway also outperforms almost every other system in our budget retail PC roundup. The iTunes test shows that the SX2800-01 loses a few steps when single-core clock speed matters most, but overall its well-rounded performance allows us to recommend this Gateway to anyone shopping for a budget PC for mainstream tasks.

We mentioned that the Gateway has relatively limited expansion room inside, and if you're determined to upgrade the SX2800-01 post-purchase, you'll find you have only a few options once you crack the case. You get a single 16x PCI Express graphics card slot, as well as a 1X PCI Express slot occupied by a modem, both of which can only accept half-height expansion cards because of the narrow case. While we don't really advocate upgrading lower-end PCs (better to spend more money up front), the two slots you do get are sufficient to add a lower-end 3D card for basic gaming and/or HD video playback, as well as wireless networking (once you toss the modem), if you're serious about using this system in your living room.