eMachines T6212 review: eMachines T6212

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Fast memory; 64-bit AMD processor, PCI Express graphics slot; media-card reader; smart software bundle.

The Bad Cannot be customized at time of purchase; below-average performance; phone support requires toll and is not 24/7.

The Bottom Line The well-designed eMachines T6212 has all the features you'd want on a budget PC but is held back by its substandard performance.

7.0 Overall

Editor's note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Find out more here.

eMachines treads exclusively in the budget PC space, churning out a handful of fixed, retail configurations each fiscal quarter, all of which are priced below $600. The T6212 resides at the top of this quarter's line, with a price of $579 (after a $50 mail-in rebate). Compared to the T5026 released last quarter, the T6212 trades some performance for upgradability. We're not thrilled with the T6212 taking a step back in both application and 3D graphics performance, but we welcome the addition of a PCI Express slot for future graphics upgrades. Most budget buyers don't harbor any thoughts about opening up their PC and making upgrades. If that describes you, look for a reseller with last quarter's T5026 in stock. For those of you unafraid of the inside of your PC, consider the T6212. It offers acceptable performance out of the box for a budget PC and the potential for greater performance by adding a graphics card.

Aside from graphics upgrades, the T6212 is a flexible platform, thanks to its AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor. The processor runs today's 32-bit apps and operating systems (the T6212 ships with Windows XP Home), but will be able to make the leap when 64-bit software begins to emerge. To the budget buyer with modest needs, 64-bit computing isn't a high priority. But Microsoft will soon release a 64-bit version of Windows, and the move to 64-bit apps should gain momentum shortly thereafter.

Another first for an eMachines desktop found on the T6212 is 512MB of 400MHz memory. Past eMachines we've reviewed used slower, cheaper 333MHz memory. We were surprised to find, however, that the hard drive is an IDE drive. Previous models such as the T5026 have used a drive with the newer, slightly speedier Serial ATA interface. The drive's capacity remains the same at a roomy 160GB, which should provide more than enough storage for budget buyers, even if the drive doesn't give you the fastest access to all of that data.

In CNET Labs tests, the T6212 turned in slow performance compared to other budget PCs. Despite that fact, we found the PC responsive during our hands-on testing, even during light multitasking scenarios. Still, the T6212 trails the model it is replacing, the Intel Pentium 4-based T5026, by a healthy 13 percent on SysMark 2004. And Cyberpower's Gamer Ultra 6500 SE, with a slower Athlon 64 processor, was a better performer on SysMark than the T6212. Keep in mind that the Gamer Ultra has a discrete graphics card, which means it can handle graphics task without borrowing main system memory like the T6212. Add a graphics card to the T6212--even a cheap budget card--and you can expect the T6212's application performance to climb to at least the Gamer Ultra's level, if not a bit higher.

Since you can't customize prior to purchase, it's fortunate that the T6212 is one of the more feature-rich budget PCs around. The system features a multiformat, double-layer DVD burner and a plain-Jane CD-ROM drive. (Having the CD-ROM drive allows you go make direct disc-to-disc copies.) While you might find a DVD burner on other budget systems, they won't all be drives that can write to 8.5GB double-layer discs as well as to both the +R and -R formats. Below the T6212's optical drives, you'll find a convenient 8-in-1 flash memory reader. USB 2.0 ports abound front and back as well as a couple of 6-pin FireWire ports.

The black-and-silver minitower case opens easily to reveal a neat interior offering two open memory slots, two free PCI slots (a third is occupied by a 56K modem card), and a x16 PCI Express slot for upgrading the integrated graphics with a third-party card. Without a sound card, the eMachines T6212 relies on integrate 6-channel audio to power the bundled two-piece speaker set. Anything more than simple desktop audio, and you'll want to spring for more powerful speakers. eMachines sells a small selection of monitors, and it included its new E15T4 LCD with our T6212 test system. The 15-inch flat panel provides a crisp, bright image and costs only $199 (after a $50 mail-in rebate). Busy multitaskers might find the screen too small for daily use, but it's a great buy for a budget machine you spend time with only occasionally.

The eMachines T6212's software bundle covers the basics, which is more than you can say about the software included on many budget PCs. Microsoft Works 8.0 covers productivity chores, and Microsoft Money 2005 will aid with household bookkeeping. Cyberlink's PowerDVD 5.0 handles playing movies, while Nero 6.0 performs CD and DVD burning. BigFix monitors your PC for bugs, system conflicts, and security holes and offers fixes and matches that you can implement with a simple click or two.

eMachines backs its desktops with an industry-average one-year parts-and-labor warranty. It includes phone support from 5 a.m to midnight PT, including weekends, though it's a toll call. You can extend the warranty for another year or two for an added cost within the first 90 days. The extended warranties include onsite service. If you opt not to upgrade, support calls cost $20 each after the initial year of protection. eMachines' support FAQ pages are mildly helpful; you may have better luck e-mailing tech support or trying the live chat.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver). Depending on the class of the system, we may report only the office-productivity or Internet-content-creation portions of SysMark.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

System configurations:

Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6500 SE
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5700; Hitachi HDS722516VLAT20 160GB 7,200rpm

Dell Dimension 3000
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Celeron D 330; Intel 865G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 96MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 865G; Seagate ST340014A 40GB 7,200rpm

Dell Dimension 4700C
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915G ; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

eMachines T5026
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.06GHz Intel P4 519; Intel 915GV chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915GV; WDC WD 1600JD-22HBB0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

eMachines T6212
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3200+; ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated ATI Radeon X200; Seagate ST3160021A 160GB 7,200rpm ATA/100

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