The HP Pavilion Slimline s3200t is a one-stop entertainment center designed for watching videos, playing music, and viewing pictures. Weighing barely 20 pounds and not much bigger than a large metropolitan phone book, the s3200t’s trim and well-engineered case would easily fit in a den, kitchen, bedroom, or other small space. Best of all, even a fully loaded s3200t system, such as the one we tested, costs less than what you’d pay for most desktop computers.
Priced at $1600 (as of November 2, 2007) including a top-notch 22-inch wide-screen LCD, our test s3200t comes packed with just about everything you can fit into its small confines. Beyond its 2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo E4500 and 2GB of DDR2 memory, the s3200t includes both a Blu-ray/HD DVD reader and a dual-layer DVD/CD combo writer, plus one 500GB, 7200-rpm Seagate hard drive for storing a sizeable multimedia collection or TV programs recorded to the PC using its built-in NTSC TV tuner.
HP’s site lets you configure various Slimline models with a few different parts, but other than the optional HP Pocket Media Drive bay–which accepts HP’s 120GB and 160GB USB Personal Media Drives–there’s little room in our s3200t system for expansion.
After opening the s3200t’s well-ventilated case (requiring tools), I found the interior packed to the gills. Two of the system’s drive bays (one external, one internal) are already filled, leaving only one bay for the Pocket Media Drive. The small motherboard has only two DIMM memory slots, both occupied. (To access these slots, you must slide out the optical drive, as the slots are buried beneath it.)
The system’s two card slots–one PCI Express x16, and one PCI–hold the TV tuner and the graphics board. That leaves just the outside connections for system expansion. These connectivity options include five USB slots, one FireWire port, one 10/100 network adapter, and audio ports for the s3200t’s integrated (Realtek ALC888) sound.
Some may find that the s3200t’s performance leaves a bit to be desired. In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite running the s3200t’s 32-bit Vista Home Premium, the s3200t earned a modest 88, but that’s adequate for a home entertainment PC used primarily for light-duty multimedia tasks. Its scores in the Media Encoder, Videowave, and multitasking tests were the slowest of all the systems we recently tested. The s3200t was also about 20 percent slower than the other media center system we concurrently tested, the Gateway GM5632E, which earned a WorldBench score of 108; but that model is also larger and more expensive.
Not surprisingly, the s3200t also had difficulty in achieving smooth frames-per-second rates in our graphics tests. Using a single 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8500GT graphics card on HP’s proprietary motherboard, the s3200t’s highest score was 89 fps for running Far Cry at 1024 by 768 resolution–only about half the fps speed of the faster power PCs we tested (but these systems use speedier graphics boards). Obviously, this isn’t a high-adrenaline machine designed for first-person shooters, but it could be used by kids playing slower-paced games.
The bundled HP w2207 LCD monitor was a stellar performer, delivering handsome image quality (in both moving and still images) and uniformly sharp text at all sizes. It’s also one of the better-designed 22-inch displays I’ve used. Its dual-hinged neck permits height adjustment, and it can rotate for portrait-mode viewing–two great features that distinguish this LCD from the pack.
For a small put-it-in-the-corner system like the s3200t, you want a keyboard and mouse that aren’t tethered to the PC, and HP accommodates by including its multimedia cordless keyboard and mouse combination. Although they lack the extra keys and buttons provided by fancier combos, they were both easy enough to use and a good fit for this system.
The trim s3200t offers the conveniences of a media center system that’s only about one-third the size of a traditional PC. But its so-so performance makes it better suited for light-duty media users than for heavy-duty gaming aficionados.