Although the Lenovo and its Core i5 chip lagged behind the Core i7-powered Gateway on a few application tests, the two offer an essentially identical gaming performance. That makes sense given that they have the same, budget-priced Nvidia GeForce GT 440 graphics card. The Lenovo's best results came on our Far Cry 2 test, which has become our most forgiving 3D benchmark. The other scores are less encouraging, particularly for newer games. You will find the Lenovo plays mainstream titles at lower detail settings and resolutions, but at higher image quality, or with a particularly demanding game like the Witcher 2, neither the Lenovo nor the Gateway will provide an acceptable gaming experience. If you want a more capable budget gaming system, the Velocity Micro Edge Z40 costs just $1,199 and offers considerably better performance.
We partly forgave the Gateway its slow gaming performance because a beefy 450-watt power supply offered strong upgrade potential. The Lenovo and its 280-watt PSU make us less optimistic about its ability to handle a more powerful 3D card. You could find a mainstream card, particularly from AMD's power-efficient Radeon HD 6000-series that would boost the IdeaCentre K330's gaming performance, but the upgrade path is limited due to the PSU's maximum capacity, as well as its lack of graphics card power inputs.
Other upgrade options are unremarkable. You get a 1x and 4x PCI Express card slots, two free memory stick slots, and a spare hard-drive bay. That gives you some upgrade flexibility, but no more than average for this price range.
The Lenovo's external ports are similarly limited and follow an annoying industry-wide trend of connectivity stinginess. The IdeaCentre K330 offers only USB 2.0, eSATA, Ethernet, and 7.1 analog audio ports on the back panel. FireWire, USB 3.0, and digital audio outputs are all absent. The 7.1 audio jacks are an improvement over the Gateway, which limits you to 5.1 analog output, but we'd like to at least see USB 3.0 support, given that it's built-in to the Intel P67 chipset that comes with this system. At least the graphics card gives you a decent selection of video ports, including HDMI, VGA, and DVI outputs.
|Lenovo IdeaCentre K330||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.26|
|Sleep (10 percent)||1.87|
|Idle (25 percent)||44.18|
|Load (5 percent)||108.45|
|Annual energy cost||$24.20|
Coming in just above the faster Gateway, the Lenovo draws more power than we'd like to see, but not by enough to merit serious concern. You could always force the Lenovo into constant cool mode, even while running apps that might benefit from the extra speed, if you find you can't stomach the extra $2 or so a month to your power bill. If you can put up with that kind of performance drop-off, we might ask why don't just buy a nettop instead.
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.
We wouldn't recommend the Lenovo IdeaCentre K330 to serious gamers, even those on a budget. We also wish it had more upgrade capability, and more connectivity options. That said, its combination of basic 3D gaming power, capable application performance and a Blu-ray drive may appeal to those looking for home entertainment PC, particularly given its $999 price tag.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell XPS 8300
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Gateway FX6850-51u Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT440 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Lenovo IdeaCentre K330 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 2500; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT440 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Velocity Micro Z40
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core i5 2500K (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics card (overclocked); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive