Here's our prediction for the new eMachines ER1402-05's reception (aka the "mini-e," on eMachines' product page) as a low-cost home theater PC: Average consumers will be frustrated by its performance with HD content, QuickTime video in particular. Enthusiasts, however, will slap the open-source XBMC media player on it, if not also some variation of Linux, and enjoy a better experience. We, however, will still find a $299 PS3, a $199 Xbox 360, or a Blu-ray player with streaming video services a better deal.
To be sure, the market is overflowing with devices vying to bring Web-based video content to your television. You can read many of our thoughts on the topic here. The new eMachines at $299 is a more affordable option than the $475 Asus Eee Box we reviewed most recently, but also a bit more expensive than Acer's lowest-end Revo, which comes in at $199. Dell's Inspiron Zino HD is also worth considering, as is the slim tower Gateway SX2840-01
For its price, the new eMachines system seems like a relatively fair configuration. You get a dual-core AMD Athlon II Neo processor. 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a 160GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, a media card reader and an integrated GeForce 9200 graphics chip. For outputs, the highlights include HDMI and an optical S/PDIF digital audio jack. eMachines has also designed the system to stand freely, or you can mount it on the back of any VESA-compatible display. The lack of a optical drive is a pain point. We'd also like to see a 250GB hard drive at this price.
The GeForce 9200 chip is an older model, but it does support Flash acceleration via the 10.1 Flash player update. That bodes well for the eMachines' YouTube, Amazon Video-on-Demand, and Hulu playback quality. QuickTime still lacks hardware acceleration on Windows PCs, which means this eMachines and its lower-end CPU and GPU will likely run into some hiccups with .MOV files, Apple trailers, and HD content from iTunes, at least without making some software tweaks.
We certainly see the value in systems such as this eMachines. They can provide relatively unfettered means to bringing your digital content to an HDTV at low cost. That has obvious appeal for those of you with lots of locally stored media files. For anyone else looking for a easy way to access the ever-expanding library of Web video content from the comfort of your couch, game consoles and the various media streaming devices continue to look more appealing by offering similar or better features than Nettops like this one for the same price.