capsule review

Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 All-in-One Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 All-in-One PC

    PCWorld Rating

    A lush display, unmatched upgradability, and extras such as an HDTV tuner, and a 4-in-1 remote make the A600 hard to resist.

No question about it: Lenovo's IdeaCentre A600 looks unique. The combination of a sharp and angular design, an ultrathin chassis, and a 21.5-inch display definitely stands out against the more traditional "one big flat panel" look that competing all-in-one desktops offer. And at $1149 (as of 7/2/09), the A600 is seriously competitive, especially since it's the most upgradable all-in-one PC we've seen.

The Lenovo's 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 processor has one of the slower clock speeds for all-in-ones larger than 20 inches. Surprisingly, that doesn't have as big of an impact on overall performance as you would think when comparing it with, say, the 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor of the 24-inch Sony VAIO VGC-LV180J. As for its other main components, the Lenovo's 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory is a step above the DDR2-800 average in PCs of this class, while the 1TB hard drive is among the best you'll find in an all-in-one, matched here only by the 22-inch HP TouchSmart IQ500t and the 24-inch Apple iMac.

The A600's score of 87 in our WorldBench 6 test suite isn't the best we've seen, but it puts the machine in fine company. It ties the IQ500t and beats the 24-inch TouchSmart IQ816 (which scored an 81), but lands 28 percent shy of our all-in-one performance leader, Apple's 24-inch iMac (which earned a mark of 111). Given that the Apple system is nearly twice the price of the A600, however, that's not a bad showing at all.

The A600's ATI Radeon HD3650 graphics helped it achieve above-average graphics scores. The A600 had a solid average of about 60 frames per second in both our Enemy Territory: Wars and Unreal Tournament 3 tests (at 1024 by 768, and at normal and medium settings, respectively). Results fell to about 35 fps in each test when we bumped up the resolution to 1680 by 1050. The A600's HDTV-centric native resolution of 1920 by 1080 prevented it from running our tests at 1920 by 1200 or higher.

The A600 lacks touchscreen functionality--perhaps, in part, to keep the price so low. The display is otherwise strong: It delivers powerful saturation and pretty good contrast levels for gaming and Blu-ray movie watching (a built-in Blu-ray player is a common feature for all-in-ones with screens of this size). In my testing, I found that other all-in-ones offer a bit more contrast and richer black levels. Darker scenes on the A600 seemed slightly brighter than they should be.

On the side of the system you get two USB ports, one FireWire 400 miniport, and a six-in-one media card reader. Four more USB ports are on the A600's rear, alongside the system's gigabit ethernet port and HDTV tuner input. I would have liked to see some kind of next-generation connectivity on the system, be it an eSATA port, an HDMI port, an optical-out, or integrated 5.1 surround sound. As it stands, you can transform the A600 into a quasitelevision, but you have no way of fully integrating this all-in-one into a fancier entertainment-center setup. At least you'll be able to stream files off your network quickly using the A600's gigabit ethernet or 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity.

Surprisingly, you can upgrade nearly every part of the A600's insides. Typical all-in-one upgradability--if any exists--is restricted to the memory or the hard drive. If you have determination and a screwdriver, and if you've read the provided upgrade guide, you can really get inside the A600 to make whatever customizations (or replacements) you desire. It's a wonderful "above and beyond" move by Lenovo, although it's not the only one.

Since has no touchscreen, the A600 doesn't need any additional software beyond the standard 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium installation. Lenovo nevertheless throws in a number of extra programs that are surprisingly useful. The Bright Vision utility, for instance, uses the system's 2-megapixel Webcam to gauge the luminosity of your surroundings and adjust the display for optimal, no-eyestrain conditions. It also factors in the position of your face relative to the frame and warns you if you're getting too close (or conversely, slouching backward too much).

The keyboard and mouse on our test A600 were integrated into a single, flat device. Standard keys reside on the left, additional function and illuminated touch-sensitive media controls rest beneath a layer of black plastic in the upper right, and the laptop-style touchpad sits on the keyboard's lower right. The touchpad is a space-saver if you have the PC in the lounge, but you'd want to plug your own mouse in back at your desk. Lenovo also bundles a combination VoIP handset, air mouse, motion game controller (with games included on a version-by-version basis), and media center remote that's awesome in its functionality--it reminds me of a Wii Remote, albeit uglier.

If you can deal with the loss of superhigh resolution and the lack of a touchscreen, Lenovo's IdeaCentre A600 all-in-one is a compelling addition to the field. It comes at just the right price to appeal to people who have no interest in spending a fortune just to watch America's Next Top Model in the kitchen. Its drawbacks are few, and they're more than offset by Lenovo's willingness to give you as much for your dollar as it can pack into this uniquely designed system.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    A lush display, unmatched upgradability, and extras such as an HDTV tuner, and a 4-in-1 remote make the A600 hard to resist.

    Pros

    • Excellent display
    • Superior upgradability

    Cons

    • No touchscreen
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