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|
|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|
|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.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
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.
As it's both a budget desktop and an all-in-one, we don't expect much from the EZ1601-01 in the way of an upgrade path or general connectivity. eMachines provides no obvious means to access the case internals, so making memory, hard drive, or more ambitious upgrades is left to the truly dedicated. The external connection options offer only the basic, with only five USB 2.0 ports, an SD Card reader, and a pair of analog audio jacks. There's no Webcam on the EZ1601-01, and the only extra touch is a pair of buttons for controlling screen brightness.
|eMachines EZ1601-01||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||50.3043|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual energy cost||$5.71|
While we hope we've made it clear that we hold Nettops in low regard, we are at least glad to see their power consumption is in keeping with their low performance. The eMachines EZ1601-01 has the lowest annual power cost of any PC we've tested so far, which is impressive considering it comes with a built-in display.
Finally, if you're still intent on purchasing a Nettop and the eMachines feature and value advantages over the Asus system haven't already swayed you, perhaps its customer service will. The two vendors share a one-year parts and labor warranty, but unlike Asus, eMachines offers 24-7 toll-free tech support, and has an easy-to-navigate support Web site with useful features.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Asus Eee Top ET1602
Windows XP Home SP3; 1.6Ghz Intel Atom N270; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 80GB, 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit); 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3200; 250GB 5,400 rpm Samsung 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 XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 160GB 5,400 rpm Western Digital 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