Lenovo IdeaCentre A7 All-in-One Review: Starting to Get The Balance Rightby Dustin Sklavos on September 26, 2012 12:01 AM EST
While I've never been fond of the three-toned silver, black, and tertiary orange styling Lenovo has employed on their Idea line of machines, I must concede that they get a lot right with the styling of the IdeaCentre A7. I'm not sold on the glossy finish of the display, but the edge-to-edge glass takes some of the, well, edge off. Meanwhile the aluminum shell of both the display and the base (where the guts of the computer itself are) is attractive and clean.
The hinge isn't quite as mobile as I'd like, but it gets the job done. What I'm less fond of is the port placement; there's just one USB port on the side, while the HDMI in and HDMI out ports are right next to it. Wouldn't it have been more logical to put a second USB port and the headphone and mic jacks on the side and move the HDMI ports to the back?
Where I think Lenovo does themselves in, and where I think Windows 8 is going to put a lot of this thing to bed, is in the glut of software included. Touch-based games are fine on small screens, but on a big one like this they can be a lot less enjoyable. I'm sure a lot of users will be happy to see games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds included, but Lenovo's custom interface is sluggish and leaves something to be desired.
As I said, most of my complaints here are going to be solved by Windows 8. The reality is that companies like Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba, and so on...they aren't software UI designers and it really shows in the applications that they have to install to justify the touchscreen, since Windows 7's interface ultimately isn't particularly touch friendly. However you feel about Windows 8 on the desktop, with touch interfaces it's going to be the right choice (as long as you life gorilla arms).
Heat and Noise
I can kvetch about the port placement on the body, but what Lenovo has really done right is the cooling system. Even under load, the IdeaCentre A7 is both cool and quiet, and it's worlds better than the wind tunnel that Dell's XPS One 2710 can become.
These thermals were produced under a fairly extreme stress test; under regular use the CPU temperatures topped out at the low 80s, and it's clear the A7 was designed for silence instead of cooling because it never produces anything more than a pretty low whooshing noise. Honestly I feel like they're benefitting tremendously from putting the computer hardware in the base instead of behind the display; they have to shrink it down and can't fit in a 3.5" drive, but everything runs cooler and quieter.
Finally, one of the biggest wins for going with not just Ivy Bridge, but Ivy Bridge mobile hardware, is realized in the power the A7 draws. This is another point where I feel like Lenovo has a solid victory over competing all-in-ones with the IdeaCentre A7.
Load power doesn't seem that great until you realize the IdeaCentre A7 is driving a 27" IPS display. The XPS One 2710's desktop chip takes its pound of flesh at both idle and load, though I'd probably eat the extra few watts the GDDR5 on the GPU consumes in exchange for the performance.