/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003 review: Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003

Rich_Brown.jpg

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

OVR
7.1

Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003

The Good

Strong budget gaming desktop; power efficient; outperforms several other PCs in its price range.

The Bad

Extra large "gamer" style case suggests more capability than this system actually has.

The Bottom Line

Don't let the overlarge case get you too excited, but Asus has put together a compelling budget gaming PC with the Essentio CG5270-BP003. With fast gaming and general application performance, as well as a competitive price, this desktop will satisfy any aspiring PC gamer looking to save a buck.

The large, angular Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003 strikes us a desktop trying to be something it's not. PC gamers may feel comfortable with its imposing design, complete with a lifted front end to promote ventilation. Respectable 3D performance for its $750 price also argues for this desktop as a budget gamer. There's nothing wrong with offering moderate PC gaming for a low price, and some gamers might even like the idea of a distinctive enclosure that's also attainable. The danger is that the large chassis could also suggest this system houses powerful components, or that it could become a high-powered gaming box with a few choice upgrades. Neither is the case. There is a decent budget gaming desktop to be had here. Just understand that bigger is not necessarily better.

The Essentio CG5270-BP003 is part of Asus' standard desktop coming-out party in the U.S. retail market. We've already written about the two lower-end Essentios, built around a smaller, more traditional midtower chassis. A review of the higher-end CG5290 is on track to post soon. The CG5290 and this system share the same case, but the lower-end chassis from the Essentio CM5570 line might have been appropriate for the CG5270.

Large cases are common to high-end gaming PCs that make space for bulky power supplies, multiple graphics cards, and robust thermal control by way of multiple system fans and even liquid cooling. In keeping with these kinds of desktops, the Essentio CG5270's canted front panel lends this system size and a unique appearance. The angled face also contributes to system cooling by elevating the front portion of the case. That gives Asus the opportunity to add extra ventilation and a fan mount, which in this case, sits unpopulated. As much as we like roomy interiors and unobstructed airflow, neither the configuration nor the upgrade path for the Essentio CG5270 merits these features.

  Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003 Gateway DX4300-03
Price $750 $750
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 2.4GHz AMD Phenom X4 9750
Memory 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 220 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4650
Hard drives 750GB 7,200 rpm 1TB 7,200 rpm
Networking Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11b/g wireless
TV tuner No Yes
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

We should be clear that the Essentio CG5270 is actually a very competitive desktop. We can think of few additional features we'd expect to find for $750, and it outperforms the identically-priced Gateway DX4300-03 on all of our benchmarks. But we were surprised to find a half-height graphics card in such a large chassis. You can't go crazy with 3D card upgrades because of the 400-watt power supply. And the motherboard has only a single graphics card slot. There's no reason why you couldn't put these components in a more traditional case like that of the lower-end Essentios.

You can argue that the Asus' excessively large case does no real harm to this system, and budget gamers might even like having a chassis with a little flair without paying an exorbitant price. Fair points, both. We also have no problem with dressing up a computer, or any product, really, for the purposes of standing out to shoppers. What we don't like is design that overpromises functionality. It would be easy for someone to assume this system is faster or more upgradeable than it really is, simply because of the distinctive case.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
105 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
149 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
519 

Asus helps takes the edge off our skepticism because the Essentio CG5720 is relatively fast next to other PCs in its price range. It not only dusts the Gateway, but it also leaves behind the $830 HP Pavilion Elite e9120y on most of our tests as well. Acer's $800 Aspire M5800 system bears looking into, although you can find it online only or if you live in one of the few places with a Frys. But for its $750 price, the Asus Essentio CG5270 will give you great performance, and you should encounter few mainstream tasks this system can't handle.

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multi-CPU  
Rendering single CPU  
Acer Aspire M5800-U5802A
11,660 
3,226 
HP Pavilion Elite e9120y
11,010 
3,037 
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
10,435 
2,961 
Gateway SX2800-01
10,085 
2,773 
Gateway DX4300-03
9,367 
2,452 

Unreal Tournament 3 (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200  
1,280x1,024  
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
41 
67 

We're not used to running gaming benchmarks on $700 desktops, but we're happy to see retail PCs in this price range finally deliver frame rates worth reporting. The Asus system does indeed have a half-height 3D card inside of it, the kind of card generally used in slim tower PCs for both size and power consumption/thermal reasons. And while we wouldn't expect the Asus to play Crysis or Far Cry 2 all that well, we're impressed that it's able to hit nearly 70 frames per second on our lower-resolution Unreal Tournament 3 test. That kind of smooth performance bodes very well for games like the Sims 3, World of Warcraft, as well as the more scalable titles out there. We expect a mainstream PC gamer with not-too-demanding image quality preferences would be very happy with the performance of this system.

Asus provides a more-or-less basic array of connectivity options with the Essentio CG5270. The graphics card has DVI, VGA, and HDMI video outputs, which gives you plenty of display flexibility. The 7.1 analog audio jacks and a single optical-digital audio jack should cover most of your sound output needs, and you also get the standard combination of USB and Ethernet ports. Asus skimped on more robust external storage connections, so there are no FireWire or eSATA outputs. If saving on the motherboard helps Asus deliver better-than-average components elsewhere in this system, we suspect most customers will be OK with that.

There is no second graphics card slot in this system, and the 400-watt power supply would likely have trouble supporting two cards anyway, but you should at least be able to add a higher-end midrange card without too much trouble. The remaining expansion slots let you add two more standard PCI cards, and if you'd like to sacrifice the included Wi-Fi card, you gain a 1X PCI Express slot. All four RAM slots are occupied, but you do get an additional hard drive slot, should you want to expand internal storage.

Juice box
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003 Average watts per hour
1.25
Sleep (watts) 2.96
Idle (watts) 74.98
Load (watts) 108.84
Raw (annual kWh) 284.87958
EnergyStar compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $32.33

Annual power consumption cost (in dollars)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
$32.33 

As we noted in our review of the Gateway DX4300-03, the power efficiency gap between the Intel-based PCs and the AMD-based units in this price range is noticeable. The Intel-based Asus, Acer, and Gateway SX2800-01 systems all use much less power than the Gateway DX4300-03 and the HP Pavilion Elite e9120y, but the DX4300-03 still also manages to turn in the slowest performance of the batch. The fault doesn't necessarily lie with the AMD CPU or motherboard, but this is a trend we'll be watching as we amass more power consumption data.

Asus' one significant failing for us in its retail PCs is that its support hasn't yet matured to match that of its domestic competition. The online help at Asus' Web site features only the most basic level of assistance, and it might as well be nonexistent next to the easy-to-navigate resources online from Dell, HP, and Gateway. Asus' phone support is also limited, letting you get in touch only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, and only from Monday to Friday. At least its warranty lives up to the industry standard, with a year of parts and labor coverage.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire M5800-U5802A
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT 230; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 220; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Gateway DX4300-03
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.4GHz AMD Phenom X4 9750; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4650; 1TB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive

Gateway SX2800-01
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200 rpm hard drive

HP Pavilion e9120y
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.6GHz AMD Phenom II X4 910; 8GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4350; 1TB, 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

OVR
7.1

Asus Essentio CG5270-BP003

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Support 4