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

Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU

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

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.


Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU

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.

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.

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)
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

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

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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.

Though this system should play plenty of games well enough, its difficulty with Far Cry 2, a game now a step or two back from the cutting edge of PC gaming, suggests that the Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 will best satisfy those with modest gaming demands. If your ambitions demand more performance at a similar price, Gateway's FX6831-01, or a tower desktop like it, is still your best choice.

We've already detailed our thoughts on the lack of an HDMI input for the B500, but we're also a bit disappointed by the selection of other inputs and outputs. Lenovo went for a strictly bare-bones approach, featuring USB 2.0, a media card reader, an Ethernet jack, a handful of analog audio jacks, the TV tuner input, and an S-Video jack. That's it. We like the touch capacitive screen controls, which let you manage brightness, volume, and display power easily and more conveniently than other all-in-ones. Still, we'd also like to see FireWire, eSATA, and digital audio outputs.

Juice box
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.79
Sleep (watts) 2.01
Idle (watts) 53.43
Load (watts) 144.4
Raw (annual kWh) 231.75018
Energy Star compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $26.30

Annual power consumption cost
Apple iMac
Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

The IdeaCentre B500 isn't remarkable in its power consumption, and though Gateway's gaming box is still faster, Lenovo can at least claim its gaming all-in-one is more power efficient. We have a feeling that might not translate to more sales. Also, we're still waiting for a Windows-based all-in-one that can give Apple legitimate competition in power consumption, but Lenovo is hardly alone in failing to crack that code.

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. Lenovo includes plenty of manuals inside the box as well, including an explanation of how to pair the Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

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System configurations:

Lenovo IdeaCentre B500
Windows 7 Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S; 6GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 250M; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch (3.06GHz Core 2 Duo)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.1; 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7600; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Gateway FX6831-01
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

HP TouchSmart 600
Windows 7 Home Premium; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 230; 750GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Sony Vaio L177FX
Windows 7 Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 240M; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive


Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Support 7