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eMachines ET1161-03 review: eMachines ET1161-03

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The Good Several internal expansion slots available for future upgrades; roomy interior; inclusive front-loading card reader.

The Bad Other prebuilt systems offer more features and better components for the same price.

The Bottom Line The eMachines ET1161-03 delivers fewer features than its competition at the same price. Stretch your dollar further and you'll find a desktop with significantly better components for only $50 more.

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5.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5
  • Support 7

The eMachines ET1161-03 is a low-maintenance desktop PC for light users with a budget on the brain. The $400 price tag will net you get a dual-core AMD Athlon processor with integrated audio and video, 3GB of RAM, a single 320GB hard drive, and 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium. Unfortunately, its performance numbers don't match up to other similarly priced systems that actually include higher-grade components. If you're shopping around for a desktop and can only pay $400, check out the Compaq Presario SR5610F. If you can save up, you'll get more mileage handing over an extra $50 to Acer for the Aspire AX3200-U3600A, another low-budget PC that benefits from a triple-core processor, more RAM, and a more robust set of onboard ports.

The Compaq Presario SR5610F is a direct competitor to the eMachines ET1161-03 in both price and features. Both systems cost $400 and have a similar setup, but with several differences that give Compaq the upper hand. First, let's take a look at the two systems in a side-by-side comparison chart.

  eMachines ET1161-03 Compaq Presario SR5610f
Price $399 $399
CPU 2.3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4400 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4800
Memory 3GB 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 320GB, 7,200 rpm 320GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

The eMachines ET1161-03 is about as basic as they come. The exterior is a mundane grey and matte black with no exciting lights or panels to speak of. Below the dual-layer DVD burner and expansion drive slot, you'll find a digital media reader for direct transfers from a variety of storage formats including SD/MMC, Memory Stick, Compact Flash, and SMC. The front panel also gives you two USB 2.0 ports as well as a stereo mic and headphone jack.

After undoing two screws, the eMachines' side panel pops right off to reveal a very tidy interior. It's easy to move around inside and there are even labels next to each card slot and port. All four DDR2 slots are already occupied by memory sticks, but there is plenty of room for other expansion through two 1x PCI Express slots, one PCI card slot, and four SATA ports, two of which are taken by the hard drive and optical disc. If you don't need a dial-up Web connection, you can also replace the modem inside with an aftermarket sound card down the line.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines ET1161-03

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines ET1161-03

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines ET1161-03

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Dell Inspiron 530
Acer Aspire X3200
Dell Inspiron 530s
Compaq Presario SR610F
eMachines ET1161-03

You'll notice that although both systems are the exact same price, the Compaq Presario's 200MHz increase in processor speed and a more aggressive CPU produce consistently higher performance marks across all of our benchmark tests. The eMachines takes a significant hit in the Photoshop and iTunes tests that place more emphasis on processor speed. Despite using both cores, the eMachines still falls into last place in the multitasking test due its slower CPU.

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