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Lenovo’s All-in-one: IdeaCentre A600

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Integrated all-in-one PCs are becoming more visible, with morphing nettops, Apple iMacs, and now, Lenovo IdeaCentres. The A600 series is Lenovo’s first entry into the home desktop PC market, and it has many of the features that endear iMacs to their users.

Sept 16, 2009 by Mike Chin

Product
IdeaCentre A600
All-in-one Desktop PC
Manufacturer
Lenovo
Price
Sale priced at US$699!; depends on components selected by buyer.

All-in-one PCs are not new. That is how the original personal computers began, back in the day — if not in a single self-contained package, then in a highly integrated assembly of components from a single brand. Think Amiga, Apple, Tandy, IBM… But by the 1990s, such computers had almost disappeared in the wave of discrete component PCs. In 1998, Apple’s original iMac brought the all-in-one PC back to mainstream consumer attention. Over the past decade, the iMac evolved, from the original PowerPC CPUs to Intel C2D processors, from CRT monitors to flat LCD screens. Other brands also introduced all-in-one PCs running Windows, but none quite combined the sleek look, operational ease and sheer appeal of the LCD-screen iMacs.

Non-Apple brands are getting closer with their all-in-ones, though. Nettops using Atom processors are morphing into low-cost all-in-ones; the sub-$600 Asus 20" screen EeeTop PC ET2002 is one recent example of such machines. Lenovo’s IdeaCentre A600 is a more ambitious all-in-one PC using not the performance-limited Atom processor, but Intel’s mobile Core 2 Duo processor. The architecture of the mobile chip is the same as the desktop version; the key difference is much lower power demand, 25W instead of 65W TDP (Thermal Design Power).

The IdeaCentre A Series are Lenovo’s first all-in-one PCs, and they became availble in the spring of 2009. The sample we received for review is the top model, similar to the A600-30114EU currently available for purchase at the US Lenovo web site. Its pricing and capabilities puts it in direct competiton with the iMacs.


Lenovo’s highly processed PR photo deals well with the reflections off the IdeaCenter A600’s glossy finish. The LCD monitor on all A600 variants measures a generous 21.5".

The IdeaCenter A600-30114BU sample we received had the following main components:

Lenovo IdeaCenter A600-30114BU Main Components
CPU
Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 Mobile Processor (2.13 GHz, 1066 MHz bus, 3 MB L2 cache, 25W TDP)
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset, ICH9M I/O Controller Hub
Graphics
ATI Mobility Radeon HD3650 Graphics Card, PCI Express x16, 512MB
memory
Memory
4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM (two sticks)
Hard Drive
1TB, SATA 3.0Gb/s, 3.5" wide (7200RPM)
Optical Drive Blu-ray Disc reader, BD-ROM, DVD recordable, 12.7mm high, slot-in
Monitor
21.5"WUXGA (1920×1080) TFT color, VibrantView (glossy), CCFL backlight, 300 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1000:1 contrast ratio
Camera
On top of screen, 2.0-megapixel, fixed focus, with dual array microphone
Audio
High Definition (HD) Audio, RealTek ALC272 codec / two speakers (3 watt) and subwoofer (8 watt), Dolby Home Theater Speaker System /
dual array microphone, mic input, headphone jack
USB Ports
6 Total (4 Rear, 2 Side)
Remote Control
4-in-1 remote control, via bluetooth, acts as motion game controller (requires games* support), VOIP headset, Vista MCE remote control, and air mouse
LAN
Gigabit Ethernet, Broadcom BCM5784
Mini PCIe Slots (2)
– 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Intel WiFi Link 5100, 1×2
– AverMedia TV tuner, analog / digital support
Operating System
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Multicard reader
6-in-1 Multicard reader
Bluetooth
Bluetooth 2.1 wireless + EDR, USB 2.0 interface via ICH9M, LED indicator
Ports
Rear: Four USB 2.0, ethernet (RJ-45), TV antenna connector
Left: Two USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 FireWire 400
External Power
150-watt AC adapter, RoHS-compliant
Chassis & Stand
– Black color, ABS plastic
– Tilt stand (15° back, 5° forward)
Dimensions & Weight
– (WxHxD): 20.47" x 18.22" x 1.06" to 2.36"; 520mm x 463mm x 27 to 60mm
– 27.7 lb (12.6 kg)
Provided Accessories
Keyboard
Wireless RF 2.4 GHz w/ touch pad, 6-row, 84-key, touch-sensitive multimedia & shortcut keys
Mouse
Wireless RF 2.4 GHz Laser Wheel Mouse, 800/1600 dpi (user switchable)
* These items were not explicitly detailed in StoneWave’s documentation at time of writing. More details will be provided after we get under the hood.

At time of writing, the similar A600-30114EU system on the US Lenovo site was sale priced at $1249. Two less fully-loaded variants were listed at to $999 and $949 with standard 1-year warranty/service.

Unlike the Lenovo M58p Eco USFF we examined in June, the IdeaCentre A600 is not EPEAT registered, nor is it an Energy Star; it is listed in neither of these directories, at least not at time of writing. Interestingly, there are no environment data sheets on any of the A600 models, either. These data sheets are the only place where detailed energy consumption, acoustics and environmental information is provided. The IdeaCentre PCs are consumer models; is the implication that consumers are less concerned about these issues than corporate or institutional buyers?

BASICS

The system came in a large retail carton already a bit worse for wear and tear. It’s probably a sample that’s made a round or two.


The retail carton showed some wear and tear.

The components were securely packed inside.



Contents included the A600, wireless keyboard and mouse, remote control, external power adapter, product documentation and installation discs.


Here it is, set up on a table. As mentioned previously, the high gloss finish made photography difficult. Hence the return to Lenovo’s promotional image…


…which highlights the seamless facia of the monitor and its bezel, and shows the side profile again.

It’s clear that the bulk of the PC in the A600 must be contained in the thicker lower portion of the chassis, below the LCD monitor section. This is in contrast to the design of the iMacs we’ve reviewed, which integrate more of the PC directly behind the screen. The difference results in a somewhat more imposing look to the Lenovo, compared to the iMac. But the overall footprint of either on a desktop is the same, and if the Lenovo strikes one as odd initially, the impression quicly fades.


The 2006 iMac 24" had a simpler more straightforward look.

MORE DETAILS

The Lenovo A600’s "front panel" can be said to be on the bottom left side. It’s where the power button and some of the in/out ports are located. The lower center of the back panel sports the rest of the ports.


On the left side are the power button, multicard reader, FireWire 400 port, two USB ports and mic/headphone ports. Also visible in this photo are the four USB ports, ethernet (RJ-45) port, and TV antenna connector on the back panel. The small square grill next to the coax TV antenna connector is the cover for a "woofer". The geometric pattern on the left edge is a vent; this design is used throughout the A600.



The right side edge sports a slot-loading Blu-ray / DVD-RW combo drive. Note again the geometric vent.



The bottom portion of the front looks like a grill but it is most decorative; there are two real vents near the ends that allow sound to emerge from speakers.



The lower vents on the back panel appear to be air exhausts, and all the others, including the orange strip on top, appear to be intakes. Clearly, there is at least one fan in the system; it can be heard along with the noise of the hard drive. The back cover is probably removable but we chose not to try to ensure it would get back to Lenovo in one piece.



The power adapter accepts 100~240VAC, 2A max current; its output is 19.5V at up to 7.7A. Hence the 150W power rating.

MONITOR DETAILS

Since the monitor is part and parcel of the A600 package, a bit of time was spent to assess its performance and quality.

The overall performance of the monitor is good, sharp, vivid, and without any visible odd artifacts or lags in motion for video playback. Corner to corner sharpness and color is consistent and even. There are a couple of utilities in the Lenovo Vantage Start Center to help optimize monitor settings. Under "Healthcare Software", one utility uses the built-in camera to determine the user’s distance from the monitor. When that distance is deemed too close, a caution is displayed or sounded. Another utility automatically turns the monitor’s brightness up or down depending on the ambient light level in the room. Both are useful utilities for typical home users.

