eMachines EZ1601-01 review: eMachines EZ1601-01

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The Good Large screen for its price; strong features among Nettops.

The Bad Typically terrible Nettop performance; Netbooks offer portability and the same (bad) performance for the same price; weak audio and suspect online video processing kills any appeal as a dedicated movie PC.

The Bottom Line If you must buy a Nettop, the eMachines EZ1601-01's large screen and category-competitive components make a decent argument for its value among other systems like it. One look at a true budget desktop, or even a Netbook, and the appeal of this system diminishes quickly.

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

Declaring the eMachines EZ1601-01 the best all-in-one Nettop we've seen is kind of like saying swine flu is our favorite vaccination-resistant virus. We haven't been shy about our distaste for this entire Nettop product category, and while eMachines has wrapped this system around an uncommonly large display for its $399 price, we still find that either a Netbook or a true budget desktop is a better way to spend your computing dollar. eMachines and other purveyors of Nettops want you to believe these PCs are appropriate, as nigh-disposable second or third computers. We agree, but only if you truly value short-term dollar savings over long-term usefulness.

The eMachines EZ1601-01 is a fairly unobtrusive, compact all-in-one system. Its glossy all-black exterior is easy-enough on the eyes, and at only 19 inches wide by 13 inches tall, you should have little trouble finding a place for it. Both the mouse and keyboard are wired peripherals, and a moderately sized power brick may need hiding, but at least the 802.11 b/g wireless networking will spare you from having to run a network cable through your kitchen.

The EZ1601-01 has quite a bit in common with the Asus Eee Top ET1602, its primary Nettop competitor, but we're going to focus first on the differences between the two. The Asus system shipped earlier this year for $599, but its price has settled to about $499. The eMachines is $100 less than even the Asus' discounted price, coming in at $399.

You don't get a touch screen with the eMachines as with the Asus, although we're not too upset about the loss. We can see the appeal of touch-based input in a kitchen where you might want a PC to serve up recipes and digital media kiosk-style, or elsewhere as a kind of family organizer. Generally, though, touch offers relatively few benefits, mostly because of a lack of decent touch programs. We'll happily sacrifice touch for a lower price, a larger screen, or--as with this eMachines--both.

The eMachines EZ1601-01 boasts a much larger screen than the Asus system, to the tune of an 18.5-inch wide-screen display versus the Asus' 15.6-inch LCD. Despite the size difference, each display actually has the same 1,366x768-pixel resolution. That means the eMachines won't show any more information than the Asus, but it will appear larger, making text easier to read, for example. If you have poor eyesight, or you anticipate reading the screen from a distance, the eMachines larger display makes sense.

Finally, the EZ1601-01 has a DVD player, while the Asus all-in-one has no optical drive. In theory, we can see using this system as a small-scale home entertainment PC. We found the DVD video quality met our expectations, although online video from Hulu.com, even the standard definition content, was choppy and grainy at times. The larger issue is the audio output. It's far too soft even at the maximum volume setting, to the point where dialogue could be inaudible. The weak audio effectively ruins the movie watching experience, hurting one of this system's possible selling points.

  eMachines EZ1601-01 Asus Eee Top ET1602
Price $399 $499
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 160GB, 5,400rpm 160GB, 5,400rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD NA
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless
Display size 18.5-inches 15.6-inches
Operating system Windows XP Home SP3 Windows XP Home SP3

The similarities between the eMachines and the Asus systems come under their respective hoods. The two have the same core components, as well as the same tiny 160GB hard drive. Given the Asus' higher price tag, even discounting touch input, eMachines clearly has the better deal when you sum up its components, its large screen, and its optical drive. Of course, you can also buy a standard desktop for the same price that's twice as fast. You can also save up an extra $100 for a system that's almost 10 times as fast. Our benchmarks tell the whole story.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
eMachines EZ1601-01

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
eMachines EZ1601-01

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
eMachines EZ1601-01

CineBench test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2800-01
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
eMachines EZ1601-01
Asus Eee Top ET1602

Our tests illustrate our biggest disconnect with the Nettop category. Next to traditional $399 and $499 desktops, as well as a $599 all-in-one from Averatec with a full-fledged desktop CPU, the Atom-based eMachines and Asus Nettops look just plain pathetic in trying to perform actual computing work. We agree that not everyone needs a fast computer. However, we'd submit that a Netbook, like HP's $499 Mini 5101 or Asus' $375 Eee PC 1005HA, offers a better deal with identical (if not faster) performance than a Nettop, as well as portability for the same price.

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