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ZT Group ZT A5305 review: ZT Group ZT A5305

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The Good State-of-the-art CPU; seven-in-one media-card reader.

The Bad Limited memory; shared graphics memory; last-generation hard disk; no software bundle.

The Bottom Line The ZT A5305 works for small jobs, but a tightly configured eMachines PC offers more for the same price. And if you have a bigger job to do, opt for ZT's upscale A5306 instead.

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5.1 Overall

ZT Group ZT A5305

There's nothing wrong with buying a $500 computer. Extreme gaming is pretty much out with a cheap PC, but there are plenty of other things you can do with a low-end system. We thought that the ZT Group ZT A5305 might prove itself a worthy budget desktop, not least because of its brand-new AMD Sempron 2800+ processor. We were disappointed to find that while the new CPU demonstrated the performance we had hoped for, the ZT A5305 as a whole doesn't offer a compelling bargain.

The Sempron 2800+ processor is AMD's newest budget CPU, a successor to the Duron chips that competed with Intel's Celerons. Our performance testing shows that the Sempron 2800+ does outperform a Celeron CPU of similar clock speed and with similar surrounding components, but the fact that the ZT A5305 matches the Sempron with only 256MB of system memory makes this a second-to-last sort of victory. Windows XP (in this case the Home version) wants 512MB to run all but the most basic applications, so playing music, games, and other media-oriented applications becomes a dicey proposition.

If you elect to spend $200 more, you can purchase the step-up ZT Group ZT A5306, which comes with 512MB of system memory, among other upgrades. Overall though, if you're looking for a budget PC, we'd recommend starting with the eMachines T2958, a fast and capable entry-level computer, with 512MB of RAM, for only $100 more (after rebates) than the ZT A5305.

Scan the ZT A5305's other specs, and you'll find only a sparse assortment of budget parts. This computer is one of the few we've seen lately that includes only a standard 52X CD-ROM drive--we can't recall the last time we saw a PC without at least a CD burner. The ZT A5305's barrel-bottom Via/S3 Unichrome integrated graphics chip also returned some of the worst 3D scores we've seen in a long time, making this PC virtually incapable of playing games. It comes with a seven-in-one media-card reader, but there's no editing software, nor the processing capability to adequately manipulate photos, rendering the media drive only marginally useful. At least the 17-inch Envision CRT monitor displayed a respectable image, and it will set you back only an additional $100.

If nothing else, ZT Group backs the ZT A5305 with a decent warranty, offering a three-year parts-and-labor package as a standard deal. You'll find a tech-support e-mail address, driver downloads, and a knowledge base on the company's support Web site, and you can call for assistance via the toll-free phone number that's available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
Monarch Sempron 3100+ System Special (1.8GHz, AMD Sempron 3100+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)

3D gaming performance (in fps)   (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

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