eMachines, best known for their affordable computer systems has introduced a PC desktop system designed from the ground up for gamers. Now let’s get real here. When you think eMachines, you probably think low-budget systems with non-upgradeable designs, right? This is the same company that was offering $200 PC systems (with a CompuServe or other ISP contracts) 5 years ago, when the competition was pushing $2000 systems. Well, things have changed. Dell, Gateway, HP and others are all offering desktop solutions for under $600 dollars complete with a monitor and speakers (sometimes even a free printer). Most hardcore gamers will shy away from these systems, but eMachines is hoping their new T6212 gaming PC will grab your attention. Priced at just under $600 dollars after rebate, the T6212 could be the best deal currently out there for a PC.
Design and Features
When Gateway (which merged with eMachines) first contacted Designtechnica asking us to review their eMachines T6212 system, we almost said no. Designtechnica usually only reviews products that are high-end and offer some sort of design flare. But after checking out the T6212’s specifications, we decided to give it a try; and we found out it does offer something unique after all.
The eMachines T6212 looks very similar to some of the systems available from Gateway. Most likely they share a lot of the same parts and go through the same chassis manufacturer. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Compared to the eMachine PC’s of the past, the company definitely has stepped up the quality of their systems. The front face of the system is silver with glossy black highlights and buttons. The T6212 comes with a dual layer DVD writer and a CD-Rom drive; both share identical looking faceplates that rest flush with the system when their drawers are closed. There is an 8-in-1 media card reader with an integrated USB port in the middle of the system which lays flush with the chassis to give the T6212 a very clean look. A flip up cover on the bottom of the systems front, reveals a single FireWire port, two USB ports and some audio inputs – perfect for the multimedia enthusiast who wants easy access. The rear of the system has 4 more USB ports, an additional FireWire port, modem and Ethernet ports, a parallel printer port, VGA input and two PS2 inputs for your keyboard and mouse. We are impressed that eMachines was able to fit 7 USB and two FireWire ports into this small system. The overall look of the T6212 is very clean and attractive, definitely not what you are used to from a system in this price range.
The core of the T6212 system is its motherboard which is based on the new ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. The motherboard was really designed to offer powerful options in a smaller form factor. This means eMachines can keep the initial cost of the system down while still offering an upgradeable computer to the user. And if they wanted to, they could offer multiple systems in the same product line with different configurations; it’s a win/win situation. For $579.99 (after rebate) you get an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor, 512MB of PC 3200 memory (2x256MB sticks), a 160GB 7200RPM hard drive, a Dual Layer DVD writer and an extra CD-ROM drive, an 8-in-1 media card reader, 6-channel audio, and a 128MB shared memory ATI Radeon Xpress 200 (PCI-Express) integrated video adapter. You can read more about the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 motherboard on ATI’s website.
Now normally, you would expect a budget system to use cheap, low quality parts, but fortunately that is not the case with the T6212. In order to cut costs, eMachines gives you a hard drive that uses the slower IDE ATA interface, as well as integrated graphics instead of a stand alone card. But that’s Ok with us because you can always upgrade those two components. The meat and potatoes of the T6212 system are the AMD Athlon 64 2100+ processor and the 512MB of dual channel DDR memory.
The T6212 comes with plenty of preinstalled software including Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money, Encarta Online, Cyberlink PowerDVD, Nero 6 Suite, Norton Internet Security 2005, McAfee Anti-Spyware 2005 and more. For complete system specifications and a listing of preinstalled software, please click on the specifications tab and link located above and below this review. You also get a multimedia keyboard, 2-button wheel mouse and stereo speakers with this system.
eMachines includes 1 year parts/labor warranty (not on-site) and 1 year of technical support, which is pretty standard.
