WHAT'S HOT: EMachines systems usually deliver a low price over high performance, but the latest iterations we've tested have been trying for a fair amount of both. With a 1.6-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 256MB of PC133 memory, our test T4160 earned a score of 90 on our PC WorldBench 4 tests, right around the average for similarly configured systems. And it comes in for under a grand.
Housed in a gray EMachines minitower, the T4160 we tested featured a variety of ports up front--two USB (with two more in back), a game port, a headphone port, and a microphone jack--letting you easily connect a variety of devices. Its 16X/10X/32X CD-RW drive is a nice addition at this price point; it's not the fastest available today, but it's still more than sufficient for audio-CD burning and data backups.
WHAT'S NOT: Unfortunately, this relatively typical minitower is not designed for easy upgrading. You must get out a screwdriver, remove three screws, and tug off the entire metal shell of the case. Lining it back up properly was no easy feat.
EMachines does not have the most robust support policies. Calls to tech support are not toll-free, and support is limited to 16 hours per day.
The two-speaker set from EMachines delivered more powerful sound than we expected for such basic speakers, but bass and channel separation were in short supply during our audio tests.
WHAT ELSE: The 17-inch EMachines MF 17c monitor displayed easily readable text and rich colors, but slightly washed-out flesh tones in our tests. An adequate display for general use at resolutions up to 1024 by 768, it's incapable of acceptable performance at high resolutions. It tops out at 1280 by 1024 at a flicker-inducing refresh rate of 60 Hz. In addition, the graphics fall far short of good gaming performance. In our 32-bit color tests, Quake III was unplayable at 1024 by 768 resolution, and frame rates in Unreal Tournament were too slow for acceptable play, even at 800 by 600.
Our T4160 came with just enough software to get you started: Microsoft Works 6 and Microsoft Money 2002. It also has a loop-style case lock to keep unwanted folks out of the system's interior.
The difficulties of opening the case aside, upgrading this EMachines model should be relatively easy. The unit we received had a neatly organized interior and modest room for new components: two open PCI slots and one open removable-media drive bay.
The system's documentation includes several booklets for individual components, as well as a skimpy overall guide with some basic setup, usage, and upgrading information.
UPSHOT: A solid, basic, general-purpose PC for anyone on a tight budget.
By Joel Strauch