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eMachines ER1402-05 review: eMachines ER1402-05

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MSRP: $299.99
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The Good Wireless networking uncommon in Nettops at this price; wireless mouse and keyboard included; monitor mountable with a separate bracket; relatively conservative design suitable for living-room use.

The Bad Can't handle HD video well; no optical drive; game consoles offer better bang for the buck.

The Bottom Line eMachines ER1402-05 is a strong living-room Nettop among others like it, but it doesn't compete well in the larger picture of living-room entertainment devices like game consoles, media streamers, and video service-equipped Blu-ray players. It's worth a look if you need a desktop of this particular type, but keep shopping if you need a connected living-room media device.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 7

Review Sections

The eMachines ER1402-05 is the latest in the recent spate of low-cost desktops designed to act as a go-between for online video content and your television. Similar to other systems like it, this $299 PC is small and slow, but it also boasts some living-room-friendly features, like an HDMI output and 802.11n wireless networking. As we've pointed out previously, while we like the idea behind these small-scale PCs, they're hardly the only devices with your HDTV in mind. This eMachines system has some strengths, but between questionable value for its price and difficulty with HD content, it's hard for us to recommend over products with a similar focus.

From a design standpoint, the black-and-gray eMachines ER1402-05 looks mostly subtle enough to put in your living room. A down-facing green LED is the only really garish element, and fortunately the case is small enough to hide if you'd rather keep it out of the way. The box itself measures 1 inch high and 8 inches wide and deep, but it also comes with a stand that mounts the system on its corner. In that configuration, the ER1402-05 measures 11 inches high, 10 inches deep, and 3.75 inches wide. eMachines also offers a separate mount that you can use to mount the system on the back of a display if you'd like to keep it out of sight entirely.

eMachines offers a decent wireless keyboard and mouse with the ER1402-05, but it's desperately in need of a remote control. That actually brings up a larger point for this system. We'll assume that anyone shopping for a living-room PC like this one is willing to endure the interface issues inherent in using a Windows-based desktop from the couch. You can overcome those difficulties easily enough with a $50 USB remote, the proper codecs and media player software, and an organized file structure. Even if we zero out the ease-of-use complications, though, a game console or a dedicated device still provides more hardware for your dollar. The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 boast optical disc drives, Blu-ray in the case of the PS3, and the ability to handle 1080p video content. The eMachines 1402-05 offers neither.

As much as the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 have narrowed the content gap by integrating support for various Web content services, we'll agree that the living-room PC has appeal thanks to its access to the entirety of Web-based video. That said, the fact that both game consoles act as Windows Media Center Extenders means that as long as you have both a modern Windows computer and a game console on your home network, pretty much any content you can download from the Web you can send to your TV. Given the console's gaming and HD capabilities, we have a hard time buying into the value proposition of cheap, limited living-room desktops like this eMachines system.

eMachines ER1402-05 Acer Aspire Revo 1600
Price $299 $199
CPU 1.7GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 1.6GHz Intel Atom 230
Memory 2GB 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9200 integrated graphics chip 128MB (shared) Nvidia Ion LE integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 160GB, 5,400rpm 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive
Optical drive NA NA
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows XP Home SP3

If you're committed to owning one of these systems, we can at least report that the eMachines ER1402-05 is a fair deal compared with other PCs in its category. Next to the $199 Acer Aspire Revo 1600, the eMachines has a faster CPU, more RAM, and wireless networking. The Nvidia Ion LE chip in the Acer is really just a retooled GeForce 9300 graphics chip, a slightly faster version than the GeForce 9200 in the eMachines. Neither was suitable for consistently good HD video watching, so that ends up being a tie, unfortunately, and the extra memory allocation to the eMachines chip didn't seem to help too much. On HD YouTube clips, especially, the playback was choppy. The addition of wireless networking to the eMachines is a key feature for the living room, however, and, while we wouldn't use either of these PCs for even day-to-day productivity, the eMachines' CPU was dramatically faster as well.

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)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering single CPU  

Because they all use low-power, low-speed CPUs, benchmarking PCs in this category feels like little more than an academic exercise. We only compare them against the Gateway SX2840-01 to demonstrate how much slower they are next to a real PC with standard desktop processor. Incidentally, that Gateway system is a slim tower PC with a quad-core chip and an HDMI output. It's also the best living-room PC we've seen for under $500, as it's beefy enough to handle HD content and general computing tasks with little difficulty. As you can see from the performance comparison above, the eMachines 1402-05 boasts a moderate improvement compared with the performance of other systems in its class, and it's competitive for its price. It just can't compete with slightly more expensive, traditional PCs that can offer similar living-room functionality.

As this is a closed-case PC, the eMachines 1402-05 isn't upgrade-friendly, at least for its internal components. You also have somewhat limited connectivity options, but eMachines has managed to include pretty much all of the ports we would want on a PC like this. You get an HDMI output, as well as a separate VGA output for video. Audio ports include a pair of analog jacks and an optical S/PDIF digital audio output. You get USB 2.0 only for data ports, but we can live without FireWire or eSATA, and if you really need an alternative port you can rely on a USB adapter. You also get a SD Card slot so you can offload those photo and video files from your digital recording devices.

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