eMachines T5212 review: eMachines T5212

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.8
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Strong configuration for a low price; low-key design won't offend (unless you mind stickers); remote control support is perfect for beginning PC users.

The Bad Lack of a 3D graphics card could give you trouble with Windows Vista's Aero visual effects; older parts make the need to upgrade arrive that much sooner.

The Bottom Line eMachines T5212 is not our runaway budget winner, but it makes a strong attempt. It has better support features than its main competition and a less gaudy design. Its performance, however, is held back by specs that are either too slow, too old, or too small.

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Our go-to pick for a true budget PC this summer has been the Cyberpower Back to School 2006. It delivers a dual-core CPU and 1GB of memory for $599; it'll burn DVDs; and Windows Vista, with its Aero effects, should give it little trouble, thanks to the discrete graphics card. It even has a media card reader for easy removable media swapping. The eMachines T5212 is the best competition to the Cyberpower system we've seen to date. For $570 (or $520 after rebate), the T5212 serves up a dual-core CPU, a DVD burner, and a media card reader. It also looks less... (how do we say this?)...adolescent than the Cyberpower, though for some that might not be an issue. What's more likely to give you pause is eMachines' integrated video chip, which means you could have trouble with Vista and its fancy visuals. But what you give up in video power, you gain in eMachines' more robust support (for as long as it lasts, anyway). It's not a total win for eMachines, but for certain people, the T5212 is the better budget pick.

As always, the eMachines T5212 is a fixed-configuration PC, which means that if you buy it online or in a store, you cannot customize it prior to purchase. This system includes a dual-core but aging Pentium D 805 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 160GB EIDE hard drive, an integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip, and the already mentioned DVD burner and media card reader. That config will get you through most basic modern tasks, but we're puzzled as to why eMachines went with a CPU that's more than a year old (the Pentium D 800 series is Intel's first-generation dual-core chip; Core 2 Duo is the company's fourth) and the even more dated EIDE hard drive. Cyberpower was able to add the more recent AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+, as well as a faster and larger 250GB Serial ATA hard drive for only an additional $30 (not counting eMachines rebate).

If you think you'd like to upgrade the eMachines system after you purchase it, you have some flexibility. There's room for a dedicated graphics card, thanks to the x16 PCI Express slot, as well as an additional x1 PCI Express slot and a standard PCI slot for other expansion cards. The box has the physical space for an additional hard drive, but there's no other EIDE connector on the motherboard. It does have four free Serial ATA inputs, however, so you can mix and match hard drive interfaces or take out the EIDE drive altogether. The T5212 has no spare memory slots, so to add RAM you'll have to toss out at least one of the sticks already in place.

We mentioned that the eMachines has a dated Intel CPU in it, and last year we showed that compared to the Pentium D 800-series CPUs, AMD's--such as those in the Cyberpower PC--are much faster. Our benchmarks have been updated since then, but the story remains the same. The only benchmark test on which the eMachines T5212 didn't lose to the Cyberpower is CNET Labs' Microsoft Office test, and that's only because the test wasn't finished when we reviewed the Cyberpower system back in July, and thus we don't have results for that system. Considering that the single-core AMD Athlon 3800+-based HP Pavilion a1510n beat the eMachines T5212 on the Labs' Microsoft Office test, we're confident that the Cyberpower box would have outpaced it as well.

If it doesn't win on performance, the eMachines T5212 makes up for it in style--which is to say, it doesn't really have any. Its front panel is covered with various stickers from Microsoft, AMD, and other partners, but its muted gray looks will easily fade into the background of any work space. The Cyberpower Back to School 2006 will let you choose from 13 different cases, but the one we reviewed would look most at-home in the rec room of a 12-year-old gamer. That's not the look for everyone.

We also have to give eMachines credit for its support, but we wish it was longer. Cyberpower backs its Back to School 2006 with three years of parts coverage and a lifetime of labor and 24/7 phone support, but its online help is average at best. While eMachines' coverage lasts only a year for parts and labor, it has a direct-connect support feature, which will give an eMachines technician remote control of your mouse and your system (moderated by you the whole time). We're coming to consider this capability a must-have for online help. Dell has it with its DellConnect. HP just announced a similar capability last week. Especially for a lower-end system that invites the tech uninitiated, remote control support can preserve a relationship between a customer, a computer, and a vendor much better than even the longest lifetime of phone-based support. We only wish that eMachines offered it for longer.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

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

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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Where to Buy

eMachines T5212

Part Number: T5212 Released: Sep 24, 2006
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 24, 2006