eMachines T6536This low-cost system is an average performer that lacks snazzy features.
The eMachines T6536 may not be a speed demon, but it is a surprise: With modest specs that include a 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 3800+ processor and 1GB of RAM, the T6536 still managed a score of 96 on our WorldBench 5 test suite, putting it squarely at the midpoint among current value desktops--and 16 percent higher then the similarly priced Cisnet NASCAR PC. That's not too shabby for a system that costs just $539 (as of July 14, 2006).
To keep costs down, the system relies on integrated graphics, which use a chunk of the system's main memory. Predictably, the T6536's performance on our graphics tests underwhelmed us: It managed an unplayable frame rate of 26.9 frames per second in Return to Castle Wolfenstein at a resolution of 1280 by 1024 pixels. Adding a graphics board to the unoccupied PCI Express 16X slot should improve graphics performance.
We found the bundled 19-inch eMachines E1975TW wide-screen monitor disappointing. Even after we ran the auto calibration, colors looked excessively blue--skin tones looked very cold, as though the subjects were in the Arctic. Changing the color setting to another preset pushed the monitor too far the other way: Colors appeared too red, and people all looked as though they had a suntan. The only way we could achieve an image with close-to-accurate color was by setting the color temperature manually between the two extremes. The monitor had a limited angle of view, too, so if you move more than about 15 degrees off axis, the image's brightness falls off and the colors turn very pale.
The T6536's plain black-and-silver PC case will look tidy on a desk, but its interior is a bit awkward to navigate. Though you can remove the side of the case without using a screwdriver, you'll need one if you plan to install a drive into the open drive bays (one internal 3.5-inch bay, and one externally accessible 5.25-inch bay), because screws hold the drives in place. (The system also comes with a 16X multiformat DVD burner, a 250GB hard drive, and a five-in-one media-card reader.) Inside, the cables are neatly tied out of the way, leaving unobstructed access to three open slots: a PCI Express 1X slot, a PCI Express 16X slot, and a PCI slot for adding expansion cards (on our review system, a modem occupied a second PCI slot).
The system runs Windows Media Center Edition, but it doesn't include a TV tuner or a remote control, and neither of these controls is an option. The keyboard and mouse are eMachines' own brand devices, and both felt comfortable to use. The keyboard has a welcome number of media control buttons.
With the system, you get eMachines' basic documentation, including a good fold-out setup guide that shows all of the basic connections, and a printed manual that covers the basics.
We didn't like this system's monitor, but in other respects the T6536 delivered decent performance and a reasonable set of features at a very attractive price.