The HP Slimline 290, as the name suggests, is a slim, small form factor desktop computer. The 290-p0014 is a Best Buy SKU for $800, although I haven’t seen it on display on the store shelves.
The form factor of the recent Slimline series (270, 290) has been a good balance between performance and foot print. It’s small enough to be unobtrusive when placed on the desk; and large enough to accommodate high-performance CPUs such as the Intel Core i7-8700. It’s also a lot easier to move than a traditional ATX tower if you ever need to relocate it.
Speaking of performance, the i7-8700 is a very fast CPU. Its Turbo Boost clock is only 0.1 GHz (2%) behind the well-reviewed i7-8700K, which is generally regarded as one of the best consumer CPUs for the better part of 2018. You can expect the same responsiveness in everyday tasks as the i7-8700K. I expect its performance to remain competitive going into 2019 even with the release of 9th gen Core CPUs, due to the lack of Hyper-Threading on the newer models.
The Slimline 290 is a direct successor to the Slimline 270 which I also owned. Besides the obvious change from the 7th-gen to 8th-gen Intel Core CPUs, there are many other subtle changes that make the Slimline a much more mature and polished desktop computer.
8th-gen Intel Core is a major step forward
The performance improvement going from 7th-gen to 8th-gen is much greater than what these two numbers seem to suggest. In fact, it’s more like going from 4 to 6. After using a quad-core architecture for mainstream processors for (too) many years, Intel finally moved to a hex-core architecture. Expect 50% improvement more or less in heavy workloads.
Higher wattage CPU
Not only is the CPU better architecturally, they are now 65-Watt TDP parts vs. 35-Watt TDP parts on the 270. Higher TDP allows for higher clock speeds, which translates especially well into a computer’s responsiveness and “snappiness”. The higher power budget or thermal headroom is enabled by a beefier heatsink and redesigned air duct that improves the air flow inside the case.
Redesigned keyboard and mouse
Input devices are not to be overlooked if one cares about the user experience. The keyboard and mouse that came with the old 270 were THE worst input devices I had over used. The keyboard had all keys cramped together without clear functional separation. The mouse buttons require way too much a force to actuate. The looked atrocious, too.
The set that comes with the 290 is much improved and is above average. Quite sleek actually.
Dual-slot PCIe expansion
The Slimline 270 had only a single slot for PCIe expansion card in the case. The 290 increases that to 2 for better compatibility with, say, discrete video cards. The GTX 1050 Ti looks like a great option here if you want more graphics processing power. The slots also support tool-less installation.
M.2 slot for PCIe NVMe SSD
Just like the 270, the 290 has a M.2 slot that takes PCIe NVMe solid state drives. It has been relocated to the front of the motherboard to make room for the additional PCIe 1x slot, which made it a little more difficult to access compared to the 270.
Higher-efficiency power supply unit
The PSU is now 80 Plus Gold rated. The 270 had a 80 Plus Bronze rated unit. It’s great to see higher efficiency components in OEM computers.
Rubber feet vs. Metal feet
For whatever reason, HP used 2 metal feet and 2 rubber feet on the Slimline 270 (and many other desktop products). I don’t like this design because it could easily scratch desk surfaces. The Slimline 290 has all rubber feet.
Redesigned front panel connection
The 270 had a standalone front panel assembly that uses cables to connect the USB ports, headphone jack and card reader to the motherboard. It was well thought out, as all the cables that just the right length, but did increase the cable clutter in the case. The 290, on the other hand, has front panel ports built right into the motherboard. This made the internals much cleaner, and you don’t need to worry about the internal connectors not plugged in correctly. However, if for some reason the front panel ports needs repair or replacement, one now needs to replace the whole motherboard, which could be much more expensive than simply a passive device.
Excellent front panel audio output
The audio codec chip has been moved from the rear of the motherboard to the front of the motherboard, right next to the front panel headphone/mic jack. I personally use front panel audio far more frequently than the rear ones, so I think this is a great change that will reduce the interference on the front panel output. In fact, the front panel output is indeed dead silent when nothing is playing. This may sound trivial, but it actually requires some engineering to achieve that. The rear output on this computer cannot do that; Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 Tiny desktops cannot do that. On these, you would hear a background humming noise even when nothing is playing.
Useful information on the 290-p0014