If you're shopping for a light-duty computer on a budget but still crave the performance benefits of a full-size desktop, the $370 eMachines ET1810-03 budget desktop might be the answer. It doesn't have the eMachines EL1300G-01w's slim-tower profile, but it makes a dramatic improvement in performance with a fast Intel dual-core processor, 3GB of memory, and a larger hard drive for less than $100 more. If you don't expect too much out of this system and relegate your activities to Web surfing and light media editing, the eMachines ET1810-03 won't disappoint you. Just know that spending slightly more money will net you a much faster system.
The ET1810-03's midtower design isn't considered large by today's standards, measuring 14.5 inches tall by 7.2 inches wide by 16.1 inches deep, but you still don't get the space savings offered by smaller slim-tower PCs such as the HP SlimLine series or the Gateway SX2800-01, our new favorite budget desktop. Instead, what you get is a concealed DVD burner, an empty slot below to fill with another optical drive, and a media bay down below with two USB 2.0 ports, media card ports, and jacks for a microphone and headphones. The case itself retains the same creamy white finish as the EL1300G-01w--the design emulates a slightly less modern Apple iMac. Regardless, we're confident that it will blend well into almost any home or office environment.
|eMachines ET1810-03||Gateway SX2800-01|
|CPU||2.2GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E2210||2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200|
|Memory||3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 7050 integrated graphics||32MB Intel GMA X4500|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm||640GB, 7,200rpm|
|Networking||10/100 Ethernet; 56k fax/modem||Gigabit Ethernet; 56k fax/modem|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit|
We chose the $510 Gateway SX2800-01 budget computer as a direct competitor based on the Gateway's strong bang-for-the-buck. Of course, it's a faster and better-equipped PC than this eMachines, with a larger hard drive, more RAM, and even a quad-core chip. That's to be expected given the price difference. The eMachines' components make sense for its price, and if you're locked into the $375 to $400 range, it's a fair deal. However, for the sake of overall performance and capability, you would be wise to save up for the Gateway, which you can even find at some retailers for $480 or so.
|Rendering multi-CPU||Rendering single CPU|
The performance scores of this group also don't surprise us. The Gateway leads the pack in all four benchmark tests, eMachines ET1810-03 makes a fair account for itself given its specs, even outperforming the $480 Dell Inspiron 537s on our iTunes benchmark. This is no multimedia editing powerhouse, but the eMachines is at least capable for its price, especially when you consider it next to the $298 eMachines EL1300G-01w, an even lower-end lesson in the benefits of spending just a few dollars more.
In terms of upgradeability, the eMachines offers ample room inside for one more hard drive, the aforementioned optical drive, a 16x PCI Express card, and one more PCI card slot. You can also open up another PCI slot if you remove the 56K modem. Unfortunately, both DDR2 memory slots are taken by one 2GB stick and another 1GB stick--you'll have to sacrifice one if you ever upgrade the memory. The inside of the case has plenty of wiggle room to beef up this budget PC, but you're better off saving up and getting a faster system now if you're already looking to upgrade. For everyone else, the core components in this system can aptly run productivity applications, media playback, and streaming video online.
|eMachines ET1810-03||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||153.02406|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual energy cost||$17.37|
None of the desktops in the comparison uses a lot of power, but the eMachines ET1810-03 winds up among the cheapest to operate at only $17.37 per year. The Dell Inspiron 537s and the Asus Essentio are both faster than the eMachines and understandably cost a bit more at $20.59 and $24.57 year-over-year, but overall the eMachines' power efficiency, if not its performance, benefits considerably from its slower dual-core, 2.2GHz clock speed.
eMachines backs the ET1810-03 with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Technical support is available seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight PT, and the support section of the Web site offers live chat with a technician from 3 a.m. to midnight. For $99, you can also extend the warranty for two additional years. Given the $370 price of the system itself, it's most certainly not worth extending the warranty.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640MB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell Inspiron 537s
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
32-bit Windows Vista Home Basic; 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 160GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium Core 2 Duo E2210; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia nForce 620i integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.