HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f Review

by Reads (17,834)
  • Pros

    • TV tuner
    • Quad-core CPU
    • Small form factor

     

  • Cons

     

    • Little expandability
    • Not enough USB ports

     


As we head into the summer, we find ourselves caught in that uncertain time between graduation and the beginning of the next school year, right when people buy new computers. Trying to stake their claim in the oncoming rush, HP recently introduced this year’s fall line of desktops. With a multitude of features packed into such a small package, is the HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f headed for a dorm room near you? Read on for our full review.

Specifcations
Our review unit came equipped according to the following specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz (4MB L2 cache)
  • Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 
  • Hard drive: 750GB SATA @ 7200RPM
  • Optical drive: 16X DVD+/-RW / Blu-ray reader
  • Sound: Integrated HD audio
  • Video card: NVIDIA GeForce G210 with 512MB DDR2 
  • Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • Wireless networking: 802.11a/b/g/n wi-fi
  • Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
  • Built-in 6-in-1 memory card reader
  • ATSC/NTSC PCI Express TV Tuner
  • Inputs: 6 USB2.0 (2 front, 4 back), 7.1 audio out + headphone/microphone jacks
  • Power supply: 220W
  • Dimensions: 16.9 x 6.5 x 15.1 inches (L x W x D)
  • Warranty: One-year limited parts and labor

The HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f is available pre-configured with a suggested retail price of $879.99.

Build and Design
The sleek design of HP’s new small form factor Pavilion Slimline PC is becoming an increasingly popular trend in the desktop space. Manufacturers have finally realized that computers don’t need to be big and ugly anymore, and HP has jumped on the bandwagon with a vengeance. Despite the fact that the s5160f measures only just over six inches wide, there’s quite a bit of technology packed within its frame.

HP Pavilion Slimline

Like most desktops these days, the case is largely constructed of metal with a plastic facade glamming up the front of the machine. Given the computer’s narrow design, the optical drive is located vertically; this is pretty common with these slim form factors. The ODD is covered with the same shiny plastic as the rest of the front of the computer, covering up the eject button and manual eject hole. The eject button is moved to a physical button on the front of the machine, located directly beneath the Blu-ray drive. Add in a couple of USB ports, card reader and headphone jack, and that’s the front of the machine. It’s a fairly clean design, which is a departure from many desktops lately that try to cram everything but the kitchen sink into the front of the computer. It would be nice to move the branding stickers off and onto the side of the machine — visible, but mostly out of view — but it’s doubtful we’ll see that anytime soon.

HP Pavilion Slimline HP Pavilion Slimline

The left of the machine is empty save for a few venting holes. It would be nice to see manufacturers take a more stylish stance on venting; after seeing some cases with pretty creative vents, some of the big name manufacturers could probably do really interesting designs. The vents continue up onto the top of the computer, and are completely absent from the right side of the desktop. Given that this side, if exposed would be blocked by the motherboard, it’s no real surprise, but it does mean that consumers can orient the computer horizontally as well as vertically, without having to worry about blocked vents and overheating.

One subtle aspect of the Slimline s5160f’s design that could easily be overlooked is the way HP handled notifications and lighting on the computer. Anyone who has used modern consumer electronics in a dark room will quickly come to realize that unnecessarily bright LEDs are the bane of their existence. Fortunately, HP seems to have realized that users don’t need to be able to see that their hard drive is being accessed from another room and toned things down a bit. The translucent power button, located on top of the machine, is lit from within by a gentle blue LED whenever the computer is powered on. A matching clear translucent strip at the very top of the front of the machine glows the same soft blue whenever the s5160f is powered up. Right below the memory card slot on the front of the machine is the hard drive access light. Unlike most, however, nothing is visible unless it’s actually lit up, keeping that expanse of case unblemished. When the hard drive is accessed, it lights up with a soft amber color, and when the access ceases, it goes back to being invisible.

Inputs and Expansion
As computers get smaller, it’s no surprise that that the number of ways to expand and extend its functionality are reduced. HP, as I said earlier, however, manages to fit a surprising amount of technology into this small frame. The front of the machine offers a card reader, two USB ports, a single headphone jack and the optical drive. This is a surprising departure from many desktops that try and fit a lot of ports onto the front of the machine, sacrificing style in the process. The optical drive is a fairly dense piece of technology in and of itself, offering Blu-ray, DVD and CD reading as well as DVD and CD authoring. It’s also LightScribe capable, so any discs you burn can have a silkscreen-quality label added on.

For all that the front of the machine is relatively sparse, the back of the machine absolutely bristles with ports, slots and inputs. There are four more USB2.0 ports, two of which will be taken up by the included dongles for the wireless networking adapter and wireless keyboard and mouse set. This really means that there are only four available USB ports for people to use. There is gigabit Ethernet built-in, as well as 7.1 analog audio and digital audio out. Given that the desktop is only six inches wide, you wouldn’t expect there to much available in the way of expansion cards, but HP actually adds in two slim profile cards. One of these is the NVIDIA GeForce G210 video card. Paired with 512MB of dedicated memory, the G210 isn’t going to power any high-end gaming sessions, but games that have low requirements will be fine; the G210 will also handle any necessary video decoding or GPGPU acceleration.

The second card pre-installed by HP is a TV tuner. The tuner is hybrid in nature, capable of record both NTSC and ATSC content streams. Since the digital transition, this tuner is less amazing than it might have been, but still very useful for recording either basic cable or over-the-air HDTV. HP thankfully included an IR blaster and remote control in the box with the s5160f, meaning there’s no need to go out and find a Windows-compatible remote control. Any actual DVR and media needs can be served by the capable functions that are now a part of Windows Vista Home Premium.

Inside, most of the space is, taken up by components, which is no surprise. There are three main fans to the system, one built into the power supply, one attached to the CPU heatsink and one to the right of the system, which serves to draw heat and air down from the hard drive and optical drive area. The little space behind this fan is really the only empty room in the entire case. There are two expansion slots, one PCI Express x1 and one PCI Express x16, both of which are populated with cards installed at the factory. The two drive bays, one each of 5.25″ and 3.5″ are also both already used. There are four slots for RAM, all of which are taken up by six gigabytes of memory (2 1024MB DIMMs, 2 512MB DIMMs). It’s interesting that HP chose to go with DDR3 memory instead of DDR2. Thankfully all four slots are used up, preventing the need from removing a fan and the optical drive just to gain access to where the memory sits.

Basically, this system is designed to be feature complete from the factory. There’s no need to install more RAM, with six gigabytes, though the system does support a maximum of eight. There’s little need to install a dedicated graphics card unless you’re trying to increase gaming performance, and the few slim form factor cards available aren’t exactly top of the line. The optical drive is already pretty impressive, with Blu-ray read and DVD, CD and LightScribe write capabilities, and the hard drive is relatively large, at 750GB.

Performance
It seems to be a trend to partner Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q8200 and this slim form factor, with several recent systems using the quad-core processor. While it isn’t the fastest quad-core chip out there, especially from Intel, the extra cores come in handy with anything optimized for multi-core processing. Rendering programs, audio and video encoding and decoding, compression algorithms, etc, can all take advantage of the extra processing power.

wPrime CPU performance comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Desktop Time to complete wPrime 32M
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 16.301s
Gateway SX2800-01 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 16.35s
HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 16.379s
Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz) 30.999s
Dell Studio Hybrid (Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz) 35.582s

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

Desktop PCMark06 Score
HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 7107 PCMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 6887 PCMarks
Gateway SX2800-01 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 6539 PCMarks
Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz) 5589 PCMarks
Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz) 5433 PCMarks

PCMark Vantage overall general performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop PCMark Vantage Score
HP Pavilion Elite m9600t (Intel Core i7 920 @ 2.66GHz) 6479 PCMarks
Alienware Area-51 790i (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 @ 2.66GHz) 5976 PCMarks
HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 5280 PCMarks
Gateway SX2800-01 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 5035 PCMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)
4847 PCMarks

