The eMachines T2824 is the entry-level configuration for the company's current budget-PC offerings. Priced at $400 (after a $50 mail-in rebate that's good through October), the T2824 is predictably lean in terms of features. With a 2.53GHz Intel Celeron D 325 processor and 256MB of 333MHz memory, this no-frills PC has enough capability for basic day-to-day use such as browsing the Web and word processing, plus the simplest multimedia tasks, such as light photo editing--but that's about it. Unless you are on a strict budget, we suggest spending the extra $100 for the : you'll double the memory allotment and the hard drive capacity. And for more advanced users looking for a more multimedia-friendly yet still affordable machine, the top-of-the-line is one of our favorite budget systems.
The eMachines T2824 comes in a sleek black midtower case with a stylish silver front panel. We were pleased to find an eight-in-one media-card reader in lieu of a floppy drive. There's only one optical drive, but it's a versatile CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, which lets you play DVD movies and burn CDs (at a 48X clip). There's a free bay should you want to add a second optical drive. Among the front panel ports resides a single USB 2.0 jack, so you can easily connect one peripheral device or use a USB flash drive to move files between systems. A sliding hatch at the base of the front panel reveals a microphone and a stereo headset jack. You'll find four more USB 2.0 connectors on the back panel.
A modem card takes up one of the system's three PCI slots, but you won't find an AGP slot for adding an advanced graphics card. If you develop a taste for 3D gaming, you'll need to develop the budget for a new PC, too. The T2824 uses the underachieving Intel Extreme Graphics provided by the Intel 845G chipset, which is now three generations old (having been surpassed by last year's 865 chipset and the 915 chipset from earlier this year). Its frame rate of 9.8fps is far from playable, and that's at our most forgiving 3D test settings.
The integrated graphics chip borrows from the main system memory, so the overall performance takes a hit, especially true since the system's 256MB is the minimum requirement for running Windows XP Home. The T2824 posted the lowest overall SysMark 2004 scores of the five budget comparison systems by a considerable margin. Upgrading the memory won't turn this low-end PC into a performance powerhouse, but it will make a significant difference, and fortunately, the T2824 has a free memory slot. While you're at it, you might want to upgrade the poky, 5,400rpm hard drive to a 7,200rpm unit, which is the type of drive found in most desktops today.
The T2824 ships with a basic mouse and keyboard and a wimpy two-piece speaker set that's paired with an equally weak integrated sound chip. Our test system came bundled with one of the monitors that eMachines sells, a 17-inch flat-screen CRT (it adds $109 to the overall price, after a $100 mail-in rebate). The shadow-mask design had adequate image quality at 1,024x768 resolution, but we wouldn't suggest using it for more than general office tasks.
The T2824's thin software bundle includes Microsoft Works (but not Microsoft Word) for simple office functions, CyberLink PowerDVD for watching movies, and Microsoft Money for home finance. eMachines also includes BigFix, which helps you manage software patches and system updates.
The generalized and skimpy printed documentation may raise more questions than it answers for total novices, but it provides enough information to get the system connected and running. You also get a recovery CD, which is better than putting the recovery software on the hard drive as some manufacturers do. The eMachines Web site provides able support services, and downloads for the specific model are easy to find. The company also offers a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, with toll-call (from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. PT daily), e-mail, and online-chat tech support available.
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