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HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f review: HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f

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The Good All of the features we'd want in a living-room-friendly slim tower; fast computing performance; budget video card will play HD video and most 3D games.

The Bad No FireWire or eSATA ports; power hog.

The Bottom Line From fast performance, to a Blu-ray drive, to plentiful other features, HP's Pavilion Slimline includes almost everything we'd ask for in our ideal living-room slim tower PC. It will seem expensive if you're more inclined to get a Nettop or a set-top box, but for committed PC media enthusiasts, this HP offers the complete package.

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

We've been fans of Gateway's $500 to $600 SX line of slim tower PCs, but HP's fixed-configuration, $750 Pavilion Slimline s5660f makes a strong showing as a higher-end living-room-friendly desktop. Bulging with digital media features, the Slimline s5660f was clearly conceived with home entertainment in mind. It's also no performance slouch, thanks to its fast quad-core AMD CPU. At $750, this system costs more than dedicated media boxes, or even Nettops that can provide similar Web video-streaming capabilities. But with a Blu-ray drive, a TV tuner, a dedicated budget 3D card, and fast performance, the Slimline s5660f is impressively well-rounded, and easy to recommend to those trying to inject the freedom and breadth of PC-based media into their home entertainment setup.

HP's Slimline chassis has been around for a few years, but this is the first model we've seen in a while that fully makes use of the chassis' size advantages by including an HDMI port. Though it is certainly larger than either Apple's Mac Mini or Dell's Inspiron Zino HD, two competing systems, the 12-inch high, 4.75-inch wide, 16-inch deep Slimline isn't that much larger than the original editions of the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360. It's also just an inch taller than the Gateway SX2850-33.

HP Pavilion Slimline S5660f Gateway SX2850-03
Price $759 $549
CPU 2.9GHz AMD Phenom II X4 840T 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550
Memory 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray/DVD burner combo dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Gateway's SX2800 series provides the most apt comparison with the Pavilion Slimline. Unlike the Slimline, though, the available Gateway configurations don't go higher than $649. That means the SX2800 doesn't offer Blu-ray drives or a discrete graphics card like the Slimline. Specific to these two models, the HP also boasts a larger hard drive, more RAM, and a TV tuner card to let you pull in live TV from a compatible input cable. From a value standpoint, both systems offer a reasonable amount of hardware for their price. By virtue of its higher price tag, the HP provides a more complete living-room experience.

The comparison with the Gateway is most appropriate for the HP Slimline s5660f. You can argue that the Dell and Apple systems are better suited to the living room for their size, but you also have to pay a premium for that smaller footprint. The smaller cases also don't allow for full-size desktop processors and full-power discrete graphics cards like you get in a slim tower. Which one is better depends on your priorities, and if you favor looks and out-of-the-way storage, you might lean toward the smaller systems. For our money, the extra size of the slim tower PCs is worth accepting given the features and the performance edge over the smaller desktops.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f
Gateway SX2850-33
Gateway DX4840-03e
Dell Inspiron Zino HD

The differences between the HP, the Gateway SX2850-33, the Mac Mini, and the Inspiron Zino HD are more or less obvious on our performance charts. We included the Gateway DX4840-03e, a standard midtower desktop, to provide a baseline. The Mac Mini fares better than the Dell system, but both eventually hit a performance drop-off, depending on the test. The HP and the Gateway are far more consistent. Of those two, the Gateway posted a better score on iTunes file conversion, which is mostly a test of single-core processor speed, but the HP wasn't that far behind, and it also enjoyed faster multitasking and multithreaded application performance.

The HP does well because of its fast, native quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 chip. You certainly don't need all the multimedia extras in the HP if all you want is standard computing performance, but we appreciate that the Slimline has solid performance for when you want to convert media between file types, play games, or run multiple programs at once.

If you've seen our reviews of recent Slimlines, you'll know we haven't looked favorably on them. That's mostly because the past few review units have been low-cost, fixed-configuration models that lacked any appeal for living-room computing. The biggest offense was leaving off the HDMI port, which never made sense to us, considering the Gateway SX systems, also found in retail in the same price range, do include HDMI. You can still find those dated Slimlines at Best Buy and elsewhere, and we encourage you to avoid them because they don't take advantage of the slim tower design.

This model, though, offers the complete package in terms of its connectivity options. You get HDMI output, crucial for connecting directly to your HDTV. You also get wireless networking, the aforementioned TV tuner, an SD card slot, and a coaxial digital audio output. You even get IR blaster outputs, if you're inclined to take that always-clunky step. We would like to see an optical digital audio output, as well as FireWire or eSATA ports for peripheral devices that don't use USB. For most standard devices and setups, though, the Pavilion Slimline s5660f offers all of the inputs and outputs we expect to find in a living-room system.

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