Windows XP Home Edition; AMD Athlon 64 3200+; 512MBGB PC3200 RAM; ATI Radeon Xpress 200 W/128MB shared memory 160GB 7200RPM Hard Drive; Integrated 6 channel sound
Windows XP Professional; AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 @ 2.41GHz; 1GB PC3200 RAM; Nividia Geforce FX 6800 Ultra, (2) 140GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPMSATA hard drives in RAID stripe array, Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS
Designtechnica Test System
Windows XP Professional; Intel LGA 775 3GHz CPU; 1GB Crucial Ballisitx DDR2 533MHz RAM; MSI ATI X800 XT video card; Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 80GB hard drive
Setup and Use
Setting up the T6212 will take you a little time. eMachines gives you an easy-to-use manual that walks you through the initial process of plugging in everything and following the step-by-step Windows XP setup. Once we were actually on our desktop, we were attacked by a ton of pop-up messages asking us to update our operating system and registering the preinstalled software; it was actually pretty frustrating, so we are going to give you our recommendations.
First of all, instantly delete the Norton Internet Security software. With Windows Service Pack 2 installed, you have all of the internet security features you really need. We were not even able to access the internet until we sat down and setup the Norton Internet Security software, a process that took about 15- 20 minutes in itself.
Secondly, delete the McAfee Anti-Spyware software form your system. Then go to the Spybot website or Lavasoft website and download their anti-spyware software. Spybot is free and should do the trick, but for added protection, we recommend you run Ad-Aware at the same time. It costs a little bit of money, but it’s a great non-intrusive program.
Once we deleted the Norton and McAfee software, we got a chance to really sit down and use the system. The AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor and 512MB of memory really helped to speed up most applications we used. The hard drive is pretty loud and is clearly audible when it’s being accessed. If you are like us, there is just something comforting about a quiet and speedy hard drive, and the Western Digital drive in this system had us on the edge of our seat, but it did not fail us throughout our testing.
The ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip is pretty impressive for an integrated solution. It does use shared memory with the systems main RAM, so it certainly will not perform as well as a standalone video card, but we would take it over an integrated Intel graphics chip any day.
We decided to open up the system to see just how upgradeable this system is and we were blown away by what we saw. There is an open PCI-Express graphics slot, two PCI slots, two memory slots, four SATA controllers and room to add an extra hard drive. eMachines doesn’t really mention how upgradeable this system is, which is a shame because it would compel people to purchase the T6212 over similarly priced systems. All of the power and IDE cables were neatly zip tied and there was plenty of room for air flow. Now the power supply output is only 300-watts, so if you did decide to add a high-end graphics card to this system, you might have to put in a more powerful power supply, but based on what we have seen, the case should be able to accommodate it.
There is plenty of room for upgrading the T6212 system
In our benchmark testing, the T6212 was able to compete with our two other test systems on any test that did not include the graphics chip. This goes to show that the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor and 512MB of DDR memory are the two best components in this system. From a gaming perspective, the T6212 just cannot compete. With the Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip running at 1024×768 at maximum settings, our games were completely unplayable. And by today’s standards, you should be able to play any games at 1024×768 with halfway decent effects turned on, the T6212 really runs best with medium settings; sort of a bummer really. We also tried running the Sysmark benchmark on this system, but the DVD drive would not read our test DVD correctly forcing us to forego the test altogether. For complete benchmarks, please click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review.
The eMachines T6212 may not be the end-all of gaming systems, but you would be hard pressed to find a better gaming solution for under $600 dollars. Sure Dell, Gateway and others may offer similar systems, but what separates the T6212 from others is its price range is the systems upgrade capabilities. With an open PCI Express graphics slot, two available PCI slots, SATA support and two open memory slots, this system should last for quite a while.
What really holds the system back in our opinion is the plethora of software that comes preinstalled. The Norton Internet Security 2005 software that comes with the system can cause a lot of problems and will eventually have you on the phone with eMachines tech support trying to figure out how to use the software.
If you are a hardcore gamer looking for the deal of the century, the T6212 will not be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The integrated graphics put out poor performance numbers when compared to ATI X600 or X800 video cards. If you have your own PCI Express video card however, then the T6212 would be a worthy system upgrade. Multimedia enthusiasts should be happy with the number of FireWire and USB ports this system has, and casual gamers should be content with the system’s overall performance. In the end, the eMachines T6212 is the best deal we have seen for under $600 dollars. Period.
– Powerful processor
– Plenty of memory
– Lots of USB and FireWire ports
– Comes with a Dual Layer DVD writer
– Poor graphics performance
– Loud hard drive
– Confusing software