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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|
|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.
|Rendering multi-CPU||Rendering single CPU|
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.
You can add more memory as well, and the SX2800-01 comes with two free slots, but accessing the RAM requires you to jump through a few hoops. You need to first remove the front panel and then unscrew and remove the combined optical drive/hard-drive carriage. It's an easy enough process, although it takes a few extra steps than with most desktops.
|Raw (annual kWh)||187.83|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$21.66|
We use a lengthened version of our multimedia multitasking benchmark to judge a PC's power consumption under load, and while it's not designed to overwhelm a quad-core CPU like the one in the Gateway, the Gateway's efficiency is no less impressive. Consider that the Gateway outperformed every other system in this category on the MMT benchmark by a large margin, but that it also used the second lowest amount of power on that same test. If you were to consistently run programs on this Gateway that ran on all four processing cores, its annual power consumption cost would likely increase, but for mainstream tasks, the more common work scenario for a PC in this price range, the Gateway demonstrates commendable efficiency.
Like every other major vendor, Gateway offers a one-year parts and labor warranty, alongside 24-7 toll-free phone support for this system. Gateway also offers useful support resources on its Web site, like FAQs, driver downloads, and support chat, and you get a diagnostic utility on the system itself to help you maintain and troubleshoot on your own.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640MB 7,200rpm hard drive
Dell Inspiron 537s-002B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion p6110y
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 640MB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.7GHz AMD Athlon X2 7750 ; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia Geforce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive