By: Joel Santo Domingo - Editor's Rating: 4.0/5.0
Finding the best-value PC on a tight budget is always a challenge. How do you find the system that gives you the most bang for the least bucks? The Gateway SX2380-UR318 ($489.99 list) has the answer. It is a great choice for the price-conscious PC buyer. It has a lot of the features that were optional only a few years ago, like DX11-compatible graphics, 1TB hard drive, dual core AMD A6-5400K processor, 6GB of memory, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. The compact chassis will easily fit on top of the desk you used for your old tower PC, and with HDMI, you can even hook it up to your HDTV if you want a full PC instead of a media-centric set top box. It's a very attractive choice at an equally attractive low price, and as such is our new Editors' Choice for budget desktops.
Design and Features
The SX2380-UR318 uses a compact small form factor (SFF) case that's similar in styling to the Gateway DX4870-UR11P ($849.99), albeit a bit smaller. The SX2380-UR318 measures about 10.5 by 4 by 15 inches (HWD), so it's a lot slimmer than most mini tower systems. Its all-black plastic and metal construction has some interesting curves to look at. SFF systems are popular in the budget arena, as seen in systems like the Lenovo H520s ($449). However, entry-level all-in-one desktops like the current Editors' Choice Gateway One ZX4970G-UW308 ($598) and HP Pavilion 20-b010z ($450) will give you similar performance and features with the addition of a built-in screen. That said, the SFF form factor is good if you want to eventually upgrade the hard drive or memory in your system, as SFF systems use less expensive desktop-class parts. And if you already have a flat panel display from a previous system, you can use it with SFF systems like the SX2380-UR318.
The protruding lip on the top of the chassis has the power button built into the top and the system's DVD eject button on the front. Below the door for the tray-loading DVD burner is a pair of exposed USB 2.0 ports, microphone jack, and headphone jack. It would have been more convenient to have the system's two USB 3.0 ports on the front rather than on the back panel. Other ports on the back include a pair of leads for the included Wi-Fi antennas, four more USB 2.0 ports (for a total of six USB 2.0, two USB 3.0), audio ports, Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI. The system has PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, and bundles in a utilitarian USB wired keyboard and mouse set. You may want to invest in a keyboard/mouse solution that takes advantage of the Windows 8 interface.
The SX2380-UR318's Wi-Fi adapter is on a PCIe x1 card, and it's a good one. It has the dual antennas so it will work with 802.11n MIMO routers, as well as older 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n routers. The dual antennas also help range, so this system is a good choice if you only have one wireless router and it's on the opposite side of your house. The interior of the system also has a half-height PCIe x16 graphics card slot free, and free slots for two more memory DIMMs. The SX2380-UR318 can handle up to maximum of 16GB of memory with 6GB already installed. The DVD burner and 3.5-inch 1TB hard drive occupy the rest of the internal space, along with the motherboard and 220W power supply.
The SX2380-UR318 uses an AMD A6-5400K dual-core processor with built-in Radeon HD 7540D integrated graphics. The combo runs very cool and quiet, even when running our strenuous benchmark tests. This system is a good choice for people who are sensitive to fan noise like budding recording artists.
The SX2380-UR318 comes with a 1TB hard drive, which has plenty of space on it, even out of the box. However, there is a long list of pre-installed programs on the system. Most are benign, but they are mostly available for free on the Internet or in the Windows Store to begin with. We won't list them all here, but there are 22 extra programs on the Start screen aside from the usual tiles that are on every Windows 8 system. Plenty of the apps are useful (Evernote, Tuneinradio, Skype), but some are simply shopping sites in apps (eBay, Amazon), and some others require subscriptions to services (Kindle, Hulu Plus, Netflix). You're likely to find something that is useful to you, but my goodness that's a lot of extra tiles. Unless you already have a Windows 8-ready touch-screen monitor, it's also going to be a lot of scrolling with the mouse. The SX2380-UR318 comes with a one-year warranty.
While it should be noted that you're not buying an entry level PC for raw performance, the AMD A6-5400K is competitive with other entry-level processors, including the Intel Core i5-2320 in the Lenovo H520s. Thanks to the 6GB of system memory, the SX2380-UR318 can handle several programs running simultaneously, even if you're the type of person who never closes tabs in your browsing sessions. The SX2380-UR318 gained entirely adequate scores at our tests measuring day-to-day tasks (PCMark7), multimedia creation (Handbrake, Photoshop CS6), and even 3D gaming (3DMark11). You get what you pay for, so don't expect earth-shattering results, but the system is perfectly fine for day-to-day tasks like writing papers, surfing the Internet, playing back music and videos, and taking the red eye out of the occasional photo. If you need more power for more extensive media work, then you should consider moving up to the midrange desktop or laptop categories.
The Gateway SX2380-UR318 is a well-equipped entry-level SFF desktop, which is where many general-purpose users should start if they're just getting around to replacing an old desktop that was bought during George W. Bush's first term. If you're starting from scratch or are buying your family a second or fourth PC and you don't have a spare monitor, you're may want to look at an all-in-one budget system like the Gateway One ZX4970G-UW308. But if you're looking to keep using a monitor you already have or hook the desktop up to your HDTV, then the Gateway SX2380-UR318 is a good base unit that's usable, has many of the features you need in a new PC, and comes at a very reasonable price. It's our top choice for the person looking to save money while replacing a really old PC or even the user that wants a PC in the living room connected to the HDTV. The SX2380-UR318 is our new Editors' Choice for budget desktops.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.