CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test computers

eMachines EL1200-05w review: eMachines EL1200-05w

eMachines EL1200-05w

Justin Yu
Justin Yu Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals
Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.
5 min read

The eMachines EL1200-05w is a Wal-Mart exclusive desktop that scrapes together a series of low-quality components in a cramped slim-tower chassis. Although it might look like a home theater PC at first glance, the interior reveals a barren landscape with very little room for expansion. This $298 desktop is one of the cheapest systems that eMachines offers, but we're dissatisfied with the outdated operating system and lackluster performance scores. We recommend saving $100 for a system that will allow you the freedom to multitask and run more robust applications.


eMachines EL1200-05w

The Good

Inexpensive; space-saving chassis.

The Bad

Low-quality components produce poor performance scores; cramped interior with few expansion options.

The Bottom Line

Although the eMachines EL1200-05w's price tag is tempting, an extra $100 will land you a competitive desktop that can handle a wider variety of applications and even leaves room for future expansion opportunities.

Don't be fooled by the small chassis, the eMachines EL1200-05w is a far cry from the aesthetically similar Acer Aspire x3200. The case is almost the exact same size at 10 inches tall by 4 inches wide by 15 inches deep, and the front houses the vertical dual-layer DVD burner with a multimedia card reader , USB 2.0 ports, and audio jacks toward the bottom. The rear supplies an Ethernet port, four more USB connections, more audio plugs, and a modem. Two superfluous PS/2 ports for older mice and keyboards round out the back, but eMachines is remiss to exclude FireWire, although we wouldn't expect it at this price.

The Compaq Presario SR5610 is only $100 more than the eMachines but it achieves much more for the price. The most significant difference is in the processor speed and number of cores. The eMachines barely gets by with a single-core 1.6GHz AMD processor while the Compaq's 2.5GHz dual-core AMD Athlon CPU can handle a respectable amount of application multitasking and graphics heavy software. The Compaq can also brag about the additional 2 gigabytes of memory and double the amount of hard-drive storage space. Finally, the eMachines relies on the older Windows XP operating system while the Compaq runs on Microsoft's most recent OS that takes advantage of its extra hardware. At the same time, the retail price benefits from the low cost overhead provided by Windows XP over Vista that potentially gives you more performance for the dollar. Unfortunately, our test results speak differently, and we wish that this system made up for them with additional perks, especially with other budget PCs on the market give you much more horsepower at a slightly higher cost.

  eMachines EL1200-05w Compaq Presario SR5610F
Price $298 $399
CPU 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 single-core 2650e 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core 4800
Memory 1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 160GB, 7200rpm 320GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN
Operating system Windows XP Home Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

The chassis is designed to fit into small spaces, but the side panel pulls off to reveal an overcrowded interior. An overbearing optical drive takes up half of the space, and you must remove the bay to access the hard drive and two memory slots (only one is occupied) behind it. Like most budget systems, there isn't much room for internal expansion aside from the stock components. The EL1200-05w has slots for a half-height PCI Express video card and a half-height PCI Express x1 card. If you do get the upgrade bug down the line, eMachines offers designated spaces on the rear panel for digital audio, eSATA, and HDMI.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines EL1200-05w

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines EL1200-05w

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines EL1200-05w

Cinebench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Single CPU  
eMachines EL1200-05w

As expected, the eMachines' budget components just don't stack up against the competition. Because of its single-core and reduced processor speed, the disparity is most obvious in the multitasking and Cinebench benchmarks, where it took 5,220 seconds to complete our standard multimedia test. To put it in comparison, the next closest score is another eMachines system, the ET1161-03, at 1,300 seconds. The eMachines also trailed in the applications ratings as well, dragging its feet at 466 seconds for Photoshop and 323 seconds for the iTunes test. Even the most budget PCs available usually feature at least a dual-core processor, so we can't recommend the eMachines unless you're a fan of tapping your feet between commands.

This eMachines system comes with a typical one-year warranty covering parts and labor, as well as phone support seven a days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight Pacific Time. The eMachines Web site also provides you with a live chat feature from 3 a.m. to midnight Pacific Time where a virtual operator can mitigate software issues via remote access and online chat. eMachines also offer $99 and $139 extended warranties that guarantee service for an extra two or three years, respectively.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

eMachines EL1200-05w
Windows XP Home; 1.6 GHz AMD Athlon 2650e; 1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 6150SE graphics card; 160GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.

Dell Inspiron 530s
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 3200GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Acer Aspire X3200
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.

Compaq Presario SR5610f
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit); 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4800; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive.

eMachines ET1161-03
Windows Vista Home Basic SP1 (32-bit); 2.3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4400; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive.


eMachines EL1200-05w

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 5Performance 3Support 7
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping