Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2004 / 21 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

eMachines Model Offers Performance

By Mark Kellner | What can $599 get you in a personal computer? If it's the eMachines (stet) T3256, it would seem to be a fair amount: a 3.2 GHz AMD Athlon XP Processor, Microsoft Windows XP Home software, a 160GB hard drive, 512 Mbytes of DDR memory, and an 10/100 Integrated LAN port. The machine also includes a 48-speed CD-ROM drive, a DVD +/- RW drive as well as an 8-in-1 digital media manager, which reads Compact Flash memory cards, Microdrive hard drives, and various other digital media. And the T3256 includes an NVIDIA GeForce4(tm) MX integrated 64MB shared graphics chip and nForce(tm) 6-channel audio.

Translate all that tech-speak into English and you've got a rather powerful PC at what I'd consider a decent price. Particularly impressive is the hard drive size: 160 GB is a very, very healthy amount of storage space for any desktop computer, and is particularly welcome here. The RAM could be higher, but is more than I've seen on many "entry level" machines. Two optical drives are nice; having a DVD drive that'll write two of the main formats ("plus" and "minus" R) is nicer still.

The icing on this digital cake is the "digital media manager," which will appeal to users of digital cameras. Because you can take your memory card or Microdrive out of the camera and slip it into a built-in reader, transferring photos from camera to computer is about as foolproof as you can get. What's more, a version of Microsoft's "Picture It!" software is conveniently bundled with the computer.

In fact, there's a very nice compliment of software pre-loaded on the device, including Microsoft Works and Microsoft's "Encarta Plus" reference package, along with three months of AOL service and four months of Symantec Corp.'s Norton Anti-Virus software and updates. The basic, all-in-one Works program isn't the equal of Microsoft Office, but it should be sufficient for many. There's also more than enough hard disk space left for other applications.

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Setup and operation of the computer was very easy in my testing. Interestingly, the computer uses the older "PS/2" style connectors for the mouse and keyboard, keeping the five USB ports (of which two are high speed) free for other purposes.

The computer is a good performer: it's fast enough for my needs, and the graphics are quite good. Installing, and using, a Happauge WinTV board, which turns the computer into a TV and video recorder, was a snap: like other machines, it's easy to open the case and install the board, something that wasn't always the case with more modestly priced machines. I noticed two available slots for such boards, which should be enough for many users. (Equally impressive, to me at least, was the "clean" appearance inside the computer, which denotes though and care in designing the unit.)

The $599 price tag, then, delivers a machine that's rather complete. I would prefer to see a couple of FireWire (or, IEEE 1394) ports on the front or back of the computer, since this particular connecting standard is a growing one. (Another $300 to $350, depending on where you shop, will get you a 15-inch LCD display from the firm.)

eMachines, which recently merged with Gateway and whose management is reshaping the older and larger firm's product line, is a company I've watched for a couple of years. I'm impressed with their philosophy, which suggests a dedication to customers and to making good computers. The T3256 machine offers a very good value for money, and I would have little trouble recommending it to someone looking for a good deal.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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