HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y review: HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y

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MSRP: $450.00

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.

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5.2 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5
  • 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.

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few design gaffes, this Slimline sits on the same forlorn raft as the Dell Inspiron 537s, floating out to the Island of Out-of-Date PCs.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.

  HP Pavilion s5120y Gateway SX2800-01
Price $450 $510
CPU 2.7GHz AMD Athlon X2 7750 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE integrated graphics chip 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 500GB 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

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.

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