eMachines ET1831-07 review: eMachines ET1831-07

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MSRP: $389.99

eMachines ET1831-07

(Part #: PT.NB602.022)
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Strong features for a low price; on certain tests, outperforms desktops that cost $125 more; room to expand inside; power-efficient.

The Bad Gaudy green-lit plastic strip on the front of the case; poor video playback performance.

The Bottom Line The eMachines ET1831-07 isn't much of a video playback device, but in all other respects, this is a solid budget PC. Perhaps the best deal going for its features, it also outperforms other desktops in and above its price range on general computing tasks. We recommend this system to anyone shopping for a low-cost computer.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Service and support 7.0

eMachines' $389 ET1831-07 is one of the least expensive desktops we've reviewed this year. Its traditional midtower case might not offer as much visual charm as the small form factor Nettops you'll find in this price range, but this eMachines is actually a relatively strong day-to-day performer, and boasts an aggressive feature set for its price. You can forget using this system for demanding tasks like watching HD video or playing games, but we can recommend it if you're looking for an affordable, basic productivity box.

The ET1831-07's glossy black plastic front panel mostly fits the midtower PC mold that's taken over Windows-based PCs. The one variation is a strip of plastic across the middle of the system's front. When you turn the PC on, the strip lights up green. This isn't a bad first PC for a child, and in that case, the light won't feel out of place. An adult might not appreciate it as much.

  eMachines ET1831-07 HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
Price $389 $410
CPU 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400 2.81GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 7050 integrated graphics chip 256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200 rpm 500GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet LAN 10/100 Ethernet LAN
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Next to HP's budget-priced Compaq Presario CQ5320Y , the eMachines system looks like a pretty good deal. First, the eMachines costs about $20 less than the Compaq system. It also includes a larger hard drive and more memory. More RAM is especially important in PCs like these with integrated graphics chips that stake a claim on a portion of the system memory. The eMachines also has a technically slower CPU clock speed than the Compaq system, but due to different underlying tech between the Intel and AMD CPUs, as well as the aforementioned memory apportioning, the eMachines comes out on top in our application tests. From a features standpoint, the eMachines is clearly the better deal between these two PCs.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
HP Pavilion Slimline s5310y
6,416 
3,374 
HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
6,031 
3,153 
eMachines ET1831-07
5,880 
3,079 
Dell Inspiron i545-1125NBK
5,696 
3,072 
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
2,304 
1,329 

The eMachines performance is nothing short of remarkable, at least as far as basic application performance. Not only did it blow by the HP Compaq on every test, but it also outperformed the $519 Dell Inspiron i545 and the $510 HP Pavilion Slimline s5310y on occasion. Outperforming overpriced, relatively slow competing system is perhaps no great feat, but the eMachines certainly shows that you don't have to spend much to afford a competent desktop.

Our one gripe with the ET1831-07 has to do with its video playback capabilities. Its Geforce 7050 graphics chip is an older model that doesn't support the new hardware-accelerated Flash 10.1. That might not necessarily guarantee a poor video experience depending on the CPU and the amount of system memory, but in the case of this system, we had bad luck with standard-definition content at Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, as well as with Apple's HD movie trailer site. An enthusiast could add a graphics card, or possibly even play around the with software (we're told the third-party media player XBMC is a decent lightweight option), but in terms of out-of-the-box video capabilities, this eMachines is fairly weak.

If you want to upgrade the eMachines' hardware, you have a few options inside. You get a 16x PCI Express graphics card slot, as well as a PCI-Express 1x slot, and a pair of standard PCI slots for legacy expansion cards. Both memory slots are occupied, but there's also room to add a second hard drive. The motherboard backplane provides sparse connectivity options, including only four USB 2.0 ports, a networking jack, a set of 7.1 analog audio inputs, and a VGA video output. Things like FireWire, digital audio or video, and eSATA are all absent, although given the price of this system, we're not surprised.

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