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Gateway SX2801-01e review: Gateway SX2801-01e

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MSRP: $549.99

The Good Small size, excellent single-core and multitasking performance; HDMI port makes it into a capable home theater PC; inexpensive.

The Bad Dual-core processor outpaced by competition; no wireless networking; no FireWire.

The Bottom Line The Gateway SX2801-01e is just one of several new budget slim tower systems available this season. We're impressed by its compact design and the HDMI port makes it easy to use in the living room. For a $520 system, the SX2801-01e's performance and upgradability put it in the same top tier as the Editors' Choice-winning models that came before it, and we recommend it to anyone shopping for a powerful, flexible, cost-effective computer.

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

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
Price $519 $559
CPU 2.8GHz Pentium Dual-Core E5500 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530
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.

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

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway SX2840-01
Gateway SX2801-01e

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway SX2801-01e

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2840-01
Asus Essentio CM5671
Gateway SX2801-01e
Dell Inspiron i560-2050NBK
HP Pavilion Slimline s5510y

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.

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