Having made its mark selling PCs priced less than $1,000, eMachines has long tread in the value-PC territory. Its latest entry-level desktop, the T2341, maintains the same $399 price of its predecessor but adds a much-appreciated CD-RW drive to the mix.
Upside: The T2341 includes a useful and fast (48X write speed) CD burner and six USB 2.0 ports. Two of the latter are located on the front panel, so you can easily connect your MP3 player or digital camera, then burn songs or pictures to disc. The Athlon XP 2300+ processor can handle basic computing tasks, and the 40GB hard drive will hold a reasonable amount of data. With the T2341's AGP slot, you can upgrade the internal graphics by adding a graphics card.
Downside: Performance will be held back by the measly 128MB of memory, which is the minimum amount required for Windows XP Home. In our experience, upgrading to 256MB of memory will significantly improve performance.
Outlook: It's hard to believe that you can get a complete desktop for less than $400. With CPU, keyboard, mouse, and speakers included, the only missing piece is a monitor. You may outgrow the T2341 if your computing needs extend beyond e-mail and Web surfing, but doubling the memory or adding a graphics card is an easy upgrade.