capsule review

eMachines T5246 Value Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • eMachines T5246

    PCWorld Rating

    Low-priced PC has capacious storage and good expansion options, but its graphics performance and small monitor dissapoint.

At $620 (as of 2/7/08), the eMachines T5246 is the least expensive value PC in our lineup. But since it's a prebuilt retail system available in only one configuration (it's sold as the 4200+ Desktop at Best Buy), you can't mix and match components before you buy it. The T5246 comes with a 2.2-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ CPU and two sticks of 1GB PC2-5300 memory (2GB total) mounted on a Gateway motherboard with integrated nVidia GeForce 6100 nForce 405 graphics. Our test unit also came with a 400GB Western Digital Caviar hard drive, providing more storage space than most value desktop PCs.

This test T5246 included essentials like a DVD/CD combo writer and a memory card reader; and for those still on dial-up, it even had a 56KB modem. But the 17-inch, $190 eMachines E17T4W LCD monitor (with 1280 by 720 native resolution) that was included in the price of our unit had only a VGA input. Although the flat panel produced sharp text and realistic color graphics, its screen space is considerably less than the 19-inch (and larger) LCDs that ship with some value business desktops we tested. My recommendation would be to go for a larger wide-screen LCD--such as the $210 eMachines E19T5W or the $220 eMachines E19T6W (both 19-inchers sold at Best Buy)--instead of this 17-inch model. For my money, the added screen real estate is worth the extra $20 to $30 you'd spend on one of these alternatives.

In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 performance tests, the T5246 earned a score of 70--average for our test group. However, its scores in the Firefox and multitasking parts of the test suite were the best of the sub-$750 PCs here. But like most of the other systems that rely on integrated graphics rather than a discrete graphics card, the T5246 fared poorly in graphics performance--it's inadequate for fast-action 3D games.

The T5246's black-and-silver mini-tower case is a no-frills design with no front panel to cover the external drives and connectivity ports. Although the system includes parallel and serial connections for attaching older peripherals, it lacks FireWire ports. Open expansion options inside the generally neat and tidy interior include one external 5.25-inch and one internal 3.5-inch drive bay, and three card slots (one PCIe x16, one PCIe x1, and one PCI). Although you can add a discrete graphics card to the PCIe x16 slot, it will work only at half speed (x8) rather than at full speed (x16). So gamers take note: This system isn't well-equipped for upgrading to faster graphics.

The bundled input devices were a mixed bag: The eMachines multifunction keyboard worked fine, but I would have preferred a more precise optical mouse instead of the clunky ball mouse that was included. Gateway's setup guides and online documentation for this system are helpful and well done, and a final plus is the addition of a small set of dual speakers.

The T5246 provides respectable speed for everyday computing and a sizable hard drive. However, the small size of its bundled LCD and its weak graphics performance limit its appeal. Of course, you could spend an extra $70 or so to get a larger LCD and a cheap add-in graphics card, bringing up the price of the T5246 to approximately that of the $689 Dell Inspiron 530. But the Dell system would still provide better overall performance, including faster, full-speed (x16) graphics.

--Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Low-priced PC has capacious storage and good expansion options, but its graphics performance and small monitor dissapoint.

    Pros

    • Very inexpensive
    • Large (400GB) hard drive

    Cons

    • Weak integrated graphics
    • Bundle LCD only a 17-inch display
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