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Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU review: Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU

Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home | Windows PCs | Cooking (sometimes) | Woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
6 min read

We applaud Lenovo for taking a risk on the distinctive-looking IdeaCentre A300 all-in-one desktop. This system and its unique design are available currently for $849, a discount from its original $1,099, making this a relatively competitive PC among other midrange all-in-ones. Like Apple and its MacBook Air laptop, Lenovo had to sacrifice the optical drive to achieve the IdeaCentre A300's look. You can also find faster, traditional-looking all-in-ones for a few more dollars, although the IdeaCentre A300 is not without a few tricks of its own. We recommend this system to those shopping for a midrange entertainment desktop who value their hardware's looks over its features-to-dollar ratio.

6.6

Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU

The Good

Unique design; same footprint as standard all-in-ones; lots of connectivity options, including HDMI input; competent Web video device; adequate audio volume and quality.

The Bad

Laptop components make system run slow; no optical drive; small hard drive; all-in-ones with larger displays available in the same price range.

The Bottom Line

Design fans in particular will appreciate Lenovo's unique all-in-one that serves best as a dedicated, Web-based home entertainment PC for a small room. The distinct look requires some trade-offs, particularly in performance and the lack of an optical drive, but if you're willing to sacrifice function for a bit of form, you'll find the IdeaCentre A300 charming and generally capable.

Connecting the display to the base with an adjustable arm has certainly been used a previous all-in-one designs, most notably by Apple with its "lamp"-style iMac G4 from 2002. Unlike that venerable system, the display on the IdeaCentre A300 has a relatively limited range of motion. You can't tilt or rotate the display beyond around 50 degrees from side to side, and about 10 to 20 degrees of tilt, which means the design's benefits are mostly cosmetic. We think it looks fine. Others may disagree.

To achieve the unique design, Lenovo has compressed the guts of the computer into the horizontally situated base unit. Despite a flat-lying base, the IdeaCentre A300 only takes up about 8 inches of front-to-back desktop real estate, roughly the same as that of an average all-in-one with a back-mounted support arm. Input ports ring the left and rear edge of the Lenovo's base, and the included wireless Bluetooth mouse and keyboard help minimize cable clutter and preserve this system's glossy white, shiny chrome aesthetic.

HP's TouchSmart 300-1120 poses reasonable competition for the IdeaCentre A300. Although the Lenovo's screen does not offer touch input, both come in on the smaller end of the screen size range for this price. Acer's 23-inch Aspire Z5700 series represents the other end of the range, and you can find it for as low as $899.

Not everyone wants a large-screen all-in-one, though, especially if you're shopping for a countertop PC. In exchange for the smaller screen size, we expect more features or faster performance, and the Lenovo doesn't quite deliver on either front. Some of those limitations come from the Lenovo's design. The compact chassis doesn't have room for an optical drive, which means watching DVDs, disc burning, and disc-based installs are out unless you invest in an external drive of some kind. The IdeaCentre A300 has a small, slow, hard drive for its price as well, although we suspect that's also a function of its compact design that relies on smaller, slower laptop parts. That explains why this desktop has a mobile Core 2 Duo chip, for example, which in turn is partly responsible for its slow performance.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
146 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
184 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
845 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Acer Aspire Z5700
10,530 
4,474 
Gateway One ZX6900-01e
8,751 
3,965 
Apple iMac Spring 2010
8,718 
3,746 
HP TouchSmart 300-1120
5,747 
2,986 
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
4,988 
2,620 

The Lenovo comes in dead last across our performance benchmarks, which should send a clear signal that you should stay away from this PC if you're shopping for a budget productivity all-in-one. We were happy with its ability to play HD video content from a variety of Web-based sources, so it's at least beefy enough for its intended purpose. We also had no complaints about general usability. You can play music, open a Web page, and then switch out to watch a video file with no trouble, all of which is to say it's not slow to where you'll be irritated performing day-to-day tasks. You just don't have to look too hard for a faster all-in-one PC in this price range.

In addition to its ability to play video from the Web on this PC, Lenovo also incorporates both an HDMI input and a separate HDMI output jack. HDMI input has become one of our favorite all-in-one features, as it lets you use the system as a self-contained entertainment hub by inputting the signal from a cable box, a game console, or a standalone Blu-ray player. Because of the horizontal base unit, you can even likely stack this system on top of an external video component to keep the footprint small (just don't block any component exhaust vents). As the only video output on this system, the HDMI-out port will let you attach a second monitor, or even connect to a TV if you're so inclined. We'd suggest that a traditional DVI output would be more useful.

Other connectivity options include four USB 2.0 jacks, a pair of analog audio headphone and microphone inputs, a mini FireWire 400 jack, and a multiformat media card slot. There's also a TV tuner jack, which we can always do without, especially given the HDMI input option. Overall, the relative wealth of connections prevents us from writing this PC off as a design gimmick. We're also happy with both the quality of the LED backlit display, as well as the audio output, which was loud and clear enough for at least a smaller room.

Juice box
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 401810U Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.98
Sleep (watts) 1.66
Idle (watts) 17.32
Load (watts) 55.49
Raw (annual kWh) 82.85646
Energy Star compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $9.40

Annual power consumption cost
Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
$9.41 

The IdeaCentre A300 might not be the fastest all-in-one relative to its competition, but it is at least the most power efficient, in some cases by a factor of two. We'll attribute its efficiency to its laptop components. We'd rather have faster performance, especially given the relatively modest energy costs for even the most power-hungry systems on this list, but we're glad that at least you get something in return for this systems slower benchmark scores. That's not always the case.

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 when you purchase your system online. You can also find basic drivers and documentation on Lenovo's support site, which is a bit too fragmented for our taste.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 500GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Apple iMac Summer 2010
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.4; 3.06GHz Intel Core i3; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Gateway One ZX6900-01e
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.93GHz Intel Core i3 530; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

HP TouchSmart 300-1120
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.7GHz AMD Athlon X2 235e; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3270 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Acer Aspire Z5700-U2112
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

6.6

Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 40181OU

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 6Performance 5Support 7