The Good Inexpensive; ample room for future upgrades.
The Bad Slow CPU; wimpy hard-drive capacity and memory combined with 32-bit Windows.
The Bottom Line At first glance, the eMachines ET1161-07 seems like a decent setup, but a laundry list of subpar components running on 32-bit Windows Vista just can't keep up with other similarly priced systems that give you much faster performance and higher-quality components for just $100 more.
The new year brings with it a new chance for eMachines to score big with its ET1161-07 budget desktop computer. The system contains the usual fare of baseline components with adequate room for upgrades inside the bare-bones tower, and $380 seems a decent price for the package--until you shop around and find other manufacturers offering more complex workhorses for just a little more money. Shoppers on an immovable budget shouldn't disregard the ET1161-07, but if you can afford to save up an extra $100, you may want to consider a more versatile and powerful system, like the new Acer Aspire X1700.
If the ET1161-07's design gives you a feeling of deja vu, it's because the chassis has been in use for a few years now---most recently in the ET1161-03. You get the same, boring, gray and black chassis with a dual-layer DVD burner on top and room for an expansion drive underneath. The front panel is also home to the digital-media manager that offers direct-input access to SMCs, Compact Flash, SD, and MemoryStick cards. Two USB 2.0 ports and two standard microphone and headphone jacks complete the setup. The back of the unit is just as simple as the front, with four additional USB ports and the usual collection of audio jacks, peripheral inputs, and an Ethernet port for high-speed Internet.
Inside, there's plenty of room for expansion by way of one PCI Express graphics card slot, two 1X PCI Express slots, and one available DIMM slot for additional memory (three out of the four slots are already occupied by 1GB sticks). Two SATA ports are also free for an additional hard or optical drive, and you can even replace the included 56Kbps modem with an aftermarket sound card if you choose. The opportunity for expansion inside is on par with the standard for budget midtower systems. For the price, we don't expect to have an HDMI-out or digital audio, although you can spend a little more and get those features added.