This well-rounded and affordable mini-PC is larger than the smallest competition, but it sports optical-drive options and better thermals.
Compared with Intel’s diminutive NUC and Sapphire’s slim and sexy Edge VS8, you might think of Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Q190 as a full-figured micro PC. It’s not the smallest such model, but it boasts a ton of ports, it has enough interior space to move air over its components, and it has a Blu-ray drive option. If you’re looking for a home-theater PC, those are important features.
Design and ports
The Q190 is a small monolith measuring 6.10 by 7.55 inches. It’s 0.86 inch thick (expanding to 1.5 inches thick with its piggyback slot-feed optical drive attached). A stand that stabilizes the unit when upright adds about another half-inch of height, but Lenovo also provides a VESA mounting bracket so you can mount the Q190 on the back of a display.
Mic and headphone jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and a six-in-one media-card reader are hidden behind a door on the front of the unit. On the back you’ll find HDMI and VGA video outputs, three USB 2.0 ports, ethernet, an optical S/PDIF port, and the power jack for the AC adapter. The computer and the optical drive both have Kensington lock points. The Q190 also has a built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless network adapter. The bundled keyboard and mouse are middle-of-the-road units, but Lenovo’s palm-sized Enhanced Multimedia Remote, which combines a backlit QWERTY keyboard and fingertip mouse and costs $80, is worth a look if you plan to use the system from your sofa.
The Q190 is not quite as quiet as the nearly noiseless NUC, or the Edge with its super-quiet fan, but we didn’t find its noise signature to be bothersome.
Components and performance
Lenovo offers the Q190 in several flavors. The model we tested came configured with a 1.5GHz Celeron 887 CPU; 4GB of DDR3/1600 memory; a 500GB, 5400-rpm hard drive; and a DVD-RW drive. It posted an unimpressive score of 28 on our WorldBench 8 test suite. That’s slow, but once it booted and the 64-bit Windows 8 OS had finished caching stuff, the unit proved responsive enough.
That said, the integrated HD graphics system means that modern gaming is not in this machine’s repertoire. And you’ll need a super-efficient media player—such as Cyberlink’s PowerDVD, which employs hardware acceleration—to render 1080p at higher bit rates (that’s not an issue, though, with the Q190 model that ships with a Core i3 processor).
Price and configurations
As noted, the IdeaCentre Q190 is available in a variety of configurations. Our test unit sells for $397. As most vendors do, Lenovo offers deals that may or may not last. At the time of this writing, the least-expensive Q190 was for our configuration, sans the DVD drive, for $349. The most expensive was a Core i3-2365M model with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, and a Blu-ray player for $649. Oddly enough, the Q190 has no SSD option—the biggest kick-in-the-pants upgrade around (never mind that Lenovo’s website indicates otherwise).
The bottom line
If you’re not dead set on having the smallest PC on the planet, the IdeaCentre Q190 gets you most of the way toward micro computing, and its optical-drive options render it more versatile than its smaller rivals.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.