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HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y review: HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
6 min read

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.


HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

The Good

Friendly-looking new design.

The Bad

Less upgrade room than competition despite its larger size; too-spare connectivity options; lackluster performance.

The Bottom Line

As much as we've appreciated HP's efforts in bringing the slim tower to the mainstream, we cannot recommend this off-the-shelf Pavilion Slimline s5120y. Even considering its low price, its design, features, and performance all come up short next to its retail competition.

You might find it tempting to look at the HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y's $450 price tag and consider it a bargain. Think again. With mediocre-to-slow performance, underwhelming features, and a few design gaffes, this Slimline sits on the same forlorn raft as the Dell Inspiron 537s, floating out to the Island of Out-of-Date PCs. As you can perhaps tell, we don't recommend this system.

We like the softer, friendlier look of the HP's new glossy black front panel, and overall HP's slimtower case is smaller than Dell's, which might best be called a slim midtower. Both HP and Dell (especially) tower over the Gateway SX2800-01, but at least Dell gives you more upgrade options in exchange for its larger size. HP deserves credit for taking the slimtower concept to the mainstream market, and as before this new Slimline's physical dimensions would work well in a either a living room or an office setting. We just hope that HP is paying attention now that Gateway has taken the slimtower concept further.

We also miss the external drive bay port in HP's older Slimlines. Previously, if you pulled down a small door at the bottom of a Slimline you'd find a port for HP's proprietary Pocket Media removable hard drives. We never liked the case-cluttering full-size Personal Media drive in HP's Pavilion Elite midtower systems, but the Pocket Media drive in the Slimline always made sense, given the limited amount of room to upgrade the system and the Pocket Media drive's compact size. We don't know how many people actually purchased the Pocket Media drive accessories, and it's certainly possible that the drive slot disappeared because of a lack of consumer interest. But with room for only a single internal hard drive in this new case, anyone who might want to upgrade the internal storage will miss the Pocket Media drive option.

We have few quibbles with the on-paper components for the Pavilion Slimline s5120y. The 2.7GHz dual-core Athlon chip certainly sounds fast, again, on paper, and we have no trouble accepting a slightly smaller 500GB hard drive next to the Gateway's 640GB drive given the HP's lower price. But one look at the ports on the front and back of the HP and it becomes clear that the Slimline needs more than just a design revision to stay competitive.

You get a single USB 2.0 port, a media card slot, and an analog headphone jack on the front of the HP. Around back you'll find four more USB 2.0 ports, 5.1 analog audio outputs, an Ethernet jack, a VGA video port, and a pair of PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard. If that seems reasonable, consider the Gateway, which gets you all of those ports, plus mini FireWire, eSATA, HDMI video out, and literally twice as many USB ports. Like Dell, HP can revise the case all it wants, but compared with the Gateway (and, incidentally, the Acer Aspire X-Series from as far back as last year), this Slimline is built on a woefully behind-the-times platform.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

(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

The outdated ports on the Slimline might not seem so bad if HP had used the old motherboard to take advantage of a fast, affordable CPU. Sadly that's not the case here. Instead the Slimline s5120y finished either in the middle or at the bottom on all four of our performance tests. It's certainly fast enough for day-to-day Web browsing, word processing, and media playback, but considering that on top of its more advanced ports the Gateway SX2800-01 offers significantly better performance for only $60 more, the faster clock speed of the AMD chip in the HP isn't enough to save it from mediocrity.

Given the Slimline's low price, you might also think it would be a good base from which to upgrade. We don't advocate that practice in truly low-end PCs, since you're far better off springing for the faster system now, but if reasons of finance or stubbornness propel you down the upgrade route, we still suggest you keep looking. We mentioned that the Slimline only has room for one internal hard drive, and with only two RAM slots its memory upgrade path is limited as well. Perhaps worse, while you only have rear panel brackets for the 16X and 1X PCI Express slots, the motherboard actually has an additional 1X slot, as well as a standard PCI slot, although both are blocked by the power supply. Technically speaking, then, this system actually has less room for upgrades than the smaller Gateway SX2800-01, which will at least accommodate four memory sticks.

Juice box
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y  
Off (watts) 1.46
Sleep (watts) 4.1
Idle (watts) 78.94
Load (watts) 143.69
Raw (annual kWh) 313.80072
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $35.62

Annual power consumption cost
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

We're also unimpressed with the Slimline's power efficiency, especially given its relatively poor performance next to other budget PCs. The high power consumption could be because of the motherboard, the CPU and its high clock speed, an inefficient power supply, or a combination of factors, but regardless, if HP tried to obtain Energy Star certification for this system, it would fail. Poor show.

HP backs the Pavilion Slimline s5120y with a one-year warranty that covers parts and labor, alongside 24-7 toll-free phone support. The system itself comes with self-help software for troubleshooting and system maintenance, and you'll find the usual assortment of drivers, support chat, and other resources on HP's Web site.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

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

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

Gateway SX2800-01
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

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

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 5Performance 5Support 7