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Lenovo's touchy feely A720

The Chinese company goes hands-on with its new monolithic all-in-one

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We are in the era of ultra-compact computing and it's not only the shape of portable computers that is changing _ desktops are undergoing a metamorphosis as well. 

Home PCs don't whirr away while hiding under desks any more, competing for legroom and dust particles. Instead, they are wholly visible up on the desk, in the all-in-one form, for all to see.

And this is not being lost on the big players, who now have all-in-one machines on the market, following Apple's lead with its pioneering models back in the '80s.

Now Lenovo has thrown down the gauntlet with its A720 IdeaCentre, boldly charging 3,000 baht more than the corresponding Apple iMac.

But does the company's confidence outweigh its marketability? Are customers willing to bet on a new player? Let's take a look at the A720 and see.

FORM

Out of the box, the A720 shines instantly. It's dominated by an expansive 27in touchscreen, which is huge but somehow doesn't take up too much desk space with the well-considered design of the unit's base.

The screen is only 24.5mm thick _ Lenovo claims it is the world's slimmest in this class _ with the secret being that the workings are all in the base. This not only anchors the big format screen nicely, but it makes the ports more accessible to accommodate different purposes, ranging from watching a movie to playing Fruit Ninja to serenading your loved one on the virtual piano.

A key to the successful design hinges on, well, the hinge. And it stayed strong and sturdy through a week of testing and seems like it could go the distance over a few years.

The dimensions might be a little overbearing for a crammed desk, but its multi-function features easily justify the room required, and the clean silver lines and front plate of glass round out a thoughtful and impressive effort from Lenovo's design team.

FUNCTION

With the aesthetics on point, all that is left is the functionality.

Out of the box, the unit is simple to set up, with some lifting required.

The frameless, glossy screen offers deep contrasts and bold colours, and is better used away from direct lighting or windows to minimise the noticeable reflection. It has an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a resolution of 1,920x1,200, which is HD but could be bigger with such luxurious real estate on offer. It's capacitive and responsive through the panel, making it useful for movies, gaming, everything _ even if the clunky resolution of the icons on the Windows homepage hasn't caught up with the hardware yet.

In the base is a quad-core third generation Intel Core-i7 processor with 8GB RAM and a 1TB HDD. The sides and back feature a DVD slot (Blu-ray is an option) and integrated ports include Ethernet, two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0 and separate HDMI in and out _ very handy for using the screen with another source. There is also an optional TV tuner card.

The wireless mouse and keyboard are adequate without being top quality, and connect via Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth.

The system runs quite warm, which is predictable enough given the grunt on board, so it's only suitable for use in air-conditioned environments here in Thailand.

VERDICT

Lenovo seems to have taken up the high-end, all-in-one challenge boldly. Perhaps it also sees the future of home computing to be above the desk and in full glossy 27in sight.

With all its merits, the A720 is not the perfect home computing solution. It is the most expensive on the market, has a very reflective screen, suffers the same service issues as notebooks with its compact form factor, and its touchscreen has few applications (for now).

But the screen is fantastic (reflection issues apart), it's plenty powerful and it can be used as a replacement TV, which should win many punters over.

Apple sells its corresponding iMac for 66,900 baht with an older processor and less RAM, so it may soon have to share this market with Lenovo, particularly since it didn't announce any iMac updates at its WWDC announcement event last month.

And when Windows 8 is released later this year with its touch-oriented Metro interface, the A720 should come into its own, no doubt making Apple more nervous and potential customers more excited.


The Lenovo A720 IdeaCentