Desktop Roundup – Black Enterprise

Desktop Roundup

For small business owners, a desktop PC is an essential tool for running a successful company. But how do you get the best for your office without breaking the bank? BLACK ENTERPRISE tested PCs from eMachines, Sony, Dell, and HP for ease of setup, functionality, and form. Each manufacturer was expected to meet a $700 price point, which didn’t include the monitor. (Some manufacturers asked us to allow them to add more money to bring the machine up to business standards.) We also investigated the quality of technical support. Furthermore, we looked at what came standard, what was necessary, and what was lacking in the hardware and software packages.

The eMachines T2615 has “the look,” and at $649.99 you can probably envision it residing happily in your office. Besides looking good, this desktop features color-coded plug-ins and a handy poster-size installation guide.

We especially liked that the PC came with USB ports on the front for easy plug-in of peripherals. The T2615 came with an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ Processor, dual drives, a 48x CD-RW drive and a 16x DVD drive, DDR RAM, a 120GB hard drive, a 56K Modem, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connection, six USB ports, and a S3 Pro Savage8 card. We found the bundle more than adequate to meet our small business needs. For $100 more, you can upgrade to the T2625, which comes with a DVD-RW and an additional DVD drive.

Along with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, the software bundle includes Microsoft Works 7.0, Microsoft Money 2003, Encarta Online, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer, and a free 90-day trial of America Online and Norton AntiVirus 2003 software. Although the package would work, we still think the small business user needs Microsoft Word and a higher level accounting software.

The eMachines also features BigFix, which monitors a wide range of hardware and software characteristics. The Customer Care program includes free parts for one year, labor, technical support, and on-site service for a two- and three-year extended service plan for $89 and $139, respectively.

The Sony VAIO RS310, the newest VAIO on the block, was the heavyweight in our roundup — and not just in price ($849.99). This PC is a multimedia powerhouse if you want to maximize your use of photos, digital music, and video.

We liked the silver-gray design, which added a professional yet stylish look to our small test office. Setting it up with a flat panel monitor was a definite bonus. The RS310 came with a 2.40GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, an 80GB hard drive, 256MB of RAM, a DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, and four USB ports. The RS310 has more than enough power to accomplish business tasks, with the fast Pentium 4 processor and ample hard disk space for storage.

But the RS310 was a bit light on business-grade software. It came standard with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, and software such as Microsoft Works 7.0, PictureGearStudio, Microsoft Money 2003, SonicStage, McAfee Security Center, Inuit Quicken 2003, Adobe QuickTime, Network Smart Capture, and Java Web Start. Including both