The Gateway SX2851-41 has a slim form-factor and delivers good performance and home multimedia features without having to spend too much money. It has built-in wireless, a ton of USB ports, 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive for storing all the movies and music that you'd ever want.
The Gateway SX2851-41's new slim tower features a matte black case, which differs from the usual glossy black finish that Gateway typically uses. The chassis is still made of plastic but does feel quite sturdy and comes apart nicely. The small form-factor would easily fit into a home theater setup without sticking out like a sore thumb. There's also some exterior accent lighting around the top tray and the Gateway logo on the front is backlit. In total, the chassis weighs 12 pounds and measures 12.4 x 3.9 x 10.4-inches.
For future expansion inside the case, you'll find one available PCI-E x16 slot and one PCE-E x1 slot. The latter lets you add your own video card if you wish to upgrade from the integrated graphics processor that comes standard.
In terms of port selection, you'll find HDMI-out and VGA-out, with the first allowing you to connect it to an HDTV. On the back there's also six USB 2.0 ports, mouse/keyboard PS/2 ports, gigabit Ethernet and 5.1 analog audio output jacks. The front panel of this desktop PC offers five more USB 2.0 ports, a multi-format media card reader and two audio ports (microphone & headphone). While this computer gives you an astounding eleven USB ports, none of them are of the latest 3.0 variety and noticeably missing is an eSATA port for high-speed external storage devices.
The specifications of the Gateway SX2851-41 include a dual-core Intel Core i3-550 CPU (3.2GHz), 4GB of DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 8GB), a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive, a dual-layer 16X DVD+/-RW SuperMulti optical drive and integrated Intel GMA HD graphics. There's also built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity and Gateway pre-installs Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) as the operating system of choice.
One note about the Intel i3-550 CPU in this computer is that it is slightly older and is not the most up-to-date chip. However in keeping with the budget price, we suppose that's the reason for using it. However in the coming months, we expect to see the newer Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs to work their way down into budget PCs like this one, so perhaps if you can wait a few more months, it might be worth it.
That said, the Gateway SX2851-41 is still a really great PC for the money, especially because of its multimedia features. The only thing it is missing in that category is a TV tuner, but that can be added by means of a PCI-E expansion card (typically $50-100 retail).
In use, it performs with excellence when surfing the Web, multitasking, playing HD videos from the Internet and many other tasks. For playing today's 3D games, however, you'll want to upgrade the video card from the integrated graphics to a discrete low-profile by means of the available PCI-E x1 slot.