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eMachines' $389 ET1831-07 is one of the least expensive desktops we've reviewed this year. Its traditional midtower case might not offer as much visual charm as the small form factor Nettops you'll find in this price range, but this eMachines is actually a relatively strong day-to-day performer, and boasts an aggressive feature set for its price. You can forget using this system for demanding tasks like watching HD video or playing games, but we can recommend it if you're looking for an affordable, basic productivity box.
The ET1831-07's glossy black plastic front panel mostly fits the midtower PC mold that's taken over Windows-based PCs. The one variation is a strip of plastic across the middle of the system's front. When you turn the PC on, the strip lights up green. This isn't a bad first PC for a child, and in that case, the light won't feel out of place. An adult might not appreciate it as much.
|eMachines ET1831-07||HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y|
|CPU||2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400||2.81GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||3GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 7050 integrated graphics chip||256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200 rpm||500GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100 Ethernet LAN||10/100 Ethernet LAN|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Next to HP's budget-priced Compaq Presario CQ5320Y, the eMachines system looks like a pretty good deal. First, the eMachines costs about $20 less than the Compaq system. It also includes a larger hard drive and more memory. More RAM is especially important in PCs like these with integrated graphics chips that stake a claim on a portion of the system memory. The eMachines also has a technically slower CPU clock speed than the Compaq system, but due to different underlying tech between the Intel and AMD CPUs, as well as the aforementioned memory apportioning, the eMachines comes out on top in our application tests. From a features standpoint, the eMachines is clearly the better deal between these two PCs.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
The eMachines performance is nothing short of remarkable, at least as far as basic application performance. Not only did it blow by the HP Compaq on every test, but it also outperformed the $519 Dell Inspiron i545 and the $510 HP Pavilion Slimline s5310y on occasion. Outperforming overpriced, relatively slow competing system is perhaps no great feat, but the eMachines certainly shows that you don't have to spend much to afford a competent desktop.
Our one gripe with the ET1831-07 has to do with its video playback capabilities. Its Geforce 7050 graphics chip is an older model that doesn't support the new hardware-accelerated Flash 10.1. That might not necessarily guarantee a poor video experience depending on the CPU and the amount of system memory, but in the case of this system, we had bad luck with standard-definition content at Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, as well as with Apple's HD movie trailer site. An enthusiast could add a graphics card, or possibly even play around the with software (we're told the third-party media player XBMC is a decent lightweight option), but in terms of out-of-the-box video capabilities, this eMachines is fairly weak.
If you want to upgrade the eMachines' hardware, you have a few options inside. You get a 16x PCI Express graphics card slot, as well as a PCI-Express 1x slot, and a pair of standard PCI slots for legacy expansion cards. Both memory slots are occupied, but there's also room to add a second hard drive. The motherboard backplane provides sparse connectivity options, including only four USB 2.0 ports, a networking jack, a set of 7.1 analog audio inputs, and a VGA video output. Things like FireWire, digital audio or video, and eSATA are all absent, although given the price of this system, we're not surprised.
|eMachines ET1831-07||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.37|
|Sleep (10 percent)||3.23|
|Idle (25 percent)||36.86|
|Load (5 percent)||64.34|
|Annual energy cost||$2.67|
The eMachines' posts admirable power consumption given its performance. It's not quite as efficient as the thrifty, Nettop-like Dell Inspiron Zino HD, but it uses measurably less than the HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y, the desktop it outperformed. We love it when that happens. Kudos to eMachines.
eMachines' service and support matches that of its mainstream desktop competition, likely in part thanks to the deep-pocketed backing of parent company (and Gateway owner) Acer. You get one year of parts-and-labor coverage with the eMachines system, as well a 24-7 phone support, and a relatively useful set of support references on the eMachines Web site.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Inspiron i545-1125NBK
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 7050 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Compaq Presario CQ5320y
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB Intel GMA HD integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5310y
c Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3GHz AMD Athlon II X2 250; ; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 640GBTB, 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive