Whether it’s due to iMac-envy or simply perceived ease of use, all-in-one PCs seem to be enjoying a bit of a revival at the moment. Aimed more at the style-conscious than at performance freaks, Lenovo’s IdeaCentre A320 features some unique design touches that make it stand out from the crowd
Divide and conquer
Most all-in-ones are effectively laptops with the chassis bolted onto the back of an LCD monitor, but Lenovo has adopted a rather different approach by hiding the innards in the stand.
The slim 21.5in, 1,920 by 1,080 glossy LED-backlit screen is finished in white with chrome edging, and sits on a white and chrome base that is to all intents and purposes a laptop chassis minus the screen and keyboard. It’s connected via a sturdy chrome-finish pillar at the rear right corner that allows 10 degrees of left/right swivel, and the mounting bracket enables up to 18 degrees of backwards tilt or 3 degrees forward (it folds parallel to the desktop for transporting). The base of the screen sits at a sensible height (65mm) from the desktop, which is fortunate as there’s no height adjustment.
All the I/O ports (including two USB2 and two SuperSpeed USB3 ports) are easy to access around the back and side of the base. The screen isn’t touch-sensitive, although it has touch controls for image adjustment and input select – very unusually, it supports HDMI input (direct to the screen only) as well as HDMI output via two ports on the base, so you can plug in items like a game console or Blu-ray player.
Display quality is perfectly adequate, but the only adjustments available are brightness plus three pre-set colour modes (Internet, Text and Movie). The on-screen controls are not much fun to use either – a dedicated button to switch between HDMI input and PC input would have been handy. An automatic brightness adjustment program is included that uses the webcam, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.
Slimmer isn’t always better
Integrated Bluetooth is used for the slimline keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has excellent springy keys, but it uses a laptop layout with Fn keys and no separate numeric keypad.
With no space to fit an optical drive into the unit’s stand, an external DVD rewriter has been supplied, but it takes up two of the device’s USB ports when in use. The infrared adapter for the TV remote control gobbles up another – in our opinion, a thicker base with a built-in optical drive might have been a better idea. A special adapter cable for connecting an external 75-Ohm aerial to the hybrid DVB-T/analogue TV tuner is provided. You also get a memory card reader, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. There’s built-in dual-stream (300Mbps) 802.11n Wi-Fi if you prefer.
It’s nice that Lenovo has gone for white status LEDs all round, but the Bluetooth status light flashes constantly at the base of the screen when connected, and there’s an annoying webcam status light shining directly into your eyes. There’s a clever distance-sensing program to help you maintain the correct distance from the screen, but this means the webcam light is on all the time unless you disable the tool.
Continue to next page for performance and verdict.
Power and the glory
The A320 is based on Intel’s latest ‘Huron River’ Centrino mobile platform, and our review model used a 2.1GHz Core i3-2310M (‘Sandy Bridge’) CPU with 4GB of DDR3 RAM. The integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics predictably struggled with recent games at high detail levels, and overall performance (4,651 in PCMark Vantage and 966 in Passmark Performance Test 7) was uninspiring, but perfectly acceptable considering the price and target market. Our review sample had a 750GB hard disk, the largest size available.
It runs completely silently, and the base gets warm but not uncomfortably hot. Audio is a weak point, though, with very tinny sound from the tiny speakers in the base – you should definitely budget for external speakers.
There’s no bundled productivity software apart from Office 2010 Starter Edition, but several maintenance utilities (including the excellent OneClick Recovery system) are included in the Lenovo Vantage Technology suite. WinDVD 10 and Cyberlink Power2Go 6 are included with the DVD burner.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A320 is very stylish, has great build quality and some nice features, although the performance is nothing special. As a second general-purpose PC for the living room it’s a good choice at a reasonable price, but games lovers should look elsewhere.
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- Stunning looks; HDMI input.
- Not enough USB ports; external optical drive.