Top budget desktop PCs

Aimed at the value-conscious, these budget desktops will tackle your computing needs without breaking the bank

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Pros:
Built-in Wireless-N networking
TV tuner
Excellent price-to-performance ratio

Cons:
10/100 ethernet connection
Limited upgrade potential

Bottom Line: It's small, it's inexpensive, and it's not upgradable--but why would you want to rip the Blu-ray player out of this superskinny system anyway? The networking, however, is another story.

REVIEW:
There are parts of the HP Pavilion Slimline s5660f that we love. There are parts of this thin, $730 (as of January 13, 2011) budget desktop that we loathe. And there are parts that are unavoidably absent due to the construction of this 16-by-4.5-by-12.25-inch rig. This is truly a PC that fulfills a specific purpose--if your list of needs includes strong general performance, affordability, and high-definition support, you'll do well to check out the s5660f. But if you're looking for a desktop that you can upgrade, a system that you can stream media to, or a machine with a vast diversity (or large number) of connections, steer clear.

HP opts to use AMD's 2.9GHz Phenom II 840T quad-core CPU in this computer, and it does much to prove that you can't always judge a system by its size (at least, not in this case). That processor, coupled with 6GB of DDR3 memory, helped this slim desktop earn a score of 119 on our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, an indicator of excellent general performance for a relatively low-priced system. Desktops on our charts that deliver better results, such as the Gateway DX4320-45, have a much less impressive price-for-performance ratio than the s5660f does.

The s5660f packs a 1TB hard drive and a Blu-ray combo drive into its comparatively small frame--both are terrific additions. Less impressive is the machine's inclusion of Fast Ethernet instead of gigabit ethernet. To HP's credit, though, the Slimline does support Wireless-N connectivity.

On this slim desktop HP did a fairly decent job of filling out the connections on the front and rear of the case. The front seems a bit neglected, with its simple setup of two USB ports and a multiformat card reader. The rear of the s5660f is a bit more substantial, providing four USB ports, a coaxial audio connection, integrated 7.1 surround sound, the aforementioned Fast Ethernet connection, and DVI and HDMI connections on the system's integrated Intel video setup. While the omission of eSATA and FireWire is kind of a bummer, the s5660f is forgiven for unexpectedly throwing a full TV tuner into the mix. Now, if only we had gigabit ethernet speeds to go with that...

If you're considering upgrading any part of this relatively inexpensive system, push that thought from your mind. The interior of the rig just has no room for you to make any adjustments. You'll find no free 5.25-inch bays, no free 3.25-inch bays (and especially none free within easy reach of a screwdriver), and no free PCI slots. Upgrading, in this instance, really means replacing, and that won't be the easiest or most enviable of tasks for the aspiring adjuster.

A simple wireless mouse accompanies the s5660f, alongside an equally generic yet cord-free wireless keyboard. While we dislike the fact that both products are standard and dull, their wireless capabilities do give them a slight boost above their cord-bound peers.

Is HP's Pavilion Slimline s5660f worth picking up? If size is your only concern, yes, provided that you don't find yourself pining for the additional connection options and networking capabilities found in competing slim systems. You'll need to look to a midsize-tower desktop such as HP's own Pavilion p6640f if you wish to tinker around with the system, but you'll lose much in the process. However, for what it offers--Blu-ray support, a TV tuner, HDMI accessibility, great general performance--HP's Pavilion Slimline s5660f is well priced and ready for a living room.

Lenovo H320
Lenovo H320 Review, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal March 31, 2011

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