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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|
|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.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
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.
If you can afford to throw down an extra $50, we recommend getting the Aspire AX3200-U3600A. This slim-line triple-core PC will appeal to space-saving workhorses who need a desktop to accommodate multitasking and high-volume workloads. Where the eMachines fails to deliver high-quality video, the Acer features an integrated HDMI video port on the back of the unit that gives you the option of using it as a home theater PC (with other tweaks). Although you don't get as many options to expand, most consumers shopping for a budget PC don't perform significant aftermarket upgrades anyway, and the Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A delivers onboard components that can sustain its shelf life for years without an upgrade.
The eMachines ET1161-03 comes with a standard one-year warranty that guarantees one free replacement of parts and labor, and technical support via telephone seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight, Pacific time. The online support site also offers a live chat feature from 3 a.m. to midnight, PT, seven days a week to troubleshoot issues via remote access and direct online communication. You can also opt for the extended service plan that increases the longevity of the manufacturer's warranty for a period of two years for $99, or three years for $139.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows Vista Home Premium 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.
Dell Inspiron 530
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium E2160; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics card; 320GB, 7,200 rpm 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 7,200 rpm 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.