The eMachines T5246 PC is the most expensive of the budget desktop brand's offerings this quarter. Of course, at $429, it's not exactly a luxury item. If you're thinking about a lower-end eMachines system and have a few extra dollars to spare, we'd certainly recommend this one over the $349 T3642. Neither Dell nor Hewlett-Packard compete well in the super-low-end price range, but if you go to Best Buy or Circuit City you might find better deals from Acer (who owns eMachines) and ZT Systems. This eMachines T5246 provides everything you might look for in a basic desktop PC so if that's all you need, we recommend it. But in this price range every dollar counts, and if you can find a similar configuration for less, go for it.
We find it interesting that, at least among eMachines systems, $80 is the difference between a PC that's borderline acceptable to run Windows Vista, and one that fully meets Vista's requirements. Perhaps the biggest differentiator is going from 1GB of RAM to 2GB when you look past the eMachines T3642 to the T5246. The T5246 also gets you a dual-core CPU, which will make a difference on many programs, as well as the operating system itself.
|eMachines T5246||eMachines T3642|
|CPU||2.21GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+||2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+|
|Memory||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100|
|Hard drive||400GB, 7,200 rpm||250GB, 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||16x dual-layer DVD burner||16x dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium||Windows Vista Home Premium|
You'll also notice that the eMachines T5246 offers a more expansive 400GB hard drive compared with the T3462 and its 250GB model. That 400GB model appears to be the largest drive available from any vendor in this price range. ZT Systems offers an Intel-based dual-core PC with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB drive for $399 at Circuit City, which is also a pretty good deal. But if it's drive space you're after, the eMachines T5246 is your best bet.
Our performance charts show exactly where that extra memory and the dual-core CPU make a difference. On our iTunes and Photoshop tests, the eMachines T5246 distances itself from the T3642, largely because of those configuration differences. The CineBench tests, which measure video encoding and take advantage of multiple processing threads, show that you actually lose a little bit of performance on the T5246 because the 2.21GHz clock speed of its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4200+ is actually slower than the single-core 2.6GHz Athlon 64 4000+ (note, no "X2" in the chip's name) on the T3642. That's a small trade-off, though, since most programs these days will benefit from two processing cores, not to mention the T5246's 2GB of RAM.
Aside from its core specs, the other features of the eMachines T5246 remain the same as they have over the past few years. You get a dual-format DVD burner, a media card reader for plugging in data cards from portable devices (like digital cameras), as well as a reasonably attractive exterior. You'll be able to play casual Web-based games, and even some less-intensive PC games on the eMachines T5246, but its lack of a 3D card will severely limit your ability to play high-end 3D games. There's a free PCI Express graphics slot (among a few other expansion slots) inside this system, but the power supply is so puny that it doesn't invite upgrades beyond the most basic low-end 3D cards.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Rendering Multiple CPU||Rendering Single CPU|
eMachines' service and support policies are dead average for this product category. One year of parts and labor coverage is all you get, and is all we've come to expect, especially for budget PCs. You also get the BigFix application common to eMachines and Gateway systems, which is designed to give you information on overall system health as well as tips on what to do about it. For phone support, you don't get a toll-free number, but you do get generous support hours, which run from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. (PT), seven days a week. You can also find various help documents on eMachines' Web site.
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