Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Earlier this year, the Gateway SX2840-01 won our prestigious Editors' Choice award because of its winning combination of fast performance, small size, and overall living room competence. The system returned excellent performance scores and its Intel Core i3 processor chip even gave other budget PCs with true quad-core CPUs a serious challenge. Months later, Gateway now offers a multitude of versions of this system with CPUs from both AMD and Intel offered in two-, three-, and four-core options.
For $519, the SX2801-01e, which Best Buy sells exclusively, is reminiscent of the SX2840-01 and retains many of the same features including 6GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, and Windows 7. The system also includes a 2.8GHz Intel dual-core processor that can easily keep up with most consumer-level tasks, although hardcore media editors will prefer the speed gains they get from the SX2840-01's faster clock speed and more advanced Intel Core i3 CPU. Even though you still don't get the Wi-Fi network adapter we've been hoping Gateway would add to lower cost systems this product line, the SX2801-01e is just as fast, capable, and versatile as previous models, and remains the budget PC to beat this season.
The SX2801-01e mirrors the same slim tower design that we favored in the SX2840-01e. The narrow case is suitable for any environment at 11.5 inches high by 4 inches wide by 14.25 inches deep--small enough to fit comfortably in a home theater set up if you care to use it as a media server for your HDTV.
|Gateway SX2801-01e||Gateway SX2840-01|
|CPU||2.8GHz Pentium Dual-Core E5500||2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530|
|Memory||6GB 800MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip||64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||1TB, 7,200 rpm||1TB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100/1,000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Although many of the core components are similar, the primary difference between the SX2801-01e and the previous model is the CPU. The older Gateway SX2840-01e carries a slightly faster clock speed and Intel's latest Core i3 chip that translates to slightly faster performance in single-threaded applications, and a more noticeable difference when multitasking and running apps that can take advantage of multiple CPU cores. In addition, the SX2801-01e drops down to 32MB of video memory and includes slower RAM, although the difference is negligible in day-to-day tasks.
More importantly, the SX2801-01e still offers an HDMI port, a key component that allows you to connect it to any HDTV and serve up video content from the Web or via the Gateway's DVD drive. In our anecdotal tests, the Gateway scaled properly to a TV set to 1080p output and transmitted sound over its HDMI cable with no trouble. In addition, the system capably plays high-definition video from YouTube, Hulu, and NetFlix, and it played HD movie trailers from Apple's online trailer repository without issue.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
As expected, the SX2801-01e keeps up in our head-to-head performance tests with four competing systems and even manages to defeat the lowly HP Pavilion Slimline s5510y and the marginally more respectable Dell Inspiron i560-2050NBK in both single-application tests. The SX2840-01e's faster processor and clever Core i3 chip give it a hefty advantage for multicore and multitasking workloads, but the gap is small enough so you won't notice unless you're running media-editing software such as Adobe Premiere or the newest version of Photoshop.
In addition to the HDMI video port, the system has a flexible set of connectivity options. On the front of the PC are five USB 2.0 ports, a media card reader, audio jacks, and a vertical-loading DVD burner; however, Gateway neglected to include the Mini-FireWire jack that came stock on previous models. Around back, you get four more USB ports, an Ethernet jack, an eSATA port, a set of 7.1 audio inputs, an optical S/PDIF audio input, and VGA video out. Despite its lack of FireWire, that's a competitive set of ports, especially on a PC in this price range.
The inside of the SX2800-01e also offers plenty of room to make upgrades, although the slim tower requires half-height expansion cards for the 16x PCI Express and the 1x PCI Express card slots to upgrade. All four of the Gateway's RAM slots are occupied, and they are awkwardly located behind the large drive bay, but at least you can upgrade them with larger memory sticks with a bit effort.
|Gateway SX2801-01e||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||169.12932|
|Energy Star compliant||No|
|Annual power consumption cost||$19.20|
The Gateway uses a reasonable amount of power for a budget Windows desktop and still manages to be more energy efficient than the Gateway SX2840-01 is at $19.20 to operate per year. Nevertheless, neither systems meet the requirements for Energy Star certification, and we look to Gateway to someday give Apple competition in power efficiency.
Gateway gives you one year of parts and labor coverage for the SX2801-01e, along with 24-7 toll-free phone service and a variety of help resources available online. The system itself 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.
Asus Essentio CM5671-05
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Dual-Core E5500; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200 rpm hard drive
Dell Inspiron i560-2050NBK
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Pentium Dual-Core E5500; 6MB 800MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200 rpm hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5510y
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive