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Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 review: Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness

Rich is the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, KY. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printing to Z-Wave smart locks.

Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
7 min read

Editors' note, Aug. 7, 2009: Thanks to a keen-eyed reader, this review was corrected to reflect the appropriate card expansion, memory slots, and external ports available on this desktop. The overall rating remains unchanged.

OVR
7.6

Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

The Good

Outstanding performance in day-to-day software as well as 3D games; affordable.

The Bad

Motherboard and power supply don't accommodate upgrades as well as other midrange gaming PCs; large case not for everyone; phone support hours and online support in general need help.

The Bottom Line

Asus crafted the Essentio CG5290-BP007 to serve as a no-frills gaming desktop for just more than $1,000. And while the boutique PC vendors have a bit more polish for not too much more money, Asus can at least claim that this PC is one of the fastest on the retail shelves. You might have a hard time arguing the necessity of such a fast gaming box for back-to-school, but we can at least recommend this system as a speedy bargain.

Editors' note, Aug. 4, 2009: 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.

The $1,199 Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 stands out from the rest of our back-to-school PCs because of both its price and its intentions. No other desktop in our back-to-school roundup comes in at a cost of more than $1,000. It's also the only PC in this category that puts most of its focus on gaming. You should consider this system a mainstream gaming bargain, as opposed to a dorm room necessity. While this Asus desktop might lack the polish of its gaming vendor competition, we can't deny the appeal of a PC this fast, and for such an attractive price.

The Essentio CG5290 uses the same canted case as the budget-oriented Essentio CG5270. We didn't find that such a large case made sense in the cheaper model with its less demanding specs, but the pairing of components and chassis for this system is more logical, dramatic design notwithstanding. The case isn't overly ugly, but its harsh angles and slanted front end make it a bit monolithic. Perhaps some people want that in a computer.

  Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 Dell Studio XPS 435
Price $1,199 $1,579
CPU 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
Memory 9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870
Hard drives 1TB 7,200rpm (2) 500GB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

The components in the Essentio CG5290 actually seem to merit the large case and the airflow it provides. This is the first back-to-school desktop we've seen with an Intel Core i7 chip in it. It also has the most powerful graphics card, the souped-up version of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260, which has a bit more processing capability than the original GTX 260. Mainstream competition from HP's Pavilion Elite e9180t and Dell's Studio XPS 435 and Studio XPS come close to matching the Asus on price, but fall short on graphics card options. Boutique stalwarts like Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and Velocity Micro will each charge you $200 to $300 more for the same specs (reasonably so, given those systems' expert assembly and more personalized customer service).

That leaves as competitors the price-driven system builders online (Cyberpower, iBuypower, and others) whose customer service and build quality can be harder to predict. The Essentio isn't terribly built, but it lacks the expert cable routing you find in a more boutique desktop. Its online support is also basically nonexistent, and its phone hours are limited. But if this Asus system has much in common with desktops from the less glamorous system builders out there, its advantage is that you can walk into your local big box electronics retailer and pick one up. Considering how well this PC fits the no-frills mainstream gaming profile, for those seeking that kind of desktop, the Essentio CG5290 gives you few reasons to look elsewhere.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
83 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
126 

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
416 

CineBench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Shuttle XPC H7 5800
17,055 
4,265 
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
16,229 
4,066 
Dell Studio XPS 435
16,024 
3,675 
Maingear Pulse
12,529 
3,512 
Dell XPS 625
12,449 
3,387 

The strongest argument for the Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 is its performance. Dell's Studio XPS 435 makes the best comparison from a configuration standpoint, since it too has an Intel Core i7 920 processor. The Dell is more expensive than the Essentio CG5290, largely because of its Blu-ray drive; the Essentio only has a DVD burner. However, the Asus is also able to take enough of a lead on every benchmark, in particular our iTunes test, that we're comfortable saying it is indeed faster than the Dell across the board. Short of professional-level video editing, you will find very few tasks the Essentio CG5290 can't handle.

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
30 
39 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 
Maingear Pulse
18 
25 

FarCry 2 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
61 
62 
Maingear Pulse
34 
48 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 

The gaming results are more dramatic than our standard application tests. Again, the Dell isn't bad, but the Asus' scores are generally faster, and performs most impressively on our high-resolution Far Cry 2 test where it holds steady at 61 frames per second. All of the PCs on this list are respectable lower-end gamers, but none of them overachieves quite like this Asus. With the exception of Crysis, an outlying worst-case scenario for gaming desktops, you should be able to play any PC title on a 24-inch display with this Asus with at least moderate image quality settings enabled.

Even though Asus has taken a lean-and-mean approach to gaming performance, it doesn't quite provide the upgrade path of its boutique competitors. The Essentio CG5290 does offer a second PCI Express graphics card slot, but with only a 500-watt power supply it's not that useful. The online power supply calculator at NewEgg, for example, recommends an 800- to 850-watt power supply for an Intel Core i7-based system with two GeForce GTX 260 cards.

We suspect you could get away with less than an 850 watt PSU, and a dual 3D card-capable Velocity Micro Z30 with the same specs as this Asus goes for just a bit more money, but it also offers more robust 650-watt power supply. You could certainly buy a new power supply to go along with the extra graphics card for this Asus system, but at that point you will have lost any price advantage, and you also have to put the time in to make the upgrade. If you're after a two-graphics card PC for a low price, we can't recommend this Asus as a starting point.

In addition to the Asus' second graphics card slot, you also get a standard PCI slot and a second hard drive. You get six RAM slots, although all are currently filled. Even if the Dell Studio XPS 435 lacks a second graphics card slot, it supports three hard drives and offers multiple standard PCI and PCI Express 1x and 4x slots. We wish Asus had taken similar advantage of the space inside its large chassis. As is, the level of upgradeability is only fair.

For external ports, the Asus and the Dell are more comparable. The Asus has a few more USB 2.0 ports, but both have FireWire 400 and eSATA inputs for external data transfers. You get no HDMI video output on either system, although you will find the usual combination of 7.1 analog audio ports, as well as a single optical digital audio output. HDMI isn't exactly mission critical for a gaming box, and it's hard to complain that Asus left anything out as far as external connectivity since the price of the Essentio is so low.

Juice box
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007 Average watts per hour
Off 1.97
Sleep 4.92
Idle 125.84
Load 241.48
Raw (annual kWh) 503.2401
Energy Star compliant No
Annual energy cost $57.12

Annual power consumption cost
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
57.12 

These systems for the most part show what you can expect in terms of annual power bills from a single 3D card gaming desktop in the $1,000 to $2,000 range. The Maingear Pulse is the notable exception, as it was purposely built for power efficiency. You can see from our performance charts what it had to sacrifice in speed in exchange. The Asus looks much better than the Dell, at any rate, and considering that the Essentio is also faster than the Studio XPS 435, this Asus system at least has an argument for itself as an efficient full-tower gaming PC.

Asus is a relatively new entrant to the retail desktop market, but that doesn't excuse it from providing robust customer support. Unfortunately, its Web site and phone service are severely lacking. You get a single year of parts-and-labor warranty, in keeping with the industry standard; but you'll find only scant information about this system online, most of which is difficult to find. The limited phone hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PT weekdays, doesn't help matters.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 920 (over clocked); 9GB 1,066 DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Dell Studio XPS 435
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 6GB 1,066 DDR3 SDRAM; 1TB ATI Radeon HD 4870; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

Dell XPS 625
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.

Maingear Pulse
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.83GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550s; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT Eco graphics card; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital Scorpio hard drive.

Shuttle XPC H7 5800
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 940; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285; 500GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

OVR
7.6

Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Support 4
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