For less-demanding games and gamers, the Asus should be adequate. You can drop the image-quality settings, or settle for the occasional choppy frame rate, and still enjoy most titles. Spend just a few hundred dollars more, though, and you can be sure of a worry-free gaming experience, as well as have confidence that your PC will handle titles coming out in the near future. We get no such reassurance from this Asus, which makes a faster PC a wiser investment.
That said, you could certainly replace the 3D card in this system if you currently own faster hardware than the included Radeon HD 5750. The 400-watt power supply in the Asus should be able to support a faster GPU. PCs in this price range don't generally support two 3D cards, and this system is no exception, but you do get a spare 1X PCI Express slot, as well as a standard PCI slot. That should let you add a Wi-Fi card or other expansion cards with relative ease. The four RAM slots are all occupied, but you do get room for two more hard drives in a convenient outward-facing drive cage.
We're a little disappointed in the Asus' connectivity options. You get the usual raft of USB ports, digital and analog audio jacks, as well as VGA, DVI, and HDMI display options on the graphics card. You'll find no alternative data ports on this PC, though. We know FireWire and eSATA aren't crucial for everyone, but with so many less expensive desktops offering those ports, it seems problematic that the Asus should leave them off.
|Asus Essentio CG1330-05|
|Raw (annual kWh)||468.9009|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$53.22|
The Asus' power consumption is also a concern, especially relative to its competition. At an estimated $53 for the year, that almost comes out to $4.50 a month in extra energy bill charges. We don't expect that would bankrupt anyone who could responsibly purchase a $950 PC, but it would add a noticeable uptick to your power bill. Compare that $53 figure with the Gateway, which costs roughly $35 a year to operate and is universally faster, and, like other recent AMD-based desktops, this Asus system looks woefully energy inefficient.
Asus continues to neglect the Essentio brand on its Web site. You get a year-long, parts-and-labor warranty with this system, as well as 24-7 phone support, but online help is essentially nonexistent. For a brand that appears in major retailers nationwide, this continued omission is hard to comprehend and presents a perpetual difficulty for recommending Asus' Essentio desktops to average consumers.
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Asus Essentio CG1330-05
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.6GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1035T; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750; 1TB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1TB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
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