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Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU review: Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU

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MSRP: $1,399.00

The Good Unique external design; strongest gaming performance among Windows all-in-ones; convenient touch capacitive volume and display control buttons.

The Bad Lack of an HDMI input limits this system as a home entertainment hub; traditional gaming desktops significantly faster for the same price.

The Bottom Line Lenovo's IdeaCenter B500 is a game effort at a 3D-capable Windows all-in-one. It demonstrated modest gaming performance, and at a fair price given its components and the competition. A few more thoughtful features would have earned this PC a stronger recommendation, but we can still suggest it to casual gamers.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Because of their heat and power limitations, all-in-ones generally don't make the best platform for gaming systems. That hasn't stopped Lenovo from trying. The $1,399 IdeaCentre B500 08873AU actually boasts more than just a stylized exterior. It has the fastest 3D chip among Windows-based all-in-ones, and posted reasonably capable gaming performance. Lenovo missed a big opportunity by leaving out an HDMI input. This IdeaCentre also still lags far behind traditional gaming desktops. Only gamers with less-demanding performance needs should consider this PC. Other shoppers tempted by its large screen or its Blu-ray drive can find those same features elsewhere for less.

Designing a chassis' looks to appeal to gamers can lead to disastrous or comical results, but in this case Lenovo came up with a relatively noncontroversial appearance. The stylized face of the system features angular chrome and brushed-aluminum-looking plastic, as well as a downfacing white LED that illuminates the keyboard and highlights the B500's design. You can turn the light off via touch capacitive controls, and overall the look is subtle enough that all but the most design-sensitive should find it inoffensive.

Along with the system itself, this $1,399 configuration also includes a wireless mouse and keyboard, as well as a motion-tracking remote control. All of the devices rely on Bluetooth, which means you need to go through Windows' still-clunky Bluetooth pairing process. The mouse and keyboard worked fine, but we were never able to get the remote control to work reliably. That's too bad, too, because its promised motion tracking would be useful.

  Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU Sony Vaio L117FX
Price $1,399 $1,999
Display size/resolution 23-inches, 1,920x1,080 24-inches, 1,920x1,080
CPU Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S
Memory 6GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 250M 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 240M
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200 rpm 1TB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo drive Blu-ray burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet. 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth Gigabit Ethernet. 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
TV Tuner Yes Yes
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

The Lenovo and Sony systems have some important differences, but you won't find them among their core components. First, note the $600 price differential in Lenovo's favor. Sony has an edge in its screen size, but only by an inch, and with no resolution improvement. The Lenovo boasts a slightly faster graphics chip. Sony's other advantages include a touch screen, complete with a marginally useful touch-based software suite, and, more importantly, an HDMI input.

We've praised the idea of equipping all-in-one desktops with HDMI inputs ever since Sony first unveiled the concept a few years ago. The idea has spread to other all-in-one vendors, but sadly Lenovo did not incorporate that feature into the B500. With that capability, you can plug any game console or modern cable box into the Sony and use it as your primary entertainment device. Such a system would be perfect for a dorm room or other small space. We're hesitant to argue that an HDMI-in is enough to justify the Sony's higher price tag, but when you can find the same feature on a $700 Asus all-in-one, its absence in the Lenovo feels like a significant missed opportunity. If it doesn't achieve its potential as a home media hub, we can at least say that as an all-in-one computer, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 has a strong configuration for its price.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway FX6831-01
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500
Sony Vaio L117FX
Apple iMac
HP TouchSmart 600

Our application charts make a strong case for the Lenovo's performance as well. As expected, it falls behind Apple's $1,699 27-inch iMac as well as Gateway's traditional $1,299 FX6831-01 gaming desktop. Among its Windows-based all-in-one competition, the B500 has little trouble. In fairness to HP, we haven't seen its more recent Core i5 or Core i3-based TouchSmart 600 at the time of this writing, so we can't make an unequivocal statement about the Lenovo's performance. What we can say is that it will get through most consumer-level productivity tasks with little to no trouble.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,440 x 900  
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

The IdeaCentre B500's gaming performance is similarly impressive among all-in-ones, although that's kind of like posting the fastest time in the 100-yard stroll. At least judging from its Unreal Tournament 3 performance, we can say that the IdeaCentre should be able to handle older titles at lower resolutions. We found at its native 1,920x1,080-pixel setting, though, it could only hit 55 frames per second on Unreal, short of our 60fps threshold for worry-free gaming at a given resolution. Its Far Cry 2 scores are even more troubling, coming shy of 30fps at 1,440x900 pixels.

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