Pros: 3.2ghz, video card, easily removeable cover, can hold 3.8ghz chip, Emachines online tech chat
Cons: bundled software, on-board video card driver faulty, 512mb RAM
This computer is an affordable, but upgradeable, PC that may be purchased from Wal-Mart ($348) or other mass retailers. I found a new one in the box on Ebay and my bid brought me to about $301 and about $340 after shipping (saving $8 plus the shipping cost of Wal-Mart online or the sales tax if I were to have purchased it from my local Wal-Mart). You can find a lot of sellers on Ebay with brand-new in-the-box models to be bid on or sold below retail with the buy-it-now option. I bet you can find it for under $300 on EBAY.
The box is silver and white with blue power lights. There are two large silver screws on the right of the back of the box that allow you to remove the cover without a screwdriver, if you wish. The large screws are made to accomodate a phillips and flathead screwdriver.
Right out of the box it has 3.2ghz Celeron D processor. This is a very fast processor for most users. 512mb RAM is slow for me, but probably sufficiently quick enough for most people.
1. I immediately upgraded the RAM to 2gb to max out the memory capabilities. You can get deals on RAM via Ebay or from online retailers. It takes 184-pin PC3200 SDRAM. "High density" RAM will not work in this machine. XP yields a RAM rating of 1.85gb of RAM because the onboard video card consumes a proportion of the RAM. This vastly increases the performance of a computer, that is, increasing the RAM.
2. I used KILL DISK to wipe out the hard drive and then installed Windows XP Professional with SP2. This fresh install gets rid of all the useless bundled software (AOL, etc.) and allows me to optimize how I want the OS to run (Google XP Tweaks and there are websites with information on how to tweak XP to make it run quicker). I also installed Office 2003, spyware blaster, ad-aware, symantec corporate antivirus (free from my university), and mozilla firefox.
3. PRETTY IMPORTANT. Make sure to install the latest drivers for the on-board Radeon video card. The drivers it ships with (even using the original XP Home edition it ships with) are faulty.
Also, though not a problem for my model, if you buy one that was manufactured earlier, it may need the latest BIOS (available from Emachines' website). If you need help with this, Emachines has this online tech chat that I used to chat with a technician through an Instant Messenger and they are able to send you links to download drivers and they are also able to remotely work on your computer via a high-speed connection (I have DSL 1.5mbps).
4. The machine is stable and fast and the motherboard is built by Intel. Whatever Emachines reputation was in the past, I think they have vastly improved--this is my second good experience with an Emachines computer.
This is a great machine and when the transition to VISTA from XP starts, this model will not let you down.
1. Going to install separate video card because the onboard video card uses some of the random access memory (RAM). This will improve speed and performance.
2. Planning on upgrading the DVD-ROM/CDRW to a DVDRW/CDRW which is available, currently, from Emachines for about $129. Will wait and see if any pop up on Ebay in the near future.
3. Biggie: Replace Celeron 'D' 3.2ghz CPU with a 3.8ghz Pentium 4 CPU--some online retailers sell them for less than $200 currently (Oct. 2006).
A. In my case of upgrading to XP SP2 Professional I needed access to the on-board ATI Radeon XPress 200 driver. If you ever do a fresh install and are not using the Emachines Recovery CD (w/XP Home Edition) and you need the driver, it can be found here from ATI:
Additionally, XP did not get the right driver for the on-board sound card, and that can be found at Intel's website, here:
B. I tried installing a separate video card, but to no avail. Not sure if it is a faulty video card unit, or a faulty model to begin with. The model was purchased off Ebay, a ATI Radeon 9200se 128mb "Game Buster" model. Installing a video card on this model is somewhat tricky.
Here are the steps involved:
1. Before installing new video card a) restart in safe mode (press F8 in during boot), b) start OS in safe mode, c) once logged in via Safe Mode go to control panel---->system----->hardware tab----->device manager---->click on + in front of display adapter until it shows a negative (-) sign, d) right click on on-board video in display section and make sure it says "disabled", e) click "Ok" through the warning screen, f) shut down computer
2. Physically install PCI video card or PCI-E video card in available slot (assuming you have not already used yours)
3. **Do not attach cable to new video card yet. Start up computer and boot into the BIOS by hitting F2 key when the emachines logo is visible. Once in BIOS move cursor to the advanced tab and scroll down to "Video Configuration", hit enter key, and set the "Default Primary Video Adapter" to PCI ext. Press F10, save changes, and exit. Shutdown computer
4. Now you can attach monitor cable to the new video card. Once in Windows, install the drivers for the new PCI video card.
Ok, I just did the CPU upgrade to the Pentium 4 3.8ghz 570J (I purchased the chip from www.compumusic.com OEM for $191.51--I'm not advertising, just telling you where I found the best price from a relatively reputable place...always check resellerratings.com when you buy things like this online and watch out for scam companies).
This thing smokes now (it's incredibly fast). To replace CPU, it is very simple. Unplug machine, remove side panel, remove four screws on the fan/heatsink, unplug fan from motherboard. Pull lever (with care) on bottom of CPU casing out and to the right. Carefully remove 3.2ghz Celeron D chip (sell it on EBAY or give it to someone). With computer box on its side, spread thermal compound on new Pentium 4 chip (not on the side w/terminal connectors!!!, but on silver side w/chip information printed on it), place into CPU casing (lining up correctly). Door of CPU casing will compress chip into motherboard and then return the lever on the bottom. Reinstall fan (four screws) and plug back into motherboard. Make sure fan is working. Start it up and you will have to do one reboot. Enjoy your new extremely fast computer!
My W3502 Emachines has the following specs
Original: 3.2ghz Celeron D, 512mb RAM, Win XP Home
After upgrades: 3.8ghz Pentium 4, 2gb RAM, Win XP Pro.
Fast and solid now.