eMachines T3646 review: eMachines T3646

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Faster performance than more expensive budget systems.

The Bad No media card reader; significantly better systems available for only $100 more.

The Bottom Line eMachines T3646 is one of the cheapest desktops available, and unfortunately it shows. It offers some compelling performance, but basic capability is more important in budget systems, and we found this system came up short compared with others in its price range.

6.3 Overall

At $299, eMachines T3646 is one of the most inexpensive complete desktops on the market. You naturally expect to sacrifice some features and performance at that price, but we wish eMachines had struck a more even balance between the two. If you can afford to spend $50 to $100 more, you'll probably be happier with a slightly more expensive system in the long run. However, if you have a hard price cap or you only need the most basic of desktops, we prefer Hewlett-Packard's $299 offering to this one.

We know of only two other computers in this price range, the $229 Linux-based Shuttle KPC K-4500 and the default configuration of HP's Pavilion a6400z, which goes for $299. Dell's most inexpensive Inspiron 530 starts at $379. The Shuttle's Linux operating system and lack of an optical drive make it more of a special case. The HP a6400z is actually very similar to the eMachines T3646, but there are a few differences between the two worth mentioning.

  eMachines T3646 HP Pavilion a6400z
Price $300 $300
CPU 2.2GHz AMD Sempron LE-1250 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 2100
Memory 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE
Hard drive 160GB, 7,200rpm 250GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drives 16x dual-layer DVD burner 16x dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic Windows Vista Home Basic

Each system has an advantage. The HP has double the hard-drive storage, while eMachines offers a faster processor. We think features are more important at this price range, so we have to give HP the nod overall here. The HP model is also configurable where the eMachines is a fixed-configuration available only in retail stores. Thus, if you want to add a media card reader or more memory, you have to make those changes to the eMachines after the fact, or opt for another system.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines T3646
449 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines T3646
247 

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines T3646
1,303 

CineBench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPU  
Rendering single CPU  
Apple Mac Mini
4,069 
2,168 
eMachines T3646
NA 
1,762 
Dell Inspiron 530
3,212 
1,724 
eMachines T5254
3,323 
1,712 
HP Pavilion a6400z
2,772 
1,428 

Note that the HP system outlined above is the default model. The one we reviewed came with a faster CPU and 2GB of RAM. Even though the eMachines T3646 has less memory than the HP we tested, it still did fairly well on our tests. It was faster than the more expensive HP system on every thing but Photoshop, which benefits most directly from more system memory. Add another 1GB to the eMachines (or take 1GB away from the HP and downgrade its CPU to the default option), and we'd expect its Photoshop scores would surpass HP's.

It's worth noting the slightly more expensive eMachines T5254. That system costs $399, and comes with 2GB of RAM, a larger hard drive, and a media card reader. It's faster than either the T3646 or the HP on every test. It also beats out a $540 Dell Inspiron 530 on iTunes, which speaks well of the T5254's bang-for-the-buck. If you can afford to spend a bit more, we'd recommend that system overall. Otherwise, the eMachines T3646 is impressive for its price and will deliver acceptable performance in basic tasks.

There's not much to say about the T3646's design if you're at all familiar with eMachines systems. It comes in the same two-tone gray-and-black midtower case that's unobtrusive enough to fit pretty much anywhere, if it's not downright attractive. You get a decent level of expansion, including a spare PCI Express graphics card slot, a smaller 1x PCI Express slot, and a standard PCI slot as well. You can also add one hard drive and one more memory stick.

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