The only controls on the front panel of the A600 are on the right bottom, near the edge of the screen. They are touch sensitive controls that light up when activated by a finger touch and disappear completely when not used. Elegant though they are, the annoyance is that they stay lit for a only a second or two after the fingers are removed. This is far too short a time.


Four buttons light up when this area of the front panel is touched: Screen brightness lower and higher, screen off, and optical disc eject. The lights turn off and the buttons disappear just a second or two after your touch.

USE IMPRESSIONS

With the Windows Home Premium 64-bit OS, the system feels speedy and responsive with all the usual tasks: Web browsing, email, creating and examining office documents, viewing and editing photos, downloading files, listening and viewing music/video. The system was delivered with the power mode on Balanced, which is a compromise between minimal power and maximum performance. The systems goes to Sleep mode after an hour of inactivity. After resetting the inactive time to 15 minutes, there was rarely any need to turn the system off, as Sleep mode drew just 2W, and awakening it only took a touch of the spacebar or mouse and about a 10-second wait, which is much quicker than boot time.

The optical drive can get quite loud when accessing data at high speed, but the maximum speed can be limited using software. The wireless keyboard lacks tactile responsiveness and key travel is very short. Its integrated touchpad is small and not that nice to use. The best thing about the keyboard is that it’s wireless. The wireless mouse is quite nice, with a good shape and quick responsive feel.


The wireless keyboard is light, low profile and a bit flimsy, lacking in good tactile feel and key travel. The integrated touchpad is OK but not great, and a touch-sensitive pad of controls that light up above the touch pad is even worse than the touch controls on the front panel. The remote control works well, however, and the wireless mouse is great.

Wireless networking functioned flawlessly with the unit about 30 feet and one floor away from the 802.11g router. The maximum transfer speed was around 23 mbps, about the highest seen on this wireless network with other computers.

The 2.0 megapixel camera located at the top center above the screen has two pin-holes on either side for the pair of noise cancelling microphones, and they provided good picture (with adequate ambient light) and sound on Skype and Google video conferencing calls.

There are many preinstalled utilities and programs, many of which are useful:

• Lenovo OneKey Recovery – Useful.
• Driver and Application Installation – Useful.
• Lenovo Recovery Disk Maker – Useful.
• Lenovo Healthcare Software – Basically, automated screen adjustment software; quite useful.
• VeriFace – Face recognition instead of keyboard login; sometimes would not recognize my unshaven face.
• Media Show – Helps keep media files organized… but Windows Media Center is also here.
• Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2008 – Necessary, but just a short trial.
• Windows Live Toolbar – Search engine helper.
• Microsoft® Office 2007 Trial (60-day) – Bloatware, but you may need it.
• Cyberlink Power2Go (DVD±RW, BD player) – This is quite useful, a complete package.
• Corel WinDVD (BD player) – Useful.

The IdeaCentre A600 is not noisy, though it is certainly audible by any user seated in front of it. The noise is not just broadband. Vista often accesses the hard drive, which often causes a near-constant touch of chatter. There are some tonal aspects, low in level, which come from both fan(s) and the drive. We’ll delve more deeply into the acoustics in the test results.

The quality of the built-in sound system is surprisingly pleasant. Most users will have no problem accepting the sound quality for video playback accompaniment or casual music playback. It can get decently loud before starting to distort. Don’t expect thumping bass, though, or good orchestral reproduction.

