Considering eMachines Buy -- But Heard Bad Things About Them
December 27, 2003 4:56 PM   Subscribe

What's so bad about eMachines? [more inside]

Despite continued protests of ignorance, in my family I fill the unfortunate roll of "computer guy," so when my sister went to buy a cheap new computer for her kids, I was asked to tag along. We went to a few stores, and it seemed like everywhere we went, the deals were eMachines.

I know that you can get it cheaper by building it yourself (although I don't do that anymore... bad experience), or through an independent computer store, but they wanted one right away, and all those stores were closed for Christmas.

So, we finally found an Athlon 2600 with 256 megs of ram, an 80 gig hard drive, DVD/CD-RW and a GeForce 4 card, for about $500.

I am vaguely aware that the eMachines brand is detested, but I have never been sure why. All they need it for is standard entry-level stuff like web, accounting, and a little gaming. Is there any reason not to buy an eMachine for this kind of thing? Is there a reason beyond maybe elitism that people turn up their noses at cheapo boxed computer systems of this sort? Are my sister and her adorable children going to hate me for recommending it?
posted by Hildago to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Response by poster: The first paragraph should say "the best deals were eMachines"
posted by Hildago at 4:58 PM on December 27, 2003

It's not much, but here's my abbreviated answer: "Low quality parts." A slightly longer, and perhaps less accurate version would be "you get what you pay for."

The prices are low because every corner has been cut, from low quality and insufficiently rated power supply to dodgy no-name motherboard, to dubious-quality memory, to cheaply constructed case. The failure rate on these things is historically very high, and while things may be different since they acquired the crown of crappiness from Packard Bell, you should know you're going into the purchase with a company that has a long and storied history of serious design, manufacturing, and quality control problems.
posted by majick at 5:09 PM on December 27, 2003

For simple applications that emachines box will probably be fine. I know in the past emachines was cited as having terrible quality. And deplorable tech support/customer service. I've never owned one so I can't relate personal experience.

However, PC World's Reliability & Service Survey shows that emachines is trying to fix some of its earlier problems.
posted by birdherder at 5:10 PM on December 27, 2003

I bought an eMachines computer four or five years ago , and the power supply gave out about a month after the year-long warranty expired. I'm such a desperate computer junkie that I had to run out that night and buy a replacement computer lest I go one night without the Internet. A couple of weeks later, I replaced the power supply and passed the computer on to a friend. Oddly enough, it's still running just fine.

That said, I'd buy from Dell sooner than I'd buy an eMachines.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:08 PM on December 27, 2003

I am typing this on an Emachines I bought for a bargain basement price from Costco. I have owned them in the past. Mine have all worked fine, and for the $400 or $500 or $600 price tag I got two or three years use out of them. They have without question been much more dependable than my Compaq laptops I owned for 3x the price.
posted by vito90 at 7:50 PM on December 27, 2003

Yeah. I have 3 computers at my disposal at work and I always use the eMachine - sure it's a cheap piece of crap, but it's also a nice little workhorse, at least for me. I've never had any kind of problem with mine. I'd definitely buy another next time I'm in the market - I'm basically just a web surfer/gamer myself and have no need of anything fancy. It's also a very affordable and handy second home computer.
posted by iconomy at 8:12 PM on December 27, 2003

We had a bunch of them as cheap lab machines at a previous job, and they did seem to suffer from an unusually high rate of power supply failure.
posted by tingley at 9:40 PM on December 27, 2003

I type this on an emachine we've had running as the family PC for a year now. It's only used for basic stuff and it's held up fine with two caveats:
replace the power supply - I was aware before I bought it of the poor PSU that the machine had, so I swapped it out when it arrived.
there was a loose screw trapped under the mobo (!) which I spotted when I got bored one day and took the machine apart.

From this limited experience I'd say that this a company that keeps prices low by cutting corners on QA.
If you can do it for yourself you may get a bargain - the parts in this machine are all made by obscure, but known, companies. It's just the build that sucks.

Except the PSU. Change that out fast.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:14 PM on December 27, 2003

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip on the power supply, guys. Would never have even considered that. Will call her now. Unfortunately, she'll probably ask me to do the labor.
posted by Hildago at 11:15 AM on December 28, 2003

I have an eMachine. It's off right now. It's off most of the time. I only boot it up when I need to do something like run win98 on a clean box that's going to get wiped anyway.

I bought it few years ago for some obscenely low price for part of a media project. It didn't need to last long, it just needed to work, which it did just fine.

After the project was over, I set it up to watch DVDs on while I worked on my primary machine. That's what did it in.

I watched the entire spawn dvd set in one sitting. That's three double-sided DVDs. Something like 8 hours. After I popped the last DVD out, the computer crashed and stayed crashed. Turns out the IDE controller that ran the DVD drive fried itself.

The DVD drive is in not too good shape as well. Strangely, it recognizes and plays DVDs, but is incapable of recognizing actual CDs.
posted by jaded at 11:54 AM on December 28, 2003

I have a five year old machine that still runs fine. Never had a problem.
posted by yerfatma at 5:39 PM on December 28, 2003

I've never had any problems with my eMachine either. You'll need to spend a little extra on a decent sound card though as the one it comes with is terrible.
posted by dydecker at 8:37 PM on December 28, 2003

I've had one for three years. Got it as part of a (close to) free computer/Compuserve ISP package. Been paying $21 a month for internet access, but I paid only $95 for the computer, then another $40 for a monitor. No complaints. Works fine for what I ask of it--internet access, my daughter's computer games.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:19 AM on December 29, 2003

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