Gateway’s SX2840-01 mid-size-tower desktop

You’d better like what you get with the Gateway SX2840-01, as this half-width midsize-tower desktop sacrifices most of its upgradability to achieve its slim shape. That’s okay, though–the SX2840-01 delivers excellent performance for a mere $559 (as of March 1, 2010).

The SX2840-01, which runs on an Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i3-530 CPU clocked at a frequency of 2.93GHz, earned a WorldBench 6 score of 118. The similarly styled HP Slimline s5370t offers a slightly better WorldBench score (124) but also adds about $500 to the price–a significant amount of money for a very minor difference in speed. And the SX2840-01 isn’t short-stacked otherwise: With 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory and a 1TB hard drive, it’s a great budget PC.As expected, the SX2840-01 falls short as a gaming machine. It was able to produce an average frame rate of only 13.9 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (2560 by 2100 resolution, high quality). No system under the SX2840-01’s price point did any better. However, if you’re willing to pony up an additional sum, you’ll be pleased with the 82 fps that the $699 Micro Express MicroFlex 75B can dish out.

Gateway offers a better-than-expected amount of connectivity on the front and rear of this jet-black system. A flip-down black panel conceals the five USB ports, multiformat card reader, and single mini-FireWire 400 port on the system’s front. The panel design is a great way to preserve the plain black aesthetics of the machine when the connections aren’t in use.

The rear of the SX2840-01 is home to a significant amount of connections for a system of this price, including four USB ports, one eSATA port, an optical S/PDIF output, integrated 5.1 surround sound, a gigabit ethernet port, and one HDMI connector. A significant drawback, however, is the SX2840-01’s omission of a DVI connection: If your monitor doesn’t support HDMI (and no HDMI-to-DVI converter accompanies the system, either), you’re stuck with the paltry VGA option. Yuck.

As mentioned, the smaller frame of the SX2840-01’s chassis means that you won’t be able to tinker around much with the insides. The system has no open bays for adding 3.5- or 5.25-inch devices; upgrades to your optical-drive or hard-drive selection are limited to a replacement of the system’s primary components. As for the motherboard, the inclusion of a single PCI Express x1 slot and a PCI Express x16 slot offers a good amount of freedom for a system like this–we were expecting a lesser combination of an x1 slot and an x4 slot, or just a plain PCI slot.

The system’s mouse and keyboard are both generic, offering no additional functionality beyond a few keyboard buttons for controlling volume. It would have been nice to see a more souped-up version of either input device (or, for that matter, a switch to wireless connectivity).

You get what you pay for with the Gateway SX2840-01. Its limited potential for future upgrades and the omission of DVI are considerable issues, but its general performance is very strong. If you don’t mind the few flaws, the SX2840-01 is a shining example of a great budget desktop.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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