The new year brings with it a new chance for eMachines to score big with its ET1161-07 budget desktop computer. The system contains the usual fare of baseline components with adequate room for upgrades inside the bare-bones tower, and $380 seems a decent price for the package--until you shop around and find other manufacturers offering more complex workhorses for just a little more money. Shoppers on an immovable budget shouldn't disregard the ET1161-07, but if you can afford to save up an extra $100, you may want to consider a more versatile and powerful system, like the new Acer Aspire X1700.
If the ET1161-07's design gives you a feeling of deja vu, it's because the chassis has been in use for a few years now---most recently in the ET1161-03. You get the same, boring, gray and black chassis with a dual-layer DVD burner on top and room for an expansion drive underneath. The front panel is also home to the digital-media manager that offers direct-input access to SMCs, Compact Flash, SD, and MemoryStick cards. Two USB 2.0 ports and two standard microphone and headphone jacks complete the setup. The back of the unit is just as simple as the front, with four additional USB ports and the usual collection of audio jacks, peripheral inputs, and an Ethernet port for high-speed Internet.
Inside, there's plenty of room for expansion by way of one PCI Express graphics card slot, two 1X PCI Express slots, and one available DIMM slot for additional memory (three out of the four slots are already occupied by 1GB sticks). Two SATA ports are also free for an additional hard or optical drive, and you can even replace the included 56Kbps modem with an aftermarket sound card if you choose. The opportunity for expansion inside is on par with the standard for budget midtower systems. For the price, we don't expect to have an HDMI-out or digital audio, although you can spend a little more and get those features added.
|eMachines ET1161-07||Compaq Presario SR5610f|
|CPU||2.1GHz AMD Athlon Dual Core Processor 4050e||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, 7,200rpm||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 Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)|
We selected the Compaq Presario SR5610f as a direct comparison, because of its parallel price and similar internal offering. The only factor to account for the $19 difference is the .4GHz processor-speed upgrade, which actually makes a substantial difference in performance scores, as you see below.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
If the ET1161-07's dull exterior and humdrum components don't inspire you to keep shopping, these test results most definitely will. Thanks to its flaccid processor speed and a wimpy 3GB of memory, the ET1161-07 dragged its feet in every single one of the performance tests, especially in the Photoshop and iTunes benchmarks. All of the comparison models are dual-core processors, but the Acer Aspire X1200 and X1700, as well as the Dell Inspiron I530S-119B, operate on 64-bit Windows Vista, which, paired with 4GB of memory, helps provide significantly quicker application response in a multitasking environment.
If you're faced with a strict budget, the inexpensive Compaq SR5610f can handle all of your basic applications, Web surfing, and streaming online video without lag, but don't expect it to run graphics-intensive software; for that, you'll need a more robust system, and if you can wait to drum up an extra Ben Franklin for your investment, your reward can be Acer's newest machine--the Aspire X1700. We don't have a full review of that unit up just yet, but you'll benefit from an additional gigabyte of RAM, a larger 640GB hard drive, an HDMI video-out, an eSATA port for fast external hard drive connections, and a speedier Intel dual-core CPU, all housed in a slimmer, sexier form factor. In the meantime, start saving your pocket change and read up on the Acer Aspire X1200 and the Acer Aspire AX3200 for a preview of what's to come.
Finally, eMachines backs the ET1161-07 with its default warranty that covers parts and labor for a year. Technical support is available seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. (PST), and the support section of the Web site offers live chat with a technician from 3 a.m. to 12 a.m., as well. For $99, you can also extend the warranty for two additional years.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Acer Aspire X1200-U1520A
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 4850e Dual Core; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Compaq Presario SR5610f
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64, X2 Dual Core 4800; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,20 rpm hard drive.
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.1GHz AMD Athlon Dual Core Processor 4050e; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Acer Aspire X1700-U3700A
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Pentium Dual CPU E2220; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce G100 integrated graphics chip; 6400GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell Inspiron I530S-119B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive