If you have a budget of only $400 for a desktop PC and monitor, you're not going to get any high-powered hardware, but at least you don't have to settle for a boring generic box. The eMachines EZ1601 is an attractive all-in-one that builds a PC into an 18.5-inch LCD monitor, looking for all the world like a slightly scaled-down version of one of HP's swank TouchSmart desktops, though it doesn't have a touch screen.
Actually, the EZ1601 looks even more like two other easel-style PCs, the Asus Eee Top ET1602 and MSI Wind Top AE1900. Like them, it's a nettop -- the familiar innards of a netbook, including an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, built into a desktop device. Like the MSI, it includes the optical drive -- a DVD±RW burner -- not found in any netbook.
It undercuts the Asus and MSI all-in-ones by $100 to $150 because it has neither a touch screen nor kiosk-style software to match their message centers, photo managers, and other apps suitable for use in a kitchen or family room. Instead of being a digital home hub, the eMachines is content to be a conventional Windows XP Home Edition PC -- a family's third or fourth PC, presumably, used for Web apps, e-mail, and light productivity work, without the horsepower for gaming or video editing.
As such, it's a surprisingly likable little system -- but perhaps not the best use of a $400 budget.
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