Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 review: Lenovo IdeaCentre B520

We took a different approach with game testing on these systems than we usually do so that we could account for the 3D capability. We focused solely on old, forgiving Far Cry 2, since we knew it would give these systems a reasonable challenge without bogging them down to the point of irrelevance. First, the Lenovo is faster than the Sony system on every test run. But also note that with 3D turned on, you lose about half your frame rate. The results aren't limited to one resolution, either, so you can't blame memory bottlenecking or any issue other than raw graphics processing capability. The Far Cry 2 scores combined with the more challenging 3DMark 11 test suggest that the Lenovo is only an adequate gaming desktop at best, and that's without 3D enabled. Turn 3D on, and overall performance suffers dramatically.

This is not to say that the Lenovo can't handle more modern games. With 3D off, it was able to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution smoothly, although we ran into some chugging at maximum image quality. In all, the IdeaCentre B520 is a respectable gaming desktop. You can expect it will play some games in 3D and with decent image quality well, but we can't guarantee a smooth 3D gameplay experience with every title. Even without 3D enabled, you may also have to be conservative with the image quality settings on more challenging games.

Aside from gaming, Lenovo views this system as a general-purpose media delivery device. Its touch screen works well enough, but more importantly it features inputs for both HDMI and component audio and video, giving you the ability to pump in video from a wide array of external sources. You can also swap between video input sources via a convenient touch capacitive button on the front of the IdeaCentre.

The touch capacitive buttons are one of this system's more convenient features. The LED behind the button icons fades when you're not using them, so they don't mar the design of the IdeaCentre, but by putting them all on the front of the case, smartly grouped together, Lenovo made them more intuitive to use. Aside from the signal swap button, you get controls for audio volume, screen power, and screen brightness, as well as a marginally useful video mode toggle and a button that turns on a down-facing keyboard light. The touch response isn't as snappy as we want it to be, but on balance the front-panel control scheme succeeds in putting basic media control buttons at your fingertips.

We have a less favorable opinion of the included Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The two input peripherals work well enough for their respective functions, but waking up each device after a period of inactivity can take 3 seconds or more. That's an irritating gap in responsiveness, especially compared with Apple's Bluetooth peripherals and their ability to wake up instantly.

The rest of the IdeaCentre B520's external features are mostly unremarkable. You do get an HDMI output, to let you attach a second monitor to the system. Other than that, you'll find an assortment of USB 2.0 jacks, analog audio outputs, a TV tuner, an SD card slot, and a PS/2 input. We would have been happy to see a USB 3.0 slot or two, but otherwise we have no complaints.

Juice box
Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.18
Sleep (10 percent) 0.89
Idle (25 percent) 38.03
Load (5 percent) 123.71
Raw kWh 172.04
Energy Star-compliant Yes
Annual energy cost $19.53

The Lenovo's power consumption fits exactly where we expect given its performance and its configuration. All of the systems in our power-draw comparison use Intel's second-generation Core CPUs, and the overall efficiency of those chips has at this point been well-documented.

Lenovo's service and support policies hold to the near-universal industry standard of one year of parts and labor accompanied by a 24-7 toll-free tech support number. You can add at-home service and extended warranty coverage if you purchase your system online from Lenovo directly. You will find basic drivers and documentation on Lenovo's support site, but we wish the site gave you more direct access to the product-specific information.

Conclusion
The Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 is a versatile, amazingly full-featured entertainment desktop with strong value among all-in-ones in general, and within its 3D-capable niche. Don't expect the world from this system as a gaming PC, but it should prove capable enough for its price, although we recommend you temper your expectations of its 3D viewing capabilities.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Lenovo IdeaCentre B520
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555 graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch (3.1GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-2500; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 6970M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Signature Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540 graphics card; 3TB 5,400rpm hard drive

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jun 1, 2011
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 Dynamic Video Memory Technology
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB / 8 GB (max)
  • Color black
    silver
    silver gray
  • Monitor Type LED - Multi-Touch
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