The eMachines T5254 is a little less powerful than its last system in this price range, but it's also a bit less expensive. For $400, we're willing to accept a slightly slower CPU and a slightly smaller hard drive, especially when the alternatives from Dell and HP can't come close on price. The T5254 will take care of pretty much any day-to-day computing task, and as long as you keep your expectations free of such advanced features as wireless networking or fast 3D graphics, you won't be disappointed. You might also like that thanks to a power-efficient CPU, it will give some environmentally-conscious bragging rights.
eMachines has stuck with the same core design of its systems for more than a year. Its visual appearance is classy enough to fit pretty much anywhere thanks to the glossy black and gray chassis. It's also stuck with some of the same core features, and true to past eMachines desktops, both the T5254 and the even lower-end T3646 (which goes for $300) will net you a media card reader, a dual-layer DVD burner, and a graphics card slot inside if you'd like to add a little gaming power to this otherwise straightforward PC.
|eMachines T5254||HP Pavilion a6400z|
|CPU||2.1GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 BE-2350||1.8GHz AMD Sempron X2 2100|
|Memory||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE|
|Hard drive||320GB, 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 Basic|
The new features of the T5254 compare well against the $349 HP Pavilion a6400z we reviewed a few weeks back. Unlike this eMachines, that HP is a configurable system, but we found that even if you play with HP's configurator, while the two don't quite match up exactly, the eMachines system comes in about $20 less, but with a slightly slower CPU. That Athlon 64 X2 BE-2350 dual-core processor in the eMachines is actually a special energy-efficient chip, though, and it requires about 20 watts less to operate than the CPUs offered by HP, or by Dell in its Inspiron 530. Our charts show that you pay a small penalty in performance, but we'd argue that the benefit to your power bill and the environment is a worthy trade-off.
You can see the exact performance difference on our benchmark results fairly clearly. Compared with last quarter's eMachines T5246, the new T5254 is just a bit slower across the board. The older model was also more expensive. What we find more interesting is the fact that the eMachines T5254 so thoroughly trounces the Pavilion a6400z. It also passes the $539 Dell Inspiron 530 on both Cinebench and iTunes. In truth, the performance differences between these systems are not that significant (at least until you get into the $700 territory, as represented by the Mac Mini and the quad-core
We mentioned above that the eMachines T5254 offers a little room to upgrade, and you can indeed add a discrete 3D card, a second hard drive, and even a PCI expansion card or two. But unlike the Dell Inspiron 530, there's no truly distinct feature here. That Dell system, for example, has a Bluetooth receiver built into its media card reader. We certainly don't expect to see such features in a $400 system (and, in fact, we were surprised to find it in the $539 Dell), but it's worth noting that while you can make changes to the system yourself after your initial purchase, the core package is fairly spare, at least as far as hardware.
The software that comes with the eMachines T5254 was not as modest as we'd like, though. A handful of icons for things such as eBay and AOL clutter the desktop, and the Napster music download service loads automatically, which has an impact on performance. You can always delete or disable those things, so none of them should stop you from making a purchase. We also like, as always, the BigFix application, which provides you with direct support help from Gateway, eMachines' parent company (which is, in turn, owned by Acer).
For the rest of this system's support, eMachines offers one year of parts and labor coverage, as well as 24-7 toll-free phone support. Online you get system-specific support resources, as well, along the lines of driver downloads, live chat, and other features. Because each eMachines is a fixed configuration, any support tech you come across should know exactly what kind of hardware you have, at least out of the box.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)