Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
The $480 Asus Essentio CM5570-AP003 is a stripped-down version of the CM5570-AP006 we reviewed in July. It uses the same basic tower but replaces the AP006's graphics card and quad-core CPU with an integrated video chip and a dual-core processor. The new model gave adequate performance, but it still doesn't compare to our reigning budget champion, the Gateway SX2800-01. It's hard to recommend this desktop when it's outperformed by an older, less expensive competitor.
If the design of the Essentio CM5570-AP003 looks familiar, it's because it uses the same tower as the Essentio CM5570-AP006 and the CM5570-AP002. The plain, glossy black face and spacious interior are typical for a midtower in this price range, and nothing really innovative jumps out, although there are a couple USB ports, audio jacks, and a media card reader hidden behind a drop-down faceplate on the front of the case.
|Asus Essentio CM5570-AP003||Gateway DX4822-01|
|CPU||2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300||2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300|
|Memory||6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip||32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200rpm||1TB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN||10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Premium 64-bit||Windows 7 Premium 64-bit|
The Gateway DX4822-01's larger hard drive is the primary difference in a side-by-side comparison, otherwise the two systems share the same 2.6GHz Dual-Core Intel CPU and an integrated graphics chip. The Gateway sets itself apart with Gigabit Ethernet, although we suspect that most people will buy this system for the home, where Gigabit Ethernet generally isn't that important.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
On the other hand, the older, still available Gateway SX2800-01 offers a different value proposition at roughly the same cost. In terms of core components, the biggest difference between the two is the SX2800-01's Core 2 Quad CPU, which offsets its lower clock speed in our benchmark tests. The speed benefits make a convincing argument for the SX2800-01, especially if you plan on rendering or encoding larger media files with software that takes advantage of all four cores. On the other hand, since heavy media editing isn't typically a concern for budget-minded shoppers, we should note that the Asus will be fast enough for the basic applications most people use every day. As our tests demonstrate, the Essentio keeps to the front of the pack, coming in just behind the Gateway in all four of our benchmark tests. It even manages to outpace the Gateway in the iTunes test that emphasizes single-core clock speed. We're impressed by the Asus' ability to keep up, and although the Gateway SX2800-01 is faster, at least the Asus is a strong contender among the most recent batch of desktops on the retail shelf.
The CM5570-AP003's rear panel has a sufficient amount of connections on the motherboard to give you the option to put it in the living room as a media center PC. You get six more USB ports, digital audio out, Ethernet port, and a single PS/2 port for a mouse in addition to HDMI, DVI, and VGA ports to connect the system to a monitor. We were impressed by the amount of inputs on the Gateway, but the Asus actually offers DVI in addition to VGA and HDMI ports to connect the system to a variety of displays. HDMI isn't crucial in a midtower, especially a clunky one like this, but we'd always rather have the option than not.
While the Gateway SX2700-01's slim tower form offers limited expansion room inside, the Asus Essentio CM5570-AP003 makes it much easier to upgrade because of its larger case. The motherboard has room for a single 16x PCI Express graphics card as well as a pair of standard PCI card and a 1X PCI Express card for wireless networking. You can also add an extra hard drive and another optical disc drive, but future memory upgrades will require you to throw away at least one memory card, as all four slots are currently occupied.
|Raw (annual kWh)||208.27776|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$23.64|
The Essentio CM5570-AP003 doesn't perform quite as well in our power tests, meaning you'll have to pay more per year to keep this PC running. The cost comparison below drives the point further in favor of the Gateway SX2800-01, which requires less power to operate at a faster performance rate than the Asus. The $2 difference per year isn't that big of a deal, but it's clear that the Essentio is not as efficient as it could be.
Asus falls short once again in customer service support. The Essentio is backed for a full year, but its phone support is limited to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, and only from Monday to Friday. And even though Asus includes links on the Windows desktop to its support page, even that only gets you as far as its woefully underdeveloped drop-down menu-based help site. HP and Gateway (along with pretty much every other PC vendor) both offer much more robust online assistance.
Asus Essentio CM5570-AP003
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB Intel MGA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 750GB, 7200rpm hard drive
Dell Inspiron 545s-1476N
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7200rpm hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7200rpm hard drive
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, 7200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5220y
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.6 GHz Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Intel GMZ 3100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7200rpm hard drive