Nearly identical to last quarter's stellar system, the eMachines T3092 desktop resides at the top of the T series and costs $599 (after a $50 mail-in rebate). The 15-inch E15T flat-panel monitor that came bundled with our test system brings the price up to $998, which you can lower by opting for one of the eView CRTs that eMachines sells. We would have welcomed a bump up in processor speed from that of the T3085 system, but the Athlon XP 3000+ delivers enough oomph to handle most office chores and some multimedia app tasks, too, such as editing photos, ripping MP3s, and burning DVDs. Unless you're on the tightest of budgets, we recommend spending the extra money for the T3092 instead of the opting for either of eMachines' lower-price Celeron D processor-based models. And with its open AGP slot, a multiformat DVD burner (now, an 8X unit), and a surprisingly spacious hard drive, the T3092 will grow with you. Movie buffs will want a larger display and a DVD-ROM drive--rather than the system's CD-ROM drive--paired with the DVD burner, but for general home use, the versatile eMachines T3092 is a strong budget buy that gives you room for future growth. The eMachines T3092, like the other two preconfigured desktops from eMachines, comes housed in an attractive and functional case, with the not-uncommon silver-and-black color scheme. The top-of-the-line T3092 offers two optical drive bays, a floppy drive, and a multiformat media-card reader. The back panel is quite busy, with the usual legacy ports, plus four USB 2.0 ports, audio in/out and mic jacks, and a 10/100 LAN port. eMachines duplicates the microphone and earphone jacks up front under a sliding panel, while an additional USB 2.0 port comes courtesy of the media-card reader.
For such a cheap PC, the eMachines T3092 comes surprisingly well outfitted. In turn, however, you don't get much room on the inside for expansion. Undo the two thumbscrews and slide off the side panel, and you'll find that both of the 5.25-inch drive bays are occupied, as are two of the four 3.5-inch bays. Neither of the free 3.5-inch bays is accessible from the front panel, but they are available should you want to add hard drives.
You have more options with the motherboard's expansion slots. The eMachines T3092 includes a PCI modem card, but if you're going the broadband route and using the integrated 10/100 Ethernet port, you can remove the modem card and have all three PCI slots at your disposal. One of the two memory sockets is unfilled, and after pushing aside the drive cables and wires, you can expand the memory up to 2GB. The jewel of this system, however, is the 8X AGP slot, which will let you replace the integrated graphics that shares system memory with a dedicated graphics card. This is an important option should you or someone in your home develop an interest in 3D gaming at some point down the road.
The black-and-silver color scheme extends to the keyboard and the scrollwheel optical mouse. The keyboard's Windows navigation shortcut keys and Windows Media Player controls make it more than just a pretty face.With a relatively powerful AMD Athlon XP processor, plus double the memory we'd expect at this price and a surprisingly roomy hard drive, the eMachines T3092 offers excellent fundamentals for such an inexpensive system. Its Athlon XP 3000+ processor, while not one of AMD's cutting-edge 64-bit CPUs, is more than competent for running both office and multimedia applications. And instead of the 256MB of memory we've come to expect from budget systems, the T3092 serves up 512MB of 333MHz memory, which goes a long way toward improving the system's performance and helps offset the 64MB of shared system memory that the onboard Nvidia graphics use. The 160GB Western Digital drive gives you plenty of room to house your collection of digital photos and MP3s. It has a 2MB buffer, however, instead of the larger 8MB variety favored by the digital-video-editing crowd. Then again, DV editing is one of the more intensive computing tasks and not a realistic goal for a cheap PC.
Of the four T-series eMachines models, the top-of-the-line T3092 is the only system that serves up a DVD burner--and a multiformat drive, at that. The lone difference between the T3092 and the previous T3085 is the DVD write and rewrite speeds. The T3092 replaces the 4X DVD burner found on the T3085 with an 8X model. (It writes to DVD-R and +R discs at a speedy 8X clip and rewrites to DVD-RW and +RW discs at 4X.) CD-R write speeds also double, from 16X to 32X. The other drive is a rather useless CD-ROM drive. A smarter choice would have been a DVD-ROM drive, which would let you make quick disc-to-disc copies of both CDs and DVDs.
If you plan to watch DVDs on the T3092, you'll want to choose a larger display than the E15T flat panel that eMachines bundled with our test system. At only 15 inches, the screen didn't do DVDs justice, but it did display sharp text and accurate colors, making it a good choice for basic use. Similarly, if movies are your thing, we'd suggest upgrading the bundled two-piece speaker set to a surround sound set or at least a 2.1 set that gives you rich bass via a subwoofer. (Although the onboard audio looks like a two-channel setup, you can redirect line-in to the rear speakers and the mic to the center and subwoofer through Windows' Control Panel.)
The eMachines T3092 includes Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator Basic Edition and CyberLink PowerDVD to lend a hand in your CD-creation and DVD-playback endeavors. If it's work that you want, this system has you covered there as well, with the bundled Microsoft Works 7.0, Microsoft Money 2004, and Encarta Online. All in all, the eMachines T3092 comes with a strong software bundle, especially for its price.Application performance
The eMachines T3092 offers good bang for the buck. The system uses a 2.167GHz Athlon XP 3000+ processor, which gives performance that's on a par with that of a 2.6GHz Pentium 4. We were impressed by its SysMark 2004 score of 136, which trailed the 64-bit Athlon 64-based Systemax Ascent 64 system by less than 4 percent and bested the Intel-based Dell Dimension 2400 by 5 percent. The performance difference is much greater when you look at the two Celeron D processor-based eMachines systems. The T3092 costs $200 more than the entry-level T2824, and its SysMark score was 55 percent higher. We'd say that's money well spent. The eMachines T3092's performance would improve if it used 400MHz memory instead of the 333MHz variety, but out of the box, the eMachines T3092 is more than capable of running any office application.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
With an integrated Nvidia GeForce4 MX graphics chip, the eMachines T3092 wasn't built with 3D gaming in mind. Its score of 29.6 frames per second on our low-end Unreal Tournament benchmark is better than what you'd see with an integrated Intel Extreme graphics solution, but it's still not a fast-enough frame rate for consistently smooth gameplay. Luckily, the eMachines T3092 has an AGP slot should you want to add an advanced graphics card at some point.