by John Colby
The eMachines M5405 notebook is classified as a value or budget notebook. It is made by eMachines, which was recently purchased by Gateway. Following below are the specs for the notebook being reviewed.
eMachines M5405 (view larger image)
Mobile AMD Sempron 1.6G actual clock rated by AMD as 2800+
256K level 2 cache
512M RAM with 64M used by the display
60.0GB hard drive @ 4200 RPM
15.4″ WXGA TFT widescreen display, 1280 x 800
Integrated SiSM760 Ultra 256 graphics with 64MB shared video memory
3 high-speed USB 2.0 ports for fast digital video, audio, and data transfer
Built-in high-speed wireless LAN (802.11b/g); 10/100 Ethernet LAN with RJ-45 connector
V.92 high-speed data/fax modem
Weighs 6.6 lbs. and measures just 1.4″ thin for easy portability
8 cell lithium-ion battery
Windows XP Home Edition operating system pre-installed
Software package included with Power DVD, BigFix and more
Reasons for Buying
I bought this laptop for my wife, who is a teacher and needs a moderately powerful notebook for doing her class plans, email, and web browsing, but also wanted the ability to store and display pictures from our digital camera as well as store and play the music from our legally purchased and digitally copied CDs. I was looking for a notebook under $1000 and preferably under $800, with 512 Meg of RAM, a 15″ screen, a 2.5GHz or better processor, at least a 40GB hard drive (although preferably a 60G hard drive), and a wireless card built-in. All laptops in this price range come with Windows XP Home. Battery life was not a critical factor in choosing a laptop for my wife, since she most often uses her computer within range of an electrical outlet.
eMachines M5405 angled view (view larger image)
While it is possible to get laptops under $800, they are usually very low-end with slow processors, small hard drives, and only 256MB of RAM. I looked at the Dell Inspiron 1000 and 1150, the Gateway 3000, the Compaq Presario 330, the Averatec 2200, the Toshiba Satellite 340, and the eMachines M5405. Of all these machines, the eMachines M5405 has the strongest feature set, although the Toshiba comes close. The Averatec is a nice machine, but the screen size was too small for our purchasing needs.
Purchasing the EMachines M5405
I purchased the laptop from Best Buy for $999.99 on sale for $949.99. At that time it had a pair of mail-in rebates from Best Buy for $50 and $150, which made the price after rebates $749.99. A price like that moves it from a budget laptop squarely into the value notebook category!
Design and Build
The design is clean and uncluttered, with a set of multimedia buttons at the top right above the keyboard for opening a web browser, email, Windows explorer in search mode, Windows media player, and two buttons for turning up and down the volume. The case is an attractive black and silver, plastic but with a solid sturdy feel. The unit itself is about 6.5 lbs., so it is certainly no lightweight; but it is about a pound lighter than the common “desktop replacement” machines with similar specs, which seem to average about 7.5 lbs. The power “brick” is actually very tiny, rated at 19v and 3.42 amps for about 65 watts, which helps keep the total weight down as well.
Front side view of EMachines M5405 (view larger image)
Back side view of Emachines M5405 (view larger image)
Right side view of EMachines M5405 (view larger image)
Left side view of Emachines M5405 (view larger image)
The screen had no dead pixels; the maximum native resolution is 1280 x 800, which is the actual number of pixels in the display. The display is bright, with good colors. When running the M5405 gets a little warm to the touch, though not hot. To reduce heat build-up there are four small rubber feet which do not provide a whole lot of clearance between the desk and the bottom of the notebook. This small space below the notebook is where air is brought in to the notebook for cooling and then exhausted out the back. This rather small clearance does not cause a problem as long as you use it on a smooth surface; however you would not want to use this (or any) notebook on your lap in bed (for example) where the blanket would obstruct the air flow. If you intend to use any notebook in that manner, a “notebook cooler” is highly recommended.
The speakers are adequate, but tend to be covered by your wrists when typing, which mutes them. The sound is not going to win any awards; but it can be heard, and it has reasonable bass and treble.
The machine feels fast. The processor is a mobile Sempron clocked at 1.6G, with 256K of cache. Of the 512M Ram, 64M is used by the display leaving 448M for Windows and applications. This is plenty of memory for non-power users. The hard disk is a 4200 RPM drive, which is the norm for notebook; however, faster drives (up to 7200 RPM) are now available in case you want to change the drive out someday. The speed of the drive does make a significant difference in program load times, but not much difference once an application is open.
I timed the notebook from power-on to the last program loading at 1 minute 45 seconds. Understand, though, that your mileage will vary, since in this case the notebook is loading Sygate personal firewall, Norton AV, Folding@home and all of the little services for the synaptics pointer, the wireless network, etc. Hibernation, with Microsoft Word, explorer and Firefox browser loaded, took approximately 30 seconds, and restore took about 45 seconds. Given the ability to use hibernation and the far better time to get back to the desktop, I don’t know why you would ever use a normal shutdown.
I do not play games; but I suspect that this is not much of a gaming machine. The video is an integrated solution with shared memory, which tends to be usable for older or low-end games but is rarely satisfactory for games with demanding video.
Keyboard and Touchpad
EMachines M5405 Touchpad and Keyboard (view larger image)
The keyboard is good, with a solid feel — not soft or mushy. The synaptic touch pad is the same as most laptops, but it does have a “scroll” area on the right side to scroll applications like browsers, word processors or spreadsheets. The placement of buttons is very different from a desktop keyboard, with the delete, home, pg up, pg dn, and end on the right side of the keyboard and the insert to the right of the spacebar.
Ports and Drives
The laptop comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports, all on the back and spaced closely enough to possibly prevent two thumb drives being installed side by side (for example), but which do allow USB cables with no problems. There is also a VGA connector on the back for an external monitor. The left-hand side has the two connectors for the modem and the network. Next to that are the headphone and microphone jacks, then one type I or type II PCMCIA card. There is no firewire, nor are there any serial or parallel ports.
On the right-hand side is the CD/DVD drive. The drive is a combination CD R/W and DVD ROM. With Windows XP, files can just be dragged and dropped onto a blank CD using explorer and the files will be “copied” to the CD, which really just queues them up for burning. You then right-click in the explorer window over the “files ready to be written to CD” at the top of the window and select WRITE. For just backing up files or pictures, etc., it is just that easy.
The wireless interface is both 802.11b and g compatible, but no bluetooth. I have an 802.11g wireless router and the laptop just connected when it turned on and set up. The only thing to be aware of is that the bios has a setting that can turn off the wireless transmitter; so if it doesn’t work right away, look in there first. There is also a function key for turning on/off the transmitter. The only reason to do this would be to lower the battery drain when using it on battery where there is no wireless network available.
I have not done a proper battery rundown test or used it extensively on battery. The manufacturer rates the M5405 at about 2.5 to 3.0 hours of battery life. These numbers vary, however, depending on what you do during that time. If you turn off the wireless transmitter and turn down the display intensity, the battery will last longer than it otherwise would. Likewise, watching a DVD or listening to music where the hard disk is constantly being accessed will cause the battery to run down sooner.
The laptop comes with Windows XP Home Edition, Works 8.0, Money 2004, AOL three-month membership, and Norton Antivirus (90-day complimentary subscription). It comes with PowerDVD, which is a very nice application for playing DVDs. The DVD playback is sharp and clear with very little smearing. The included PowerDVD has great controls for fast forwarding and reversing at various speeds.
In my opinion, this machine hangs in there nicely with the other machines in its price group, having just a little better value for the money — 512M MB of RAM instead of 256M, 60G hard disk instead of 40G, and built-in wireless 802.11b/g. If you can get it while it is on sale at Best Buy as I did, for $750 it becomes hands-down the best value you can find in its class. I highly recommend this notebook for anyone who needs a value machine with a fast processor, lots of memory and disk space, and a nice display. This is a very fine machine.
- Lots of machine for the money
- 512M RAM, 60G hard drive
- 15″ 1280 x 800 screen
- 3 USB ports
- Reasonable weight at 6.6 Lbs.
- Medium battery life at 2.5 hours
- Limited I/O with no Firewire
- No memory card reader
- No serial or parallel port.