The $500 eMachines T5230 sits on the top-end of eMachines' new systems for the third quarter of 2007. It's also the strongest of the company's new batch of nonconfigurable, retail-only PCs--which you might imagine given that it's the most expensive of the bunch. While it offers plenty of upgradability for a budget PC, we've seen competing models in this price range offer bonuses right out of the box such as built-in wireless networking and Bluetooth. Dell will also be making the budget competition even more fierce when it adds built-in Bluetooth via a media card reader to its new Inspirons. If you're simply after raw performance in a cheap system, this new eMachines is a great pick. For a more well-rounded computing experience, other vendors still offer more.
One thing we love about eMachines desktops: they're easy to review. Because eMachines' systems change from one fixed configuration to another between quarters, the updated specs usually move only gradually. Like the last two eMachines iterations we've covered, the T5230 features an attractive-enough case with a simple front-panel design. It's not showpiece hardware, like an Apple or other flashier systems, but it's also inoffensive enough to fit in with pretty much any surrounding.
And while the two look the same externally, the T5230 and its predecessor, the T5226, differ substantially on the inside. Here's a brief rundown:
|eMachines T5230||eMachines T5226|
|CPU||2.3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400||3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 925|
|Memory||1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE||32MB (shared) Intel 945 GMA graphics chip|
|Hard drive||250GB, 7,200 rpm||250GB, 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drives||16x dual-layer DVD burner||16x dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium||Windows Vista Home Premium|
If you're wary of the new model's power based on its CPU clock speed, our benchmarks should allay your fears. On every performance test, the new eMachines 5230 beats up on the older model, as well as every other system in its price range that we've reviewed over the past few months. We also include the Dell Inspiron 531 to show that, depending on the test, this eMachines isn't that much slower than a competing PC that costs about $400 more.
Unfortunately for eMachines, our budget ratings don't value performance as much as they do features. The T5230 has everything we'd expect in a low-cost PC six months ago: the dual-layer DVD burner, the media card reader, and room for a low-end to midrange discrete graphics card. The problem is that from the Mac Mini to the HP SlimLine to Dell's new configurable Inspiron 531 and Inspiron 530 PCs, you can now get a system in roughly the same price range with built-in wireless networking, and in the case Apple and the new Dells, Bluetooth connectivity. In addition to a graphics card, the eMachines T5230 also has room for a few expansion cards and a second hard drive. We'd like it better if eMachines itself took advantage of all that upgradeability.
eMachines' single year of parts-and-labor coverage is on a par with the industry average. And while it's not 24-7, we can certainly live with phone support that's open from 5 a.m. to 12 am (PT), all week long, even if it's not toll free. Better yet, via eMachines' live chat support, you can let a technician take control of your system to help diagnose and solve problems. eMachines desktops also feature Gateway's BigFix diagnostic tool, which notifies you of potential software conflicts and available updates.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)