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The eMachines T5274 is eMachines' higher-end budget desktop for the back to school season. While it seems like a good deal for $400, the fact is that the low-end PC market has become increasingly competitive this year, which makes it hard for systems such as this one that straddle two different price points. If all you want is basic functionality for a rock bottom price, you can find PCs for $200 to $300 that will do the job (including eMachines own W6350 and T3656 models). If you're looking for a minor performance uptick, you can spend $50 to $100 more for more RAM and a larger hard drive. Worse, systems from Compaq and Acer (eMachines' parent) offer nearly identical specifications for less money. It's become more difficult than ever to nail the sweet spot for low-end desktops, and unfortunately, eMachines missed it with the T5274.
The eMachines boilerplate has become familiar during the past few years. As with many systems before it, the T5274 gives you a straightforward midtower case with basic expandability, a dual-layer DVD burner, and a media card reader. The only major differences between this model and previous systems are the processor, memory, motherboard, and hard drive. On the one hand, there's comfort in eMachines reliable formula. However, given the growing list of other PCs in this price range, we'd suggest that it's time for eMachines to consider a case redesign or some other kind of refresh.
|eMachines T5274||Acer Aspire AM3100|
|CPU||2.0GHz Intel Dual Core Pentium E2180||2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000|
|Memory||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||64MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated chip||256MB (shared) ATI Radeon X1250 integrated chip|
|Hard drives||320GB 7,200rpm||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100 Ethernet||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)|
Acer's Aspire AM3100 makes a great comparison system for the eMachines T5274. The components that stick out for us the most are its price, its significantly faster processor, and the fact that it has full-fledged Gigabit Ethernet, compared with the eMachines' 10/100 Mbps Ethernet adapter. For Web browsing, that lower end network adapter won't have that big an impact, but you'll feel it when you go to transfer large amounts of data. We'd love to be able to review the Aspire AM3100, and Acer, if you're reading this, our lab is ready when you are.
Both the eMachines and Acer systems, and in general, most low-end PCs are available directly from Best Buy, Circuit City, and other big box vendors. Neither Dell nor HP's direct order Web sites let you configure competitive desktops with such a low cost. Prices fluctuate wildly from the larger retailers, so next week could very well be the week that eMachines gets a price cut and the Acer system's current $10 rebate goes away. However, with the current pricing, the Acer system is a better deal.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
We haven't reviewed many $400 desktops recently, so we're left to compare the eMachines T5274 with a few pricier PCs. As expected, the eMachines system was not as fast, but the performance gap seems reasonable, and we actually found a few surprises. We were most impressed by the eMachines' scores on our Photoshop, iTunes, and Cinebench tests. The eMachines system outpaced the Dell Inspiron 530, a $540 PC just three months ago, on these tests. Dell has since updated its specifications, and you can get a slightly faster CPU in current Inspiron 530's for the same price, but that would only aid its performance by a small margin, and it's still about $140 more expensive than the eMachines system. Thus, in some respects, the eMachines T5274 is a great deal, but if you look across the full spectrum of desktops on sale in its price range, we think you'll be able to find a similar PC for less.
As the eMachines' case and configuration are predictable, so is its level of expandability. You get a spare graphics card slot, which we'd recommend taking advantage of first if you have any thoughts of making aftermarket upgrades. Even a $50 budget 3D card would free up some system memory and give you better overall performance. You can also add two PCI cards (once you get rid of the PCI modem card), a hard drive, and an extra optical drive, which is a typical amount of room for upgrading in a midtower PC. We wish you had two more memory slots to play with, like the ZT Affinity 7221Xa has. The eMachines T5274 has only two slots that are already populated, so to upgrade the memory, you'll have to replace the existing RAM.
eMachines' service and support policies are on par with the rest of the desktop industry. You get one year of parts and labor coverage, as well as phone support lines open from 5 a.m. to noon, PT, 7 days a week. That's a nice big support window so we're not too concerned that it's not technically 24-7, but we'd be happier if the phone number was toll-free. On the system itself you get the BigFix application to help you diagnose systems problems and to allow an eMachines tech to take remote control of your PC, if you're so willing. You'll also find a relatively useful array of support resources on the eMachines Web site.
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Dell Inspiron 530
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium E2160; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8300GS graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel Dual Core Pentium E2180; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB shared Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500; 3GB DDR2 667MHz SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
ZT Affinity 7221Xa
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X4 8450; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.