Key Specs

Processor: 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
Memory: 6GB DDR3
Storage: 750GB hard drive
Optical Drive: BD-ROM/DVD±RW combo
Monitor: None
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce G210 (512MB)
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)


Slimline desktop towers are popular new introductions this year, with Acer, Dell, eMachines, and others all pushing tiny, aesthetically appealing towers more so than traditional full-size cases. But while the slimline eMachines EL1300G-01W is about as underpowered as your average netbook, and the $619 configuration of the Dell Inspiron 537s we reviewed was only average, HP's entertainment-centric Pavilion Slimline s5160f is a veritable powerhouse of a PC in a compact package. Our test model came with a Core 2 Quad processor, a 750GB hard drive, and 6GB of DDR3 RAM; extras such as an integrated TV tuner, a Blu-ray drive, and a Media Center remote make this system a pleasure when connected to an HDTV via its HDMI port. Though it could use more USB ports, and the wireless keyboard could be a lot better, these minor issues don't detract much from what is an excellent overall PC package for the price.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f back ports

The PC's back is jammed with ports, including IR-blaster jacks for controlling set-top boxes (like your cable box) with the included remote. HP inludes one IR-blaster cable in the box.

Unlike Dell's colorful slimline Inspiron systems, the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f only comes in basic piano-black, with silver accents. But that's fine by us; it looks good, and if it doesn't match your decor, its compact dimensions (15.1x6.5x16.9 inches, HWD) make it easy to hide. The front of the system houses a vertically mounted Blu-ray drive with a large, nicely springy eject button. Below that, you'll find a pair of USB ports, a headphone jack, and a multiformat flash-memory-card reader that handles SDHC cards, xD-PictureCards, and Sony Memory Sticks. We would have liked to see four front-facing USB ports, like on the eMachines EL1300G-01W, but two should be enough for most users.

Around the back are a plethora of connectors for media-centric use, including digital audio and surround-sound audio connectors, plus DVI, HDMI, and S-Video ports for connecting the system to an HDTV or monitor. There are also antenna and cable coaxial connectors for the integrated AVerMedia TV tuner, and infrared-blaster ports for controlling other video devices (such as your cable box) with the bundled Media Center remote. A Gigabit Ethernet jack enables fast wired network connectivity, while wireless networking is handled via a bundled USB Wi-Fi module from D-Link. The Wi-Fi dongle supports speedy 802.11n, which is great for streaming media, but because it's external, it occupies one of the four rear USB ports. Plug in the USB receiver for the included wireless keyboard and mouse alongside it, and you're left with just two unused USB ports around back.

Inside, it's obvious that you won't be doing much upgrading with this system. (In fairness, that's the case with most small-form-factor PCs.) The motherboard sports two free Serial ATA ports, but the case has minimal empty space and no brackets on which to mount an additional hard drive. Thankfully, the 750GB drive that this system ships with is spacious enough for most users. All four RAM slots are occupied; you can upgrade to a maximum of 8GB of RAM in the future, though the 6GB that's installed is quite sufficient. The free PCI Express x1 slot is blocked by the power supply, which might be a good thing, since the supply is a paltry 220-watt model. It handles what's in the system just fine, but adding demanding internal expansion cards would likely be too much for it. The other two PCI slots are occupied by the TV-tuner card and the half-height Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics card. Again, you could swap out the graphics card, but we'd be wary of installing anything that would levy a much greater power draw on the power supply. If you're the type who often upgrades to extend the life of your system, a full tower is a smarter choice.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f inside

You'll find little upgrade potential inside this small system, but that's okay, as the 220-watt power supply likely can't handle much beyond what's already installed.

The HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f also comes with a wireless keyboard, mouse, and remote—all important items for an entertainment-centric system where, conceivably, you wouldn't want to be tethered to a desk. But while we like the mouse and remote, the keyboard is another story. In a perfect world, it would have a built-in touch pad, like the one that comes with high-end configurations of the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 all-in-one. This keyboard lacks that, but what's worse, its keys feel squishy and don't have a lot of travel. Plus, the dedicated volume-control buttons feel cheap. The keyboard isn't terrible, but compared with everything else that we like about this system, it disappoints.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f wireless peripherals

Though the bundled remote and mouse are both pretty good, the keyboard's squishy feel and lack of dedicated media buttons disappointed.

In our benchmark testing, the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f shined compared with other slimline PCs, and it holds its own against many full-size systems, too, thanks to its powerful 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200 processor and DDR3 RAM. In our CPU-centric Cinebench 10 test, the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f dominated the (admittedly $260-less-expensive) Dell 537s configuration, scoring 9,709, nearly twice as high as the Inspiron 537s's score of 5,548 on the same 64-bit test. In our iTunes file-conversion test and Windows Media Encoder tests, the Dell system also lagged significantly behind.

In our gaming tests, the Dell system, with its Radeon HD 4350 graphics card, did a little better, besting the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f in our DirectX 9 Company of Heroes test, scoring 30.8 frames per second (fps) at 1,280x1,024 resolution, versus the HP Slimline's 25.8fps. However, in 3DMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark test that gives a more-accurate assessment than any single game, the HP system scored 5,309 to the Dell system's 4,201. Both systems' graphics cards have 512MB of dedicated memory, but the bottom line is that with either system, expect to be playing modern 3D games only at lower resolutions, likely with some of the eye-candy settings dialed back or switched off.

To be fair, the Dell Inspiron 537s can be configured with most of the same features of the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f, including the same processor. But when we tried to build a comparable system on Dell's site, we maxed out at 4GB of memory (of the slower DDR2 variety), and there weren't enough PCI slots to accommodate both the TV-tuner card and the discrete graphics card that the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f ships with. Worse still, the comparable Dell configuration with a Formula Red faceplate costs $1,129, or about $250 more than the Pavilion Slimline s5160f. We hardly think Dell's color choices are worth that much of a premium.

HP markets the Pavilion Slimline s5160f as an entertainment PC, and with its TV tuner, remote control, and all its extras, it's definitely capable in that niche. But with its powerful quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of RAM, our tests show it's capable of much more than that. While the Nvidia G210 graphics card is a little limiting in terms of 3D gaming, this HP machine is quite powerful overall, particularly for its size. Those who need a fair amount of PC muscle for video editing and other CPU-centric tasks, but who also want to kick back and watch a Blu-ray movie or some digital TV in their downtime, will find a lot to like in this PC. In fact, we think the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f could serve as a near-perfect dorm PC, particularly if paired with a small HDTV.

Price (at time of review): $879.99 (direct, as tested)


Post a Comment

Custom Search