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Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 review: Lenovo IdeaCentre A700

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MSRP: $1,299.99

The Good Clean design; plentiful, media-friendly inputs and outputs; useful and unobtrusive array of external system controls.

The Bad Slow general performance for its price; no Blu-ray drive.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU comes in an attractive, thoughtfully designed package, but overall it lacks substance given its high price tag. Only buy if you put a premium on looks and external device compatibility.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 7

We've seen lots of all-in-ones with questionable value lately, but the Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU is a particularly egregious offender. It's an expensive system at $1,249, and considering its slow performance and lack of a Blu-ray drive, we're not exactly clear on why you should pay more for this PC. We do like the A700's case design, and it comes with a healthy selection of useful external features, including multiple video input options. While you might be charmed by this PC's sleek looks or its connectivity options, we would encourage you not to settle given its weak horsepower, especially considering that there are less expensive all-in-ones from Gateway and Acer that offer comparable, better value.

The particular model of Lenovo's A700 line is a fixed retail configuration. You can find other A700s online with variant features, and Lenovo itself offers the A700 40244JU with a Blu-ray drive and twice the memory for $50 more than the 40244CU reviewed here. In either case, the price is high compared with what you get from other vendors.

Before we delve into the features, the A700 chassis deserves some attention. Considering the number of clunky-looking all-in-ones out there, Lenovo's handsome design is welcome. Aside from the branding stickers, the case is free from gaudy detailing, but Lenovo has created some visual interest by offsetting the 23-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch-screen display from the body of the A700 case. We also like the haptic touch controls on the bottom edge of the display. Not all of the lit-up icons communicate their purpose effectively, but simply pressing them will uncover controls for volume, display quality, underlighting, display power, and display input toggle. We know of no other all-in-one that offers similar breadth in its built-in system controls.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU Gateway One ZX6951-53 Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112
Price $1,249 $999 $1,099
Display size/resolution 23-inch, 1,920x1,080 23-inch, 1,920x1,080 23-inch, 1,920x1,080
CPU 1.73GHz Intel Core i7 740QM 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 550 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650
Memory 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon Mobility HD 5650 graphics card 64MB (shared) Intel GMA 4500 integrated graphics chip 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 4500 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

While we like the looks of the IdeaCentre A700 better than those of most of its competition, we can't say the same for its value. Consider the $999 Gateway One ZX6951-53. It costs $250 less than the A700 and features a significantly faster CPU and a Blu-ray drive. The Lenovo has a faster graphics card, and a larger hard drive than the Gateway, but neither of those features is enough to make up for what it lacks, much less the price difference.

The items listed in the chart above don't account for all of the costs in these PCs. We'd expect the Lenovo's well-equipped chassis to cost more than the Gateway's simpler housing. And while connectivity options don't generally cost that much to implement, the Lenovo also has the edge in its selection of input and outputs. See the Gateway review for its wonky HDMI implementation. In contrast, the Lenovo offers, among other ports, HDMI in and out, as well as component video outputs.

Despite the Lenovo's advantages, we still find it has a value deficit. Consider the Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112, also listed above. That system costs $1,099 and features a faster CPU than the Lenovo. The Lenovo again has the graphics-card edge, but neither that feature nor its more polished chassis justifies the slower general performance, or the higher price tag.

While each of these all-in-ones could do a better job of maximizing its entertainment and computing potential (would it kill a vendor to offer Blu-ray, HDMI input, and a decent CPU in the same system?), the Lenovo's value is among the worst in this price range given that it misses out on both Blu-ray and general performance, and it's also the most expensive.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU

Cinebench 11.5 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU
Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112
Gateway One ZX6951-53
Sony Vaio J114FX

The IdeaCentre A700 is fast enough to navigate standard applications and play streaming HD video content smoothly. Because it uses a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with HyperThreading, it also leads its category in single multithreaded application processing. That, combined with its video card, should make digital content creation at least bearable with this PC. Compared with the other systems in its price range, though, the IdeaCentre A700 is a poor multitasker, and it's also a laggard in apps that rely on single-core processing speed. In other words, the fact that its CPU is a Core i7 isn't enough to overcome its slow 1.7GHz clock speed compared with the 3.0GHz or faster CPUs in its price category. The Core i7 certainly helps due to its strong multicore capabilities, but for this price, we expect fast performance in all usage scenarios.

Like most all-in-ones in this price range, the IdeaCentre A700 offers touch-screen input. Lenovo offers a spare touch dashboard with a handful of forgettable touch-based games and basic media apps. It's not as polished or as application-rich as HP's TouchSmart environment, but, as with most other vendors' touch software, Lenovo's is easy enough to ignore or use sparingly.

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