Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002 review: Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002

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The Good HDMI port and Wi-Fi uncommon in midtowers in this price range; slight performance edge due to more recent integrated graphics chip.

The Bad Seemingly nonexistent online support.

The Bottom Line The Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002 isn't an overly remarkable desktop, but it has a few extra features that help it stand out. Its Wi-Fi and HDMI video out port give it some unique capabilities, and the best part is that Asus still manages to keep the price down. It's hard not to like this system, even though we wish Asus had more comprehensive support.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 4

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.

Aside from the fact that it's a midtower system, the Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002 has much of the same charm that we found in a slim tower version from Asus last year. At a reasonable $510, the Asus offers living-room-friendly features like wireless networking and HDMI video output in a competent budget system. You might not necessarily want those features in a midtower, but you also don't have to sacrifice anything to get them. If you demand a slim tower with these kinds of features, Gateway's SX2800-01 offers a similarly priced alternative to the Asus midtower. For those who might want living-room-friendly features in a more upgradable case, or who are simply in the market for an affordable, well-rounded PC, the Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002 is a great option.

Asus has previously ventured into the all-in-one and slim tower desktop arenas before, but this is the first midtower case we've seen from the Taiwanese vendor. Asus has dutifully followed the glossy black case trend common to the majority of recent Windows desktops with this Essentio. While it might not impress anyone on its looks alone, the design is perfectly serviceable, and it will fit into any environment.

  Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002 HP Pavilion p6110y
Price $510 $520
CPU 2.6GHz Intel Pentium E5300 2.6GHz Intel Pentium E5300
Memory 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 (integrated) 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 (integrated)
Hard drives 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
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'll get right to comparing the Essentio with its competition, and HP's Pavilion p6110y makes a great head-to-head. We won't begrudge HP the $10 price difference, but it's interesting to note just how much these systems have in common. The only significant component variation lies in the motherboard/graphics chipset in each system. Asus has an Intel GMA X4500 chip, a more recent integrated graphics chip from Intel than the HP. The Asus' chip is technically DirectX 10 capable, but practically speaking, you won't be playing modern PC games on either desktop, at least without a post-purchase 3D card upgrade.

HD movie playback is also limited in that neither system can support Blu-ray content. Of course neither system comes with a Blu-ray drive, but if the Asus' HDMI output had you thinking about adding a Blu-ray drive post-purchase, you're out of luck.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multi-CPU  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2800-01
Asus CM5570-AP002
HP Pavilion Slimline s5120y
HP Pavilion p6110y
Dell Inspiron 537s

For the most part, performance is a wash between the two systems as well. Gateway's SX2800-01 leads the budget retail desktop category thanks to its quad-core CPU, but between the Asus and HP systems, Asus enjoys only a slight advantage, most notably on our multimedia multitasking test, where it edged the HP by roughly 30 seconds. We suspect this test, which involves video encoding on top of an MP3 file conversion, is where the Asus' more up-to-date graphics chip pays off. Which is not to say that the Essentio is a multimedia powerhouse. If you think you'll be spending significant time encoding or transcoding video files, we'd encourage you to at least consider the Gateway system, if not a higher-end PC. Still, of the two $500-ish midtowers we've tested for the back to school season, the Asus system should give you a minor performance edge over the HP Pavilion p6110y in the long run.

We mentioned the HDMI video output and the wireless networking earlier in the review as evidence of the Asus' living-room-readiness. Because of the midtower design of this system, however, those features function more like added bonuses. If you have an HDMI-equipped desktop monitor with built-in speakers, for example, the Asus and its HDMI port will let you connect to that display and take advantage of the fact that HDMI carries an audio signal as well as video. In other words, you won't need to connect your PC's audio to the monitor speakers through a separate cable. Wireless networking also helps minimize cable clutter. This is probably less of an issue for a deskbound office PC than a portable system. But if you were to drag the Essentio into your living room, we imagine you'd appreciate not having to string yet another cable to get this system on your network.

The Essentio offers modest upgrade room, and it can accommodate a lower-end 3D card via its 16x PCI Express slot, as well as two other standard PCI cards. You get room for a few more hard drives, as well as room for one more memory stick. In general, we don't recommend spending money to upgrade budget PCs post-purchase, as you can typically get a better deal if you're willing to spend an extra $100 or $200 on a complete system.

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