HP Pavilion Slimline s3040.uk review

£461
Price when reviewed

It isn’t often that we open our appraisal of a desktop PC with rousing exclamations, but the HP Slimline provides a welcome opportunity – it’s a brilliant piece of design work. The glossy black and silver finish is gorgeous, and the dimensions are tiny enough that you’ll be able to squeeze the Slimline in almost anywhere – at just over 10cm wide, it’s a prime candidate for a living-room system.

There’s plenty on the front of the PC to keep you from needing to reach around the back too often. The power button is on the top lip of the chassis, while status lights for the optical drive and hard disk are concealed between a frosted plastic cover that runs up the middle of the case. There’s also a comprehensive set of memory card slots: MMC, Memory Stick and SmartMedia cards are all catered for. There’s also a USB port, plus a 3.5mm jack for headphones.

True to the Slimline’s sleek design, the optical drive is hidden behind a hinged bay door, the top of which acts as the open button. The drive itself is a jack-of-all-trades, writing to all kinds of CD and DVD, including DVD-RAM, at decent speeds. Internal storage takes the form of a 320GB Samsung hard disk – a reasonable capacity, but bear in mind you’ll have to resort to an external option if you do run out of room, since there’s only a single internal drive bay.

Indeed, upgradeability is our only real complaint. Open up the Slimline and everything’s packed in neatly, helped by the use of a SATA optical drive and hard disk. But both RAM sockets are already filled and, while you might not feel the need to buy more for a while, it would have been nice to have the option to upgrade.

What the Slimline lacks in internal expansion, it makes up for on the back panel. Both mouse and keyboard are PS/2 models, so the four USB ports on the back remain untroubled. There’s also a full-sized FireWire port here, and you can employ a set of up to 7.1 speakers using the 3.5mm jacks, or the coaxial S/PDIF port to send audio to a higher-end amp.

Video connectors are slightly sparser: there’s DVI-I and an S-Video connector. And, although the Slimline’s form factor is perfect for an entertainment centre, the lack of either an internal TV tuner or remote control receiver means you’ll have to add all of these via USB if that’s your intention – the single half-height PCI slot won’t be of much help here. The Nvidia GeForce 7300 LE graphics card also struggles with anything more than the most basic of games, returning an overall benchmark score of just 12fps in Call of Duty 2, running at its lowest settings.

Our review unit had an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ at its heart, and while the chip is approaching venerability, it’s by no means slow. It’s still dual-core, with both processors running at 2GHz. But blink and you’ll miss this particular SKU (s3040.uk) – it will be replaced in August by the s3140.uk, which, according to HP, will cost the same but use a slightly faster Athlon 64 X2 4400+ processor and Nvidia GeForce 7500 LE graphics card. The rest of the specifications remain the same, including the strong software bundle of Works 8 and Roxio Creator.

There’s much to like about this PC. Its performance isn’t exactly headline news, but it offers more than enough for home use. If you’re prepared to lower your sights a little, particularly when it comes to gaming potential, then the Slimline has a lot to offer. The miniature design is perfect for a PC that won’t have a study to call its own, and its looks make it something that we’d be happy to give pride of place – naturally, you’d be better off waiting for the higher spec, but either makes a great choice.

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