Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 review: Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Outstanding performance in day-to-day software as well as 3D games; affordable.

The Bad Motherboard and power supply don't accommodate upgrades as well as other midrange gaming PCs; large case not for everyone; phone support hours and online support in general need help.

The Bottom Line Asus crafted the Essentio CG5290-BP007 to serve as a no-frills gaming desktop for just more than $1,000. And while the boutique PC vendors have a bit more polish for not too much more money, Asus can at least claim that this PC is one of the fastest on the retail shelves. You might have a hard time arguing the necessity of such a fast gaming box for back-to-school, but we can at least recommend this system as a speedy bargain.

As Reviewed: $1,199

Check manufacturer's site for availability

7.6 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Service and support 4.0

Editors' note, Aug. 7, 2009: Thanks to a keen-eyed reader, this review was corrected to reflect the appropriate card expansion, memory slots, and external ports available on this desktop. The overall rating remains unchanged.

Editors' note, Aug. 4, 2009: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

The $1,199 Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 stands out from the rest of our back-to-school PCs because of both its price and its intentions. No other desktop in our back-to-school roundup comes in at a cost of more than $1,000. It's also the only PC in this category that puts most of its focus on gaming. You should consider this system a mainstream gaming bargain, as opposed to a dorm room necessity. While this Asus desktop might lack the polish of its gaming vendor competition, we can't deny the appeal of a PC this fast, and for such an attractive price.

The Essentio CG5290 uses the same canted case as the budget-oriented Essentio CG5270. We didn't find that such a large case made sense in the cheaper model with its less demanding specs, but the pairing of components and chassis for this system is more logical, dramatic design notwithstanding. The case isn't overly ugly, but its harsh angles and slanted front end make it a bit monolithic. Perhaps some people want that in a computer.

  Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 Dell Studio XPS 435
Price $1,199 $1,579
CPU 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
Memory 9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870
Hard drives 1TB 7,200rpm (2) 500GB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

The components in the Essentio CG5290 actually seem to merit the large case and the airflow it provides. This is the first back-to-school desktop we've seen with an Intel Core i7 chip in it. It also has the most powerful graphics card, the souped-up version of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260, which has a bit more processing capability than the original GTX 260. Mainstream competition from HP's Pavilion Elite e9180t and Dell's Studio XPS 435 and

That leaves as competitors the price-driven system builders online (Cyberpower, iBuypower, and others) whose customer service and build quality can be harder to predict. The Essentio isn't terribly built, but it lacks the expert cable routing you find in a more boutique desktop. Its online support is also basically nonexistent, and its phone hours are limited. But if this Asus system has much in common with desktops from the less glamorous system builders out there, its advantage is that you can walk into your local big box electronics retailer and pick one up. Considering how well this PC fits the no-frills mainstream gaming profile, for those seeking that kind of desktop, the Essentio CG5290 gives you few reasons to look elsewhere.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

CineBench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Shuttle XPC H7 5800
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Dell Studio XPS 435
Maingear Pulse
Dell XPS 625

The strongest argument for the Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 is its performance. Dell's Studio XPS 435 makes the best comparison from a configuration standpoint, since it too has an Intel Core i7 920 processor. The Dell is more expensive than the Essentio CG5290, largely because of its Blu-ray drive; the Essentio only has a DVD burner. However, the Asus is also able to take enough of a lead on every benchmark, in particular our iTunes test, that we're comfortable saying it is indeed faster than the Dell across the board. Short of professional-level video editing, you will find very few tasks the Essentio CG5290 can't handle.

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Dell XPS 625
Maingear Pulse

FarCry 2 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Maingear Pulse
Dell XPS 625

The gaming results are more dramatic than our standard application tests. Again, the Dell isn't bad, but the Asus' scores are generally faster, and performs most impressively on our high-resolution Far Cry 2 test where it holds steady at 61 frames per second. All of the PCs on this list are respectable lower-end gamers, but none of them overachieves quite like this Asus. With the exception of Crysis, an outlying worst-case scenario for gaming desktops, you should be able to play any PC title on a 24-inch display with this Asus with at least moderate image quality settings enabled.

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