Before we delve further into the acoustics, let’s test this PC for performance and value.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Benchmarking Particulars

  • Eset NOD32: in-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32
    files of varying size with of them being file archives.
  • WinRAR: archive creation with a folder containing 68 files of varing size
    (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: conversion of a MP3 file to AAC
  • TMPGEnc Xpress: encoding an XVID AVI file to VC-1 (1280×720, 30fps, 20mbps)

The following features/services were disabled during
testing to prevent spikes in CPU/HDD usage that are typical of fresh Vista installations:

  • Windows Sidebar
  • Indexing
  • Superfetch

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel), and to
test the integrated graphics’ proficiency at playing high definition video.
Standard HD-DVD and Blu Ray discs can be encoded in three different codecs: MPEG-2, H.264 / AVC and VC-1. MPEG-2 has been around for years
and is not demanding on modern system resources. H.264 and VC-1 encoded videos,
on the other hand, are extremely stressful due to the complexity of their
compression schemes and will not play smoothly (or at all) on slower PCs,
especially those with antiquated video subsystems.

We used a variety of H.264/VC-1 clips encoded for playback on the PC. The clips
were played with Windows Media Player (for lack of other 64-bit players) and a CPU usage graph was created by the Windows Task
Manger for analysis to determine the approximate mean and peak CPU usage. High
CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability on the part of the integrated
graphics subsystem. If the video (and / or audio) skips or freezes, we conclude
the board’s IGP (in conjunction with the processor) is inadequate to decompress
the clip properly.

Video Test Suite


1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 1
is encoded in H.264 with Apple Quicktime.
The Quicktime Alternative 1.81 codec was used to make it playable in
PowerDVD.

1080p | 24fps | ~7.5mbps
WMV3:
Coral Reef Adventure trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec (commonly recognized by the moniker, "HD WMV").

720p | 60fps | ~12mbps
Dark Knight: Dark Knight Trailer 3 is a 720p clip encoded in H.264 inside an Apple Quicktime container.

1920×1080 | 24fps | ~19mbps
VC-1: Drag Race is a recording of a scene from
network television re-encoded with TMPGEnc using the WVC1 codec.

TEST RESULTS

As expected of a system using the Intel GM45 chipset, the A600 had no trouble playing all the video clips in our test suite with moderate CPU usage, the only exception being Drag Race, which seemed to demand more than normal power and CPU usage. The power consumption was modest under all loads. Idle system power was 53W at the wall outlet. With the monitor turned off, idle power dropped to just 38W, which is 3W lower than we measured for the Lenovo M58p Eco USFF. During typical low-power activities such as web surfing, downloading and installing Windows updates, and checking/sending email, the AC power consumption ranged 53~64W, which is very modest for an entire system complete with 21.5" monitor.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A600-30114BU
(Screen brightness set to ~50%*)
Test State
Mean
CPU Use
Peak
CPU Use
AC Power
Off
N/A
1.2W
Sleep (S3)
N/A
2.1W
Idle, monitor on
N/A
53W
Idle, monitor off
N/A
38W
Rush Hour
15%
28%
~80W
Coral Reef
21%
34%
~84W
Dark Knight
17%
28%
~80W
Drag Race
45%
61%
~88W
Prime95
CPU: 85°C
GPU: 57°C
HDD: 45°C
100W
Prime95 + Furmark
CPU: 88°C
GPU: 80°C

HDD: 47°C
125W
*Notes:
1)The monitor brightness could vary the AC power as much as 30W. At full CPU + GPU load, changing monitor brightness from min to max varied the AC power from 110W to 140W.
2) The power supply turned out to incorporate Active Power Factor Correction. Its PF was at or near the ideal of 1.0 through all loads from idle to maximum.

With Prime95 running over 20 minutes, the CPU got quite hot, and the vents on the back over the I/O ports became very warm to touch. The power adapter also became warm, around 50°C. No errors were recorded, however, so the system stayed stable.

Lenovo A600-30114BU Benchmarks
Boot*
42 sec.
PCMark05
n/a*
3DMark06
1164
NOD32
n/a*
WinRAR
254 sec
~75W
iTunes
319 sec
~72W
TMPGEnc
476 sec
~83W
*Boot-up Time – start button to when the round Vista logo
appears
n/a
*: The preloaded Vista 64-bit OS did not play nice with the 32-bit versions of these programs.

CPU-centric performance was speedy, as expected with the Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 mobile processor. Boot time was reasonably quick.

PERFORMANCE COMPARED TO…

We have a few recently reviewed products to compare with the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600. The Lenovo M58p Eco USFF is a corporate desktop. The Dell Studio Hybrid
is geared more to the consumer market and uses notebook components. Our home-built mini-ITX system is a small desktop PC an enthusiast could build from retail components. All of these PCs would normally be positioned on the desk close to the user.

Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
  • Intel C2D E8400 Processor (3.00GHz, 1333MHz, 6MB L2 cache)
  • Intel Q45 chipset motherboard w/Integrated Video GMA4500
  • 2GB PC3-8500 SDRAM (two sticks)
  • Hitachi HDT725025VLA380 250GB 3.5" HDD (5400RPM)
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Mechanical Package Eco USFF 1×2, 87 Plus / WW
  • 130W External 85% Efficiency AC/DC Power Adapter
  • DVD Recordable drive (w/ DVD Playback & Burner Software)
  • Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100

Price: ~$900 + $200 for 22" 1920×1080 monitor


Dell Studio Hybrid

Price: ~$800 + $200 for 22" 1920×1080 monitor


Home Built mini-ITX System:

Price: ~$700 + $200 for 22" 1920×1080 monitor

Note that the mini-ITX system was not actually built into the Thermaltake Lanbox, which is a large shoebox style SFF case. The components were put together on an open test bench platform for actual testing. The case was included in the component list to make a complete system.

The Lenovo power measurements include the demand of its 21.5" LCD monitor, while the others are conventional PCs that require a separate monitor. Almost any >20" monitor will have a power draw of ~20W or higher. Please keep this in mind.

Benchmarks Comparison
System
Lenovo IdeaCentre A600
Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
Dell Studio Hybrid
Home-built E7200 / DG45FC
CPU Clock
2.13 Ghz
3.0 Ghz
2.13 Ghz
2.53 Ghz
RAM
4GB
2GB
3GB
2GB
Boot
42 Sec.
36 sec.
58 sec.
48 sec.
PCMark05
n/a*
6428
4176
5178
3DMark06
3777
1164
444
1002
Idle Power
53W
41W
23W
35W
NOD32
n/a*
179s
~65W
301s
~40W
319s
~45W
WinRAR
254s
~75W
176s
~67W
274s
~45W
248s
~50W
iTunes
319s
~72W
262s
~67W
312s
~43W
242s
~50W
TMPGEnc
476s
~83W
310s
~78W
468s
~52W
380s
~58W
*Boot – time from start button to when the round Vista logo
appears
n/a
*: The preloaded Vista 64-bit OS did not play nice with the 32-bit versions of these programs.

The A600 boots up about as fast as the M58p despite its slower CPU, probably because of its faster 3.5" 7200rpm drive. The M58p was equipped with a 5400rpm 3.5" drive, and the other systems were equipped with slower 5400rpm 2.5" notebook drives. The superior 3D performance of its ATI 3450 GPU comes through in the 3DMark06 score, which is 3.5 times higher than the closest competitor. The timed benchmarks put the A600 closest to the Dell Studio Hybrid, not surprising as the two sport the same processor.

In terms of energy efficiency, the A600 is reasonably close to both the Dell Studio Hybrid and the Home-built mini-ITX systems. Both of these systems draw less power, but when the monitor’s power demand is factored in, they’d all be within a few watts of each other, at least at load. In idle, the Dell has the lead with its low power notebook parts.

ACOUSTIC ANALYSIS

Much of the listening was done in a quiet, normal 20′ x 10′ room with 8′ ceiling where ambient conditions were 20 dBA and 23~25°C. Acoustic testing was done mostly in the anechoic chamber, where the ambient level was 10~11 dBA and the temperature was 23~25°C. Idle measurements were taken 5~15 minutes after boot or reboot, whenever none of the temperatures had changed for several minutes. Load measurements were taken after >20 minutes of Prime95.

In the normal room, the system’s SPL measured ~27 dBA from 0.6m away. Moving back to a meter reduced the level to about 22~23 dBA. This was with ambient noise at about 20~21 dBA.

Here are the measurements from the anechoic chamber on our sample.

Acoustics: Lenovo IdeaCentre A600
Test State
SPL (dBA)
System Power
1m
0.6m
Idle
18
23
53W
Maximum
20
25
125W

ISO 7779 (the Standard for Measurement of Airborne Noise Emitted by IT and Telecommunications Equipment) specifies 0.6m as the SPL measurement distance for Seated Operator. This is the most relevant distance and position for SPL measurements of a desktop all-in-one PC. Another 0.4 meter distance reduced the idle SPL to just 18 dBA, but few users would actually sit a meter away from the screen.

The sound is not loud but it has complex tonalities which can be mildly annoying. The big spike at 120 Hz in the spectrum curve below is caused by the hard drive and is heard as a constant low level hum which can be somewhat amplified by a hollow desktop. The smaller spikes at 5~600 Hz, 1.2, 2, 3 and 3.5 kHz indicate some of these tonalities. The much lower level spikes at around 10kHz may also be audible.


The 120 Hz peak is the hard drive’s primary sound. The various peaks through the midband suggest some tonal complexity, but the overall loudness level is modest.

At full load, internal fans seemed to speed up a bit, but the increase in noise was subtle, with peaks just 2 dBA higher at the 0.6m distance in front of the screen. The overall noise character did not change.

By general standards, the Lenovo A600 is a fairly quiet computer whose overall acoustic signature is not obtrusive. By SPCR standards — and we admit to heightened sound sensitivity — it’s a little too noisy to be ignored easily. The close position of the all-in-one computer puts a premium on noise; if it was a meter away, the noise would be easier to ignore. Still, after several weeks of having the Lenovo A600 set up just outside the bedroom for early morning and late evening web and email work, I can say the noise was rarely much of a bother, and its many positive aspects — including the responsive mouse and the subtle way screen brightness adjusted with ambient light conditions — won my acceptance.

VS. OTHER REVIEWED SMALL SYSTEMS

Comparing the acoustics of this system against a conventional floor-standing PC is not realistic, because the latter sit farther away, and have the noise diminishing benefit of that distance. The only all-in-one systems we’ve reviewed are iMacs, but the last one was examined some three years ago, before the construction of our anechoic chamber and improvements in sound measurement equipment last year. That model has also been replaced by newer iMacs, of course.

No matter: This will be a rough comparison with the 24" iMac from three years ago, based on measurements recorded in that review, and from memory. Devon Cooke, the reviewer, wrote that "it is one of the quietest off-the-shelf systems"; I recall noting that it is a very quiet, unobtrusive PC. There’s no question that the Lenovo A600 is noisier. The iMac 24" was measured at 20 dBA@1m in a live room, but the ambient room level was close to 20 dBA, so this measurement is not really that helpful. I’d guess that it might measure some 2-3 dBA less at 0.6m than the Lenovo A600 in our anechoic chamber, with a subjectively smoother, less tonal sound. While we can hope that the current iMacs are similarly quiet, there’s no way of knowing for sure until we’ve tested them in the same conditions.

We can also do a comparison against small PCs that we’ve reviewed in the past year, which is somewhat relevant because small PCs are usually placed on the desk next to the monitor. Sometimes they are placed behind the monitor, giving them the functional attributes of an all-in-one.

Mini System Acoustics: SPL at ISO 7779 User Position (0.6m)
Idle
Load
Lenovo ThinkCentre A600
23 dBA
25 dBA
Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
27 dBA
32 dBA
26 dBA
35 dBA
21 dBA
21 dBA
24 dBA
26 dBA

The overall sonic signature of the Lenovo A600 is closest to the Asus Eee Box B202 but somewhat more complex and tonal. The Asus Eee Box B202 is a tiny, low power net box not capable of 1080p HD video reproduction, although newer models B204 / B206 incorporate a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3400 GPU for HD video capability in the same chassis with similar acoustics.

The A600 is far quieter than the Dell Studio Hybrid, which is the worst of the mix due to its nasty sonic signature. It’s also better than its office-oriented brethren, the M58p, which is both louder and more tonal.

The Anitec SPCR-certified SilenT3 system, with capabilities similar to the Dell, including HD video playback, is the quietest of the bunch, not only in level but also overall smoothness and unobtrusive lack of tonality.

MP3 SOUND RECORDING

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality,
digital recording system
inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve
listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original
WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during
the review. Most of the recordings listed below were made with the mic at 1m distance.

Note that the Lenovo was recorded at 0.6m as well. This is the ISO 7779 user position distance, and it is more realistic than the 1m distance for small PCs which are almosyt always placed close to the monitor. For now, the Lenovo is the only product we have recordings for at 0.6m. We’ll be adding 0.6m recordings to all small PCs in future.

For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient
level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume setting again while
comparing all the sound files. Please note that some of the recordings were made at 1m distance and others at 0.6m.

Comparable System sound files:

  • Asus
    Eee Box B202 at idle, 18 dBA@1m and 14 dBA@1m (behind LCD monitor)
    — The recording of the Eee Box was made with the unit at idle, and the microphone
    1m away, first on a table in the hemi-anechoic chamber, and then mounted on
    the back of an LCD monitor, and the microphone 1m away from the front of the
    monitor. It starts with the room ambient, followed by the product’s noise. The acoustics of the Eee Box barely changes with load, which is why only idle noise was recorded; there’s virtually no audible difference at full load.

CONCLUSIONS

At a time when PCs really have become consumer commodities, a complete, all-in-one computer like the A600 is quite appealing. The IdeaCentre is a user-friendly product that can easily slip into the role of a shared home PC. No cable messes, no clutter of discrete machines. It’s also capable and robust enough to fare well in a home or small business, and when the cost of a separate monitor is considered, the A600 represents good value as well. Similar performance and functionality from a discrete PC and monitor would cost about the same, if not more, and the advantage of total integration with just one AC cord would be lost.

The integration works well for energy efficiency as well. It’s surprising that the A600 was not submitted for Energy Star or EPEAT approval. Based on the power consumption measurements, the system should pass both criteria.

The wireless mouse and remote control both worked nicely, especially the former, which was a pleasure to use. The quality of the monitor was good, on par with any conventional stand-alone monitors in the ~$200 class. The built-in speakers provided surprisingly decent sound for both music and voice. The 2 megapixel camera with dual-mics worked well for web video conferencing. The wireless networking also worked flawlessly, as did routine functions such as sleep mode (and awakening from it).

There are a few quibbles: The keyboard really could be much better, and the action of the touch-activated controls need to be rethought. A less glossy, matt finish (especially on the screen) would be preferred to avoid reflections, even at the cost of some contrast. For silent PC enthusiasts, the noise level is a bit high, especially if you’ve become used to the silence of a custom-built, silent PC based on the advice and reviews here at SPCR. Still, for most users, the A600s acoustics are probably acceptable.

Without a direct comparison, it’s hard to say exactly how the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 fares against the grandaddy of all-in-ones, the current Apple iMac. If the acoustics have not changed since the model we reviewed in late 2006, then the iMac would be the winner in that department, but the price favors the Lenovo, and the iMac performance should be a bit better because Apple is using desktop C2Ds with higher core speeds. Still, sale pricing of US$699! for the A600, including TV tuner and even a Blu-ray drive, seems pretty good. Then there’s that perennial debate about Windows and the Mac OS, which we will not enter here. Suffice it to say that wherever you stand on that debate, the Lenovo IdeaCentre makes a strong argument for an all-in-one Wintel.

Our thanks to Lenovo for the review sample.

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