Although it's roughly half the width of a common midtower desktop, the HP Slimline s5370t does a great job of surpassing many of its value PC peers in performance. But you'll pay a lot for the s5370t's diet. Larger computers make full use of their fatter profiles to deliver a flurry of connections and upgrade possibilities that HP's little PC just can't match. And given the constraints of its trimmed-down profile, the s5370's $1089 price (as of February 19, 2010) makes this a difficult sell.
An Intel Core i5-650 processor coupled with 4GB of DDR3 memory allows this half-size system to reach a score of 124 on our Worldbench 6 testing suite. That's a great result for the category, and it puts the s5370t in the upper range of models on the Value PC chart for performance. However, competing systems like HP's own Compaq 6005 Pro deliver slightly better performance (128) for less ($899 as of February 19, 2010). Larger, midtower desktops like Micro Express's MicroFlex 75B don't exactly blow the s5370t out of the water in WorldBench (it scored 132), but its price-to-performance ratio is vastly superior ($700 as of February 19, 2010).
The s5370t's nVidia GeForce GT220 GPU was able to achieve playable (but low) frame rates when we dialed down the resolution, but its average of 19.4 frames per second on PC World's standard Unreal Tournament 3 gaming benchmark (2560 by 2100 resolution, high quality) is one of the lowest results for the category. The MicroFlex 75B averages 82.0 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3, making it the better option if you're interested in gaming on a budget. Frugal pack rats are bound to appreciate the s5370t's 1.5-terabyte hard drive, though.
HP uses a half-size variant of its usual Pavilion chassis for the s5370t. The glossy black exterior is a welcome sight, and the DVD burner and Pocket Media Drive expansion bay are flush against the front of the system's paneling. As mentioned, size becomes the s5370t's greatest strength and weakness. You have little room on the inside of the chassis to do any tinkering: The wiring is all over the place, and the system's only internal connection--a PCI Express x4 slot--is blocked by the system's huge power supply.
This theme carries through to the s5370t's external connections as well. The loadout isn't bad, just average: Six USB ports on the system's rear join an optical-out port, a FireWire 400 port, a gigabit ethernet port (and integrated wireless-N connectivity), and connections for 5.1 surround sound. The s5370t's front panel underwhelms with a scant two USB ports and a single multiformat card reader. If you opt for the nVidia GT220 GPU that our review system shipped with, you'll receive an additional HDMI port on the case's rear to play with. Just to put this in perspective, the MicroFlex 75B has more connection options on its rear panel than does the entirety of the s5370t.
The HP's generic wired keyboard is superseded by the system's excellent multibutton mouse. This has to be one of the best mice selections HP's made for any of its systems we've reviewed over the past year. Its thumb-toggle buttons make it easy to access whatever functions you choose to assign, and a selectable DPI toggle allows you to quickly adjust the sensitivity of your device on-the-fly.
You can't really upgrade the s5370t, its gaming performance is subpar, and your connectivity options are limited. Those are some tall weaknesses for the speeds you can pull with HP's Slimline PC--and its performance doesn't represent the best bang for your buck when compared with less expensive value PCs. The best thing that HP's slim system has going for it is, humorously enough, its huge storage capacity. Unless you really need to save on desk real estate, you're better served with a fatter PC that can better throw its weight around.
This story, "Review: HP Slimline s5370t: Trims the Fat and Features" was originally published by PCWorld.