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|
|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.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
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.
Far more interesting than its bundled software is the Lenovo's connectivity options. The aforementioned HDMI and component video inputs let you connect any home entertainment device that supports those connections. You can swap the incoming display signal between the various inputs via a button on the front of the system, which effectively lets you use the IdeaCentre A700 as a digital media hub, or as a secondary display if you connect another PC, for example a laptop. The HDMI output also lets you connect a second monitor if you want to expand your PC screen real estate.
You get a broad selection of other connections, including both analog and digital audio outs, FireWire, and eSATA ports to go along with USB 2.0 for data and device transfers, as well as an SD Card slot. Lenovo also includes a TV tuner input, furthering the IdeaCentre A700's status as a home entertainment device. We're probably more excited by the wireless mouse and keyboard connect button. We're not always glad to see wireless input devices included with all-in-ones, because vendors frequently fail to pre-connect the devices, and making that match yourself can be a headache. Press the big button on the back of the Lenovo and it launches Windows' Bluetooth connection software, making it easy to pair included wireless devices.
|Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.93|
|Sleep (10 percent)||3.22|
|Idle (25 percent)||67.45|
|Load (5 percent)||93.73|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual energy cost||$28.80|
We'll attribute the Lenovo's high power consumption rating to its discrete graphics card and its quad-core CPU. Sadly, the extra power draw doesn't translate into consistently better performance. Yes, this PC can handle HD content and light-duty 3D games, but at this price and with this kind of power usage we'd also expect it to provide competitive multitasking performance. It doesn't.
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.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Apple iMac 21.5-inch
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 ZX6951-53
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 550; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.73GHz Intel Core i7 740QM; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon Mobility HD5650; 1TB 7,200rpm
Sony Vaio J114FX
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Pentium P6000; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive