Electronics are always shrinking, that's a given fact. What was once an entire room thirty years ago has been squeezed down into a box that fits next to your desk, which of course now has been scaled down to the point where that amount of processing power can easily fit into your pocket. Everything is becoming more streamlined and being able to put into a smaller package and desktops are not an exception.
One of the larger current trends in the desktop arena is the "All In One" (AIO) form factor. Nearly every major computer vendor has released at least one take on it, with Apple's iMac probably being the most iconic. Today, we're here to look at Lenovo's new IdeaCentre B520, an AIO that packs some serious hardware into a very small and stylish package.
So, let's run down the specs of the IdeaCentre B520, shall we?
- - Core i7 2600 processor clocked at 3.4ghz
- - 8gb DDR3 1066 RAM
- - 2TB hard drive
- - 23.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 display
- - Capacitive touch screen
- - TV Tuner built in
- - Windows Media Center remote
- - HDMI out AND in
- - Composite video in
- - Combo DVD burner/Blu-Ray drive
- - 3D capable and bundled with 1 pair of Nvidia 3D Vision glasses
- - Bluetooth keyboard and 3way mouse (we'll explain the mouse in a bit)
- - 6 USB 2.0 ports
- - SD/xD memory card reader
That's a lot when you consider the fact that it's all in a package about the size of an extra thick monitor. I was impressed with the design, especially the frameless screen. Frameless in that there is a single piece of glass that goes from corner to corner covering screen and frame alike. All of the touch sensitive buttons on the front were easy to find, but were hardly used. They're mainly for adjusting the screen when using it with an external video source. I also like the hard angles of the front speaker portion, but was definitely not a fan of carrying the B520 from there. That edge is very thin and digs into your hand quickly when in hand transit. I suggest unpacking it as close to the setup area as possible.
The sides have a few ports in them, but most of the goodies are on the back - along the right side is the Blu-Ray/ DVD burner combo drive, along the left side were 2 USB 2.0 ports, headphone and mic jacks, and the SD/xD card reader. Around back are 4 more USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, coaxial input for the TV tuner, and the HDMI in and out ports.
The capacitive touch screen is a nice feature to have and it's a good way to future proof this system. That being said, Windows 7 is a terrible OS to try and use the touch screen in. everything is basically too small to select accurately on the first try. Windows 8, however, will be an entirely different story. I got the chance to play around with the developer build on the B520, and color me impressed. There were no drivers or anything that needed to be installed to get it up and running. The hardest part was partioning the 2TB hard drive so the two OS's could be on the same computer.
The 3D is a nice feature to have, but really didn't see the value it added. Since the graphics horsepower comes from the GT555 card, a set of NVidia active shutter 3D glasses were included. While it was great that they were included in my test, this is the one feature you can skimp on and save some money.
The keyboard and mouse are both Bluetooth connected and were the bane of my existence while using the B520. Connectivity would at times drop or when resuming from sleep, neither would connect at all. Add to that, both are powered by 2 AA alkaline batteries. Having replaceable batteries is great and all, but why can't we just have rechargeable Li-on batteries built in and chargeable over USB? I'd rather have to plug in every few days than buy new batteries every few weeks because I left them on, which you have to do. If you attempt to shut off either the mouse or keyboard while trying to put the computer to sleep, the B520 will take that as a wake signal and turn back on. If you turn them off before putting it to sleep, then you're forced to use your finger and will most likely hit the wrong button and either restart or shut down the computer anyway.
Like I stated earlier, the mouse is a 3-in-1 mouse, being a regular mouse, an air mouse and something else all rolled up into one. I say something else because I never did actually figure out how else to use it. The air mouse is an interesting concept in that it acts like a wand and you can use the mouse without any surface to place it on. I was never far enough away from the computer to really put it to good use and doubt you will either.
Gaming was not what I expected on the B520 as I found it surprisingly lacking. Free to play games like Rusty Hearts (Steam) and Cabal ran fine, but when I broke out the Just Cause 2 benchmark, things took a serious nose dive. I ran it with everything turned to High with Anisoptic set at 4x and turned out an abysmal 8.74fps. I was pretty shocked at how badly the GT555 handled the game. Being equipped with a mobile GPU, it seems that the B520 wasn't cut for serious gaming, even though it's packing a second generation Core i7.
Since this is touted as being an all in one, the AV ports work like a charm. HDMI out is for using the B520 with another monitor. The HDMI is great as it lets you use the B520 as a television and connect a game system or anything else HDMI. I didn't test the composite AV in because I no longer have anything that uses it. Even my PS2 has been upgraded to component cables. The coaxial works great with either the included antennae or directly from the wall, if you have the cable.
The Lenovo B520 is a solid computer that would be great for a college bound student or someone with limited space options. The only feature that I won't recommend is the 3D, which adds $100 to the already high sale price of $1500. Out of 5 stars, the Lenovo B520 gets a strong 4.5.