Top 10 budget desktop PCs

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

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Gateway SX2800-01r Value PC
SX2800-01r Value PC Review, by David Murphy, PCWorld December 21, 2009



CPU: Core 2 Quad Q8200; CPU speed: 2.33GHz; Graphics adapter: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD; Monitor: Yes; Hard drive size: 640GB

Quad-core processor
Good storage for its price

Compact design limits upgradability
Poor gaming performance

Bottom Line: If you aren't an upgrader or a gamer, you'll find a great deal to love about the SX2800-01r, Gateway's latest value-desktop offering.

It's shaping up to be quite a rumble at the $500 value-PC price point, as the Gateway SX2800-01 ($499 as of February 1, 2010) offers performance nearly identical to that of the $520 HP Pavilion A6710t and the $499 Acer Veriton X270. However, while the SX2800-01 has a slight advantage over those PCs in general performance, Gateway's compact and shiny desktop still falls victim to some of the same issues common to value PCs at this level.

The SX2800-01 runs a 2.33GHz processor, which is slower than the chips in the Acer (2.8GHz Core 2 Duo) and HP (2.6-GHz Dual-Core), but it throws two additional cores into the mix. That's right: The SX2800-01 rocks an Intel Core 2 Quad Processor 8200, which helps the Gateway PC deliver stronger performance on applications that support the additional multithreading. The included 4GB of DDR3-800 memory also trumps the 2GB-to-3GB RAM offerings in the HP and Acer. Finally, the Gateway's storage capacity of 640GB is a monster amount for a system at this price, beating the paltry 160GB hard disk of the Acer and the 500GB found on HP's A6710t.

In general performance the SX2800-01 is excellent for a machine at this price. Its WorldBench 6 score of 98 matched that of both the Acer and the HP. On the gaming side of our tests, however, it was a complete bust; the SX2800-01 simply wasn't made for graphically intensive games. The 9-frames-per-second result that it delivered on a trimmed-down version of our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (tested at 1024 by 768 resolution, high quality) is laughable. To be fair, though, the Acer X270 wouldn't even run the game at that same resolution and quality setting, and the HP A6710t's 17-fps result wasn't playable either.

The SX2800-01 is equipped with nine USB ports (five on the front, four on the back), a single mini-FireWire 400 port, a multiformat card reader, gigabit ethernet, eSATA, an S/PDIF output, and HDMI connections. That pretty much covers everything--save for the strange omission of a DVI port. While one could argue that HDMI supplants the functionality of DVI, far more monitors on the market are equipped to handle the latter.

The machine's beautiful, black, glossy exterior does an excellent job of hiding the front-panel connections and DVD burner. One nice touch: The large power button on the case's top makes the PC easy to switch on or off if you have it beneath a desk.

As for the inside of the case, well, it's not so much a mess as it is completely cramped. The interior has no room for upgrades of any kind, aside from a single free PCI Express x16 slot. Any modifications you might make to this system will require replacing components--and even then, accessing areas like the RAM slots will require you to remove other devices, such as the optical drive. That's an unpleasant number of extra tasks for what should be a simple procedure.

A generic mouse and keyboard shipped with our review machine, offering no additional functionality beyond what you would find on any other standard input devices. I do like the fact that our SX2800-01 had the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium preinstalled, which ensures that the PC's 4GB RAM is used to the full potential. (Note: This system now ships with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit for the same price.)

Gateway's SX2800-01 value desktop is a fine system for its price. Offsetting the benefits it provides in memory, hard-drive space, and external connections are its horrible gaming performance and its lack of upgradability. But not everybody is a gamer, nor does anyone really need to add even more memory to this stacked desktop machine. The SX2800-01's omissions don't win it points, of course, but they are tolerable on an otherwise sweet system.

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