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

Desktop 3DMark06 Score
HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f (Core 2 Quad Q8200, NVIDIA G210)  2547 3DMarks
Dell Studio One 19 (Pentium Dual Core E5200, NVIDIA 9400) 1966 3DMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Core 2 Quad Q8200, ATI HD3450 256MB) 1820 3DMarks
Apple Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo P7350, NVIDIA 9400M) 1552 3DMarks
Gateway SX2800-01 (Core 2 Quad Q8200, Intel X4500HD) 1117 3DMarks

HDTune results:

The performance of the s5160f is right on par with many other small form factor systems that possess similar characteristics. The CPU-centric scores all vary by well under ten percent; where it does come out on top is with the 3D and GPU-centric scores. The G210 is an OEM-only discrete graphics card geared toward lower-power systems. While it wouldn’t hold a candle to higher-end discrete card, it blows away any integrated graphics solution. You may not be able to play Crysis on this machine, but you won’t exactly be limited to Minesweeper, either. The 750GB hard drive is nicely speedy, averaging out to just over eighty megabytes per second.

Software
HP has put a lot of effort into some of their specialized software platforms, both in applications that users interact with directly, and those that serve in an indirect or prophylactic fashion. The flashiest of these are definitely the Mediasmart spplications; HP includes four different apps with the suite. One covers optical disc viewing, one covers music playback, one covers photo viewing and the last takes care of digital video files. All of these are attractive and flashy, with several neat features.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f

It may end up a little perplexing to the end user, with both Windows Media Center and all of these applications together on the same machine, doing many of the same features. Still, having the choice is nice, and it’s possible to see a few instances where users may wish to use just one of these applications without needing to start up a full suite like Media Center.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160fHP Pavilion Slimline s5160f

Another neat bit of software is HP’s new health and driver check programs. Similar to applications offered by Lenovo for some time, the new utilities scan the computer and search for vulnerabilities, problems, or out of date drivers, and give users the chance to download and install them. It’s a nice way to keep things up to date without having to go and scan websites for new additions.

HP Pavilion Slimline s5160f

Accessories
I was really impressed by all of the accessories HP includes in the box. It was mentioned earlier that the Slimline s5160f feels very feature complete in that everything that might get upgraded already is, and there’s no need to go out and buy anything extra. The same goes for the accessories included in the box. The keyboard and mouse, while relatively basic, are both wireless and feel sturdy enough. There’s also an included remote control and pair of IR blasters, to use with other media components.

Power, Heat and Noise
The Pavilion Slimline s5160f has a lot of features and gadgets, and all that technology consumes power. As a result, while the new HP desktop is not at all the most power hungry desktop around, neither is it so efficient as to stay running 24/7. At idle, we found the s5160f to pull down around 83 watts of electricity; watching HD movie trailers pushed the usage up to 101 watts; we were able to max out the power draw at around 135 watts of electricity. Powered off, the system still drew a little under a watt of power. Part of the draw of these systems is no doubt the fans required to keep everything cool in such a confined space; the fans in this desktop never quite spin down all the way. If you were using this in a media setting, hooked up across the room, chances are the noise wouldn’t be too noticeable. Sitting right next to you on a desk, however, the drone of the fans is apparent. It definitely isn’t loud, but it is there.

 

Conclusion
HP has managed to build an impressive little machine in the new Slimline s5160f. While not the smallest one of these systems that share similar specifications, it certainly feels like it offers the most features, between the TV tuner, remote control, IR blaster, included software and more. The build quality is sturdy, giving a high quality feel to the desktop. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to see HP paying more attention to annoyances like super bright LEDs and correcting the situation.

All of this technology comes at a price, however, with the system clocking in at close to $900. While that may seem expensive compared to other options, even those with some next generation chips like Intel’s Core i7, those systems can’t compete in the size and style categories. It’s easy to see this computer put into dorm rooms this fall, with its compact nature a boon to users wanting more power than a notebook without taking up the huge footprint of a full tower. If feature-packed, quad-core power in a small footprint appeals to you, then you should definitely check HP’s new Slimline out.

Pros

  • TV tuner
  • Quad-core CPU
  • Small form factor
  • Included wireless

 

Cons

  • Little expandability
  • Not enough USB ports

 

 


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