eMachines T5048 review: eMachines T5048

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The Good DVD burner and media card reader are uncommon at this price; respectable performance on basic productivity apps.

The Bad Outdated EIDE hard drive interface clutters the inside with ribbon cables; roughly $100 more will get you a much better PC.

The Bottom Line Though it's a capable PC, particularly for the price, the budget eMachines T5048 starts to lose its appeal when you look at desktops that cost just $100 or so more. It's is a good pick if you need to keep to a strict budget, but otherwise we recommend spending a little more.

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

Here's what we like about the $400 (after $50 mail-in rebate) eMachines T5048: it has a DVD burner and a media card reader, and its 160GB hard drive offers more storage room than we expected. Compare this model to HP's $400 Compaq Presario SR1910NX, and this latest member of the eMachines family definitely supplies better features for your dollar. Still, we're loath to recommend any PC that doesn't have 512MB of dedicated system memory; this one loses part of its 512MB RAM stash to the freeloading integrated video adapter. It's also hard to get behind the T5048 because systems with dual-core CPUs, such as eMachines own T5212, cost slightly more than $100 more. If all you want is a means for getting online and using basic productivity and digital media apps, the T5048 will get you where you want to go, with better-than-average features. Just know that you can find a better value if you spend a little more. A slightly pricier budget PC, such as the $600 Cyberpower Back to School 2006, is much better equipped to stand the test of time.

The only other sub-$500 PC we've looked at recently is the aforementioned Presario SR1910NX, so we used that as our main comparison system. The eMachines T5048 comes with an aging 3.06GHz Pentium 4 524 processor, 512MB of shared DDR memory, a 160GB, 7,200rpm EIDE hard drive, and integrated ATI graphics. It also features a DVD burner, a media card reader, and the Windows XP Media Center OS. For the same price, the Windows XP Home-based Presario uses a lower-end, 1.8GHz AMD Sempron chip, the same amount and type of memory, a smaller 120GB hard drive (although it is a faster--at least in theory--Serial ATA drive), and integrated Nvidia graphics. The Compaq Presario loses the optical-drive battle with its CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, and it has no media card reader, so you'll need to spend more for an external reader to transfer pictures and other data from removable digital storage. Thus, eMachines wins the features contest. Not only does the eMachines system have more storage space and a faster CPU than the HP, it opens up more usage scenarios (burning DVDs, more easily uploading digital photos) and gives you Windows Media Center's more convenient interface for browsing through your various types of digital media.

Because it has a full-bodied Intel Pentium 4 524 processor, the eMachines also did well on CNET Labs' performance tests compared to the Presario and its budget-class AMD Sempron chip, but it wasn't a total sweep. The eMachines system is a better multitasker and will encode music faster in iTunes than the Presario, but the two had roughly the same performance on our Microsoft Office productivity test. The eMachines couldn't get through our Photoshop test at all, which we suspect is due to the ATI chipset and the way it manages the system and the video chip's shared memory. We couldn't even get Photoshop to install on the eMachines T5048 until we added in another 512MB stick. That did the trick, and we'd recommend making that upgrade even if you don't want to run Photoshop. We also had problems running Quake 4, but a quick (and free) graphics driver update solved the issue, and for good measure, we tried Half-Life 2 without updating the driver, and it ran fine. Those issues aside, the eMachines is a better-performing PC overall. In HP's defense, that Presario has been on the market since January, but as of a few weeks ago, an OfficeMax in Brooklyn still had it on the shelf, so it's definitely a system that you might run into in the wild.

The design of the eMachines T5048 inside and out is decidedly bland, but even the low-cost good looks of Apple's Mac Mini haven't made it as low as the sub-$500 market yet. Inside, there's room for one more memory stick, a couple of PCI expansion cards, a x16 PCI Express slot for a discrete graphics card, and an x1 PCI Express slot to boot. We admit we were surprised that this system still has an IDE hard drive interface. We'd hoped we'd seen the last of case-cluttering ribbon cables. Apparently not.

eMachines service and support is not as robust as others' in the desktop industry, but it's not awful, and the cuts the company has made likely help keep costs down. The standard warranty covers the system with one year of parts-and-labor protection. Phone service is not 24/7, instead operating on a toll number from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. PT, seven days a week. Further, it's free for only a year. Unless you extend the coverage plan, it'll cost you $20 per support call after your free year is up. eMachines has support chat available online, as well as a service similar to DellConnect, in which a technician can take control of your system (with your permission) and fix things without having to translate your descriptions of a problem.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

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