Hewlett-Packard Australia Pavilion Slimline S3380A
- Good performance, small footprint, runs quietly
- Remote control receiver isn't built in, no free slots for expansion cards or memory, no Wi-Fi
All up, apart from the ugly remote control receiver, this unit is good looking enough to be placed in the lounge room as a media centre, and it's small enough to be used as a desktop PC even in the most cramped environments.
Price$ 1,300.00 (AUD)
A slimline PC is perfect for situations where you don't have much space or when you want a computer that will run almost silently. Sure, you'll sacrifice expansion options and some performance (mainly for 3D graphics), but for the most part you'll get a functional machine with all the ports you'll ever need in the near future.
HP's Pavilion Slimline S3380A is a good example of all the good that can be found in a slimline PC for around $1300. It runs an Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 dual-core CPU, which has a speed of 2.4GHz and an 800MHz front side bus; it has 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 500GB hard drive and a double-layer DVD burner, which supports LightScribe, and a 256MB GeForce 8400GS PCI Express graphics card.
Being a slimline PC, the graphics card is half the height of a traditional card, and there isn't any room for extra internal hard drives. HP has made good use of Serial ATA technology by installing both optical and hard drive components that support this interface, which means that the cables for these drives are thin and don't clutter the area too much.
Plenty of ventilation holes are present on the machine's panels and there are cooling fans for the graphics card and CPU. These run quietly, so you're not likely to get annoyed by them unless you run the PC overnight in your bedroom. The ventilation will be needed as the machine also has a digital TV tuner card installed, which will get quite hot when it's decoding standard- and high-definition channels.
As for space requirements, the Pavilion is 34x28x11cm (LxWxH) and can be placed either on a desk with a monitor on top, or it can be sat upright like a tower, either on a desk or on the floor. In fact, its power button is located at the top of the front panel, so it is well-suited to a floor-standing position.
Connections at the front of the unit make it a convenient one to use; you'll find USB 2.0, audio, as well as memory card slots (for SD, CompactFlash and Memory Stick, among others) and it also has an external slot for one of HP's optional Pocket Media Drives. Essentially, these are external hard drives with a USB interface and capacities ranging from 80GB to 160GB. However, the only advantage of this drive over a regular USB-based external hard drive is that it can be neatly tucked into the front of the PC. With external hard drives being so inexpensive these days (their cost per formatted gigabyte is approximately 50 cents), you should probably opt for something bigger, which will also let you back up the data on the installed 500GB internal hard drive.
On the rear of the unit you'll find PS/2, 10/100 Ethernet as well as one FireWire port, and there are analogue and digital audio output options. HP supplies the unit with a relatively comfortable cordless keyboard (with plenty of useful shortcut buttons – and there's a system tray utility that lets you know when Caps Lock and Num Lock are on) and mouse (the buttons on this are hard to press and it's a little uncomfortable overall), as well as a Media Centre remote control. Unfortunately, the receivers for these devices aren't integrated in the PC. You have to plug in a tiny cordless receiver for the keyboard and mouse, and a large, clunky-looking receiver for the Media Centre remote control.
For running everyday office applications, browsing the Web, as well as watching movies, the machine has plenty of speed. It scored 94 in WorldBench 6, which is about what you can expect from a high-end notebook, so it's not sluggish at all. And you'll be able to multitask with ease. Its time of one minute 11 seconds in our iTunes test – where we convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files – is an expected result. You won't get much 3D performance out of this machine, but it will run older games well at low resolutions. Only a DVI port is present for video output, so if you plan to run it with a high-definition TV, you might need to purchase an adapter. We had no problems running high-definition resolutions on our Samsung monitors.
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