HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f Desktop Review

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HP’s new Pavilion Slimline s3500f is a compact machine aimed at consumers who want a capable computer that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg.  The preconfigured s3500f is sold in retail outlets as well as online stores.  Offering a dual core AMD processor, 4GB of RAM and a 64-bit operating system, HP provides a unique value to customers — but is it right for you?

Specifications

Our review unit came with the following specifications:

  • 2.8GHz AMD Athlon X2 5400 processor (1MB L2 Cache)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE graphics with TurboCache(integrated)
  • 4GB PC2-6400 DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB 7200RPM SATA hard drive
  • Super-Multi CD/DVD recorder with Lightscribe capabilities
  • 802.11b/g wireless LAN access
  • 10/100BaseT network interface
  • 15-in-1 card reader
  • 56k PCI Data/Fax modem
  • High Definition 6-channel audio
  • 160W power supply
  • 13.39″(L) x 4.21″(W) x 10.87″(H/D)
  • Weight: 19.05 lbs
  • One year parts and labor warranty, 90-day phone software support

In this configuration, the HP Pavilion Slimeline s384500f costs $579.99.

Build and Design

The most striking thing about the Slimline s3500f is the very compact size of the unit.  Measuring just over a foot long and less than a foot high, this desktop can live up to its name by fitting on your desk without taking up too much room.  It’s easy to get used to the size until you open the optical disc tray and realize just how small the case is.

 

 

The stylish chassis is solid, with metal covering all four of the sides.  It won’t be so easy to scratch as some plastic cases.  The optical drive is set vertically — a requirement since the machine is only four inches wide — with a glossy exterior cover and button to match the rest of the case front.  It’s heavier than it looks but for a desktop, that’s a good thing.  There’s no need to worry about accidentally knocking it off of your work surface. 

 

Here you can see the right side of the case, with the included wireless antenna sticking out from the back.  All of the pieces fit together snugly with no flexing or bending.  The connections in the front and back are tight with little give. 

Inputs and Expansion

The Pavilion s3500f comes with a front panel 15-in-1 memory card reader, making it a simple task to pop the card out of a digital camera and into the computer for photo or video editing.  There are two USB 2.0 ports in the front with four more in the back to plug in peripherals.  Also located on the front panel is a headphone jack, relieving consumers of the need to scrabble around the back of the computer trying to plug in a pair of headphones. 

As a welcome surprise, the back of this desktop features both a firewire port as well as a digital audio out (coax) port.  With the aid of a TV tuner card, this could be a very capable addition to any home theater; its compact size and wireless connectivity render it unobtrusive when displayed next to any cable box or gaming system. 


With the optical drive taking up a majority of the room, it’s easy to see how compact the case is.

The Pavilion s3500f also comes with an open PCI Express x16 slot, meaning users can make an upgrade from the integrated graphics with a low-profile dedicated video card.  With only a 160W graphics card, however, even HP notes that you would likely need to upgrade the power supply at the same time. 

One interesting feature of this computer is the HP Pocket Media Drive Bay.  Hidden beneath a movable cover on the bottom front of the computer, this drive bay is engineered to couple with HP’s conveniently named Pocket Media Drive.  The drive can be used as a traditional external storage drive or the user can insert the Pocket Media Drive into the slot on the front of the desktop…adding removable internal storage via a specialized USB port inside the drive bay.

Keyboard and Mouse

The s3500f comes with a basic keyboard and mouse, both using the older PS/2 standard.  The mouse features an optical receiver and works well, although it was a bit small for my hand.  The keyboard features multimedia buttons and hotkeys along the left, right and top right corner.


The fact that both peripherals use the older PS/2 standard could be seen as a boon, as it frees up two USB ports for other devices.

The extra keys on the keyboard provide quick access to common applications and multimedia functions.

 

Performance and Benchmarks

While system performance seems a little on the low side, a majority of this is due to the lack of a discrete graphics subsystem.  For users not intending to do serious gaming or video encoding, however, the dual core processor and generous four gigabytes of RAM are probably more than a match.  Even with both cores at 100% processing a different wPrime benchmark, the system suffered little slowdown and remained usable enough to browse the web and play flash videos.

wPrime is a PC performance benchmarking program that forces the computer to perform recursive mathematical calculations.  This program is multithreaded, meaning we can take advantage of more than one core of a processor at a time, resulting in a more realistic estimate of a computer’s performance.

wPrime benchmark comparison results (lower numbers mean better performance):

Desktop wPrime 32M time

Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz)

     13.869s

Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 (Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz)

     25.879s

Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz)

     27.65s

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz)

   29.733s

PCMark05 overall system performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop PCMark05 Score

Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850, NVIDIA FX4600)

9,999 PCMarks

Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 (Core 2 Duo E8400, Intel X3100)

5,275 PCMarks

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (AMD Athlon X2 5400, NVIDIA 6150SE)

4,981 PCMarks
Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom, NVIDIA 6150SE) 4,593 PCMarks

3DMark06 gaming performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop 3DMark06 Score

Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850, NVIDIA FX4600)

10,327 3DMarks

Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom, NVIDIA 6150SE)

403 3DMarks

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (AMD Athlon X2 5400, NVIDIA 6150SE)

350 3DMarks

Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 (Core 2 Duo E8400, Intel X3100)

240 3DMarks

 

HDTune results:

 

Heat, Noise and Power Consumption

The HP Pavilion s3500f performed an admirable job at keeping core temperatures low though suffered some setbacks when it came to the temperature of the case itself.  At idle, the chip temperature was only 31°C and the motherboard sensor reported 40°C.  Under load, the chip went up to 46°C while the motherboard sensor reporting stayed the same.  The real surprise came, however, in the form of the case.  Between the all metal case and compact stature, the top and side of the case got very warm indeed, ranging from 40.5 to 43.3°C (105 to 110°F).

Temperatures:

Location Idle Load
CPU Sensor 31°C 46°C
Motherboard Sensor 40°C 40°C

Given the nature of the integrated graphics processor, the power consumption of the system was unsurprisingly about the same as a common incandescent light bulb.  At idle, the system drew a max of 75W of power.  At full load, it only consumed 30 more Watts for a total of 105W.  Even used eight hours a day at full load, the average cost to run this PC is only about 8.4 cents.  Over the course of a month, it would cost just over two and a half dollars to operate.  By and large the system remained very quiet; fans would kick up almost imperceptibly to cool the processors.  The only real issue with noise came from the hard drive; on a plastic table the noise generated by drive access was distracting.

 

Conclusion

This compact desktop delivers average performance in terms of CPU power.  HP ups the value proposition, however, by augmenting the system with 4 GB of RAM and a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, which is still fairly rare in the industry.  With its small footprint and simple, yet attractive case, the HP s3500f offers an acceptable performance/price ratio.  The integrated graphics limits the system, but a new power supply and low profile video card could rectify the situation.  This PC would make a fine addition to a home office or dorm.

Pros

  • 4GB RAM with a 64-bit OS capable of using all 4 gigabytes
  • Quiet (aside from hard drive)
  • Compact footprint
  • Reasonably low power use

Cons

  • Noisy hard drive
  • Case gets very hot


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