WHAT'S HOT: At first glance, the gray EMachines minitower looks rather plain, but we found some goodies on further inspection: Covers can be flipped open to reveal two front-mounted USB ports (there are two more on the back) and a 12X/8X/32X CD-RW drive. The front panel also contains headphone and microphone jacks.
The system manual, specific to this EMachines line, contains detailed setup instructions and some troubleshooting information. Thorough documentation for individual components is also included. Well-labeled, color-coded rear ports make setup easy.
WHAT'S NOT: Opening our T4155 required removing three screws and then tugging the entire metal case off the frame. And we almost sacrificed a fingertip or two while slipping the heavy metal case back on.
Watching DVDs was even more painful. A glitch in the software decoder made images jump and pause, causing the fight scenes in Gladiator to run in slow motion. We alerted EMachines to the problem, and its only advice was to download updated graphics card drivers from NVidia. The painfully weak audio was a fitting multimedia match to the stop-motion video: The chintzy plastic two-speaker set trickled out muted trebles and minimal bass.
Due to long hold times, lack of problem resolution, and low ratings for overall customer service, EMachines' service quality was rated Unacceptable in our latest Reliability and Service reader survey, although company representatives say they have revamped their support systems since the survey was conducted. You'll also have to pick up the cost of a toll call to tech support, which is available 16 hours per day. On the bright side, our survey respondents rated system reliability as Good--up from Fair last year.
WHAT ELSE: With a 1.5-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 256MB of PC-133 memory, our T4155 earned a score of 90 on PC WorldBench 4. That's 3 points under the average for similarly configured Windows XP Home systems, but it matches the score of the Sony VAIO RX550. Unlike PCs from EMachines that we have evaluated in the past, the T4155's performance is closer to that of its peers; but at $1100, so is its price.
The 17-inch EMachines MF 17c monitor delivered crisp, readable 12-point Arial text at 1024 by 768 resolution (with some slight blurring at the maximum resolution of 1280 by 1024). Colors appeared fairly rich in our test images.
Only two PCI slots are available for expansion inside the system, although they are easily accessible in the tiny interior. If you want to get at the RAM slots or drive bays, however, the cabling and the power supply get in the way.
The Microsoft Works office suite came bundled with our system, providing basic productivity applications whose files are compatible with Microsoft Office. With a 60GB hard drive, the average user has plenty of room for even the heftiest applications and plenty of digital music and photos.
UPSHOT: Though it's not a high-performance system, the EMachines T4155 has sufficient power for most home users, who will appreciate its attractive price.
By Joel Strauch