eMachines EL1300G-01w review: eMachines EL1300G-01w

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MSRP: $298.00
3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Pleasing, compact design; rock-bottom price; DVD burner and media card reader.

The Bad Dog-slow performance; easily outclassed if you spend just $50 more.

The Bottom Line We cringe at the idea of recommending such a slow PC when you can get significantly better performance for just a few more dollars. That said, it's hard to argue with the eMachines EL1300G-01w's low price, clean good looks, and relatively complete budget feature set. As long as you have no ambitions for this PC performing anything resembling serious work, it will make a fine second or third home system.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Service and support 7.0

We're this close to really liking eMachines' most affordable desktop. The $298 EL1300G-01w has a sharp design, and sacrifices little in the way of core features. Our hang-up lies mostly in its pokey performance. We recognize that many of you are willing to sacrifice speed for a borderline throw-away PC that might be relegated to light duty Web browsing and media-playing duties. Spend just an extra $50, though, and you'll realize dramatic performance gains. Perhaps you really will only use the EL1300G-01w to check sports scores in the morning. But when it comes to a screeching halt the minute you try to rip music from a CD or create a photo album, you can't say we didn't warn you.

The EL1300G-01w's case design slots it firmly into the slim-tower family, alongside HP's SlimLine series, Acer's Aspire X line, and various trimmed down Dells. Unlike a Mac Mini, the Asus Eee Box, or other small desktops, the slim tower gives you the same reduced size, but still lets you get at the interior to make upgrades like a normal tower system. The front of the EL1300G-01w features a concealed DVD burner, as well as a set of USB, audio, and media card ports along the bottom edge. Aesthetically, the EL1300G-01w has neither the industrial polish of the Mac Mini nor the glossy black panache of HP's SlimLines, but between its predominantly white plastic casing and a few subtle curves, there's a certain charm to this eMachines system. We'd feel comfortable putting it almost anywhere.

  eMachines EL1300G-01w eMachines ET1161-07
Price $298 $349
CPU 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e 2.1GHz AMD Athlon 4050e
Memory 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia Geforce 6150Se (integrated) 128MB (shared) Nvidia Geforce 6150Se (integrated)
Hard drives 160GB 7,200rpm 320GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic SP1 (32-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

We could pick several other PCs to compare with the EL1300G-01w, many from eMachines' own stable. Dell, HP, and others also have PCs in this price range, with Dell's Inspiron 530 scraping bottom at $269. We'll go with what we've laid our hands on, which makes the $349 eMachines ET1161-07 the best comparison among desktops we've actually tested.

You'll note a few differences between these two systems. The ET1161-07 is more expensive by $50, but that gets you a faster processor, 50 percent more memory, and twice the hard-drive space as the EL1300G-01w. If the ET1161-07's midtower case turns you off, eMachines also has the EL1210-11, also for $349. That system features a slim-tower case similar to that of the EL1300G-01w's, but with almost the exact same specs as the ET1161-07. The key feature to note is the ET1161-07's processor, the 2.1GHz AMD Athlon 4050e. Compared with the EL1300G-01w's 1.6GHz Athlon 2560e, the 2.1GHz model is an Olympic sprinter.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines EL1300G-01w
403 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines EL1300G-01w
351 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee Box
4,080 
eMachines EL1300G-01w
4,157 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering single CPU  
eMachines EL1300G-01w
1,305 

From top to bottom, the EL1300G-01w turned in disappointing test results. Only Asus' limp Eee Box Nettop performs worse. This is not to suggest that any of the PCs in this price range set records, but the iTunes test illustrates the difference with the AMD CPUs we mentioned above. The eMachines EL1300G-01w took 6 minutes to convert a CD's worth of MP3 audio files to the AAC format. The eMachines ET1161-07, which costs just $50 more, performed the same task in almost half the time. Each test has different characteristics, but the winners stay basically the same, leaving the eMachines EL1300G-01w at the bottom of the pile every time.

We see little hope for the EL1300G-01w by way of upgrades, either. We don't imagine a sizable number of eMachines' target audience will crack the EL1300G-01w open, and the wisdom behind spending money to upgrade such a low-end PC is suspect at best. Those who'd still venture forth into this system's interior might be surprised to find that while the case seemingly has room for a half-height PCI or PCI Express card, eMachines left out the physical card slot. That leaves you only a single half-height 1X PCI Express slot to play with, which is currently occupied here by the modem card. Both memory slots are also taken, as is the lone hard-drive bay. Aside from discarding the extant components and swapping in new ones, your upgrade options for the EL1300G-01w are as limited as its performance.

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