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eMachines T5246 review: eMachines T5246

eMachines T5246

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
4 min read

The eMachines T5246 PC is the most expensive of the budget desktop brand's offerings this quarter. Of course, at $429, it's not exactly a luxury item. If you're thinking about a lower-end eMachines system and have a few extra dollars to spare, we'd certainly recommend this one over the $349 T3642. Neither Dell nor Hewlett-Packard compete well in the super-low-end price range, but if you go to Best Buy or Circuit City you might find better deals from Acer (who owns eMachines) and ZT Systems. This eMachines T5246 provides everything you might look for in a basic desktop PC so if that's all you need, we recommend it. But in this price range every dollar counts, and if you can find a similar configuration for less, go for it.


eMachines T5246

The Good

Full-fledged Windows Vista PC for less than $500; largest hard drive in its price category.

The Bad

A few systems at retail have faster CPUs for less.

The Bottom Line

The eMachines T5246 is an imminently capable budget desktop, with pretty much every feature you'd want in a day-to-day PC. If you're inclined to bargain hunt you might find a better deal by a few dollars, but if you pick this one up you won't go wrong for the price.

We find it interesting that, at least among eMachines systems, $80 is the difference between a PC that's borderline acceptable to run Windows Vista, and one that fully meets Vista's requirements. Perhaps the biggest differentiator is going from 1GB of RAM to 2GB when you look past the eMachines T3642 to the T5246. The T5246 also gets you a dual-core CPU, which will make a difference on many programs, as well as the operating system itself.

  eMachines T5246 eMachines T3642
Price $429 $349
CPU 2.21GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+
Memory 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100
Hard drive 400GB, 7,200 rpm 250GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive 16x dual-layer DVD burner 16x dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium Windows Vista Home Premium

You'll also notice that the eMachines T5246 offers a more expansive 400GB hard drive compared with the T3462 and its 250GB model. That 400GB model appears to be the largest drive available from any vendor in this price range. ZT Systems offers an Intel-based dual-core PC with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB drive for $399 at Circuit City, which is also a pretty good deal. But if it's drive space you're after, the eMachines T5246 is your best bet.

Our performance charts show exactly where that extra memory and the dual-core CPU make a difference. On our iTunes and Photoshop tests, the eMachines T5246 distances itself from the T3642, largely because of those configuration differences. The CineBench tests, which measure video encoding and take advantage of multiple processing threads, show that you actually lose a little bit of performance on the T5246 because the 2.21GHz clock speed of its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4200+ is actually slower than the single-core 2.6GHz Athlon 64 4000+ (note, no "X2" in the chip's name) on the T3642. That's a small trade-off, though, since most programs these days will benefit from two processing cores, not to mention the T5246's 2GB of RAM.

Aside from its core specs, the other features of the eMachines T5246 remain the same as they have over the past few years. You get a dual-format DVD burner, a media card reader for plugging in data cards from portable devices (like digital cameras), as well as a reasonably attractive exterior. You'll be able to play casual Web-based games, and even some less-intensive PC games on the eMachines T5246, but its lack of a 3D card will severely limit your ability to play high-end 3D games. There's a free PCI Express graphics slot (among a few other expansion slots) inside this system, but the power supply is so puny that it doesn't invite upgrades beyond the most basic low-end 3D cards.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
eMachines T5246

CineBench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPU  
Rendering Single CPU  
Apple Mac Mini
Asus Nova P22
eMachines T5246

eMachines' service and support policies are dead average for this product category. One year of parts and labor coverage is all you get, and is all we've come to expect, especially for budget PCs. You also get the BigFix application common to eMachines and Gateway systems, which is designed to give you information on overall system health as well as tips on what to do about it. For phone support, you don't get a toll-free number, but you do get generous support hours, which run from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. (PT), seven days a week. You can also find various help documents on eMachines' Web site.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple Mac Mini
Apple OS X; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 120GB 5,400rpm Hitachi hard drive

Dell Inspiron 531s
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 250GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

eMachines T3642
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+; 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100 graphics chip; 160GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

eMachines T5246
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.21GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6100 graphics chip; 400GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Asus Nova P22
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320; 1GB DDR2 1,066Hz SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Intel GMA 3000 graphics chip; 160GB 5,400 rpm hard drive


eMachines T5246

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Support 7