Lenovo IdeaCentre B520: A Giant Leap for All-In-One Kind
By Alex Cocilova
At a Glance
Powerful machine with a slim design
Great media center functionality
Lackluster port selection
The Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 is a nice step forward for All-in-Ones, but it lacks some high-end features while retaining a high-end price.
It is rare to find an all-in-one desktop that can be compared to a gaming machine, but Lenovo took on the challenge with the IdeaCentre B520 (listed, as configured, at $1799, as of 10/13/2011). Is it possible to deliver a smooth gaming performance with a svelte system? Let’s check under the hood to find out.
The IdeaCentre sports an Intel Core i7-2600 (Sandy Bridge) processor, clocked at 3.4GHz. A total of 8GB of DDR3 RAM backs up the CPU’s speed, so you aren’t likely to be hampered when running programs and games. Overall, the IdeaCentre B520 scored a 156 on our Worldbench 6 Test Suite–a record for the all-in-one PC category.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre just trumps the HP TouchSmart 610 Quad, which scored 135 back in April. The big difference between the two systems is in the processor–the HP TouchSmart was equipped with an Intel Core i7-870.
But let’s get to the important stuff: How well can this machine run games? The IdeaCentre is armed with the Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics card. A nice perk of this card is its two HDMI ports–one for input and one for output. Our review unit sustained an admirable 48.2 frames per second while running Unreal Tournament 3 at 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution on the highest settings. It struggled a little on Far Cry 2, a modern game that’s a bit more demanding, where it averaged 23.4 fps on the same resolution and graphical settings. Also, as cool as a touchscreen is, it never came in handy in my gaming tests. Stick to the included wireless keyboard and mouse–unless you are playing one of the bundled games built around the touchscreen, such as Angry Birds.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 works as a home media center as well. It offers 2TB of storage, giving you plenty of room for movies and photos, as well as leaving a fair amount of space for your favorite games and programs. It includes a Blu-ray/DVD combination drive and can run at a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. If you are feeling particularly chatty, a built-in camera and microphone are included.
Aesthetically, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 is a sleek-looking machine; however, it lacks any sort of swivel or level adjusting. This can make getting a good glare-free position a bit of a pain. Though the screen is wide, the entire system manages to stay slim enough to stick in a tight area, and it doesn’t take up too much desk space.
While the machine manages to run as a gaming system, it was a little disappointing in its port array: It has a total of six USB 2.0 ports (four in the back, two on the side) and a multifunctional card reader. Although this is plenty for a casual machine, those who are a little more involved in PC gaming may find those ports lacking. Peripherals, external hard drives, and other gadgets will quickly occupy every USB port. Firewire, eSATA and USB 3.0 options for speed and convenience would have been nice as well.
Overall, the IdeaCentre B520 is a giant step forward in making a powerful all-in-one machine. The hardware is comparable to that of dedicated gaming machines, and the features mirror those of a great media center. The system allows you to be versatile with your computing needs. However, it does lack some features of a high-end gaming rig while retaining a high-end price tag. If space is an issue, but you still need some serious computing power, this is certainly one of the best options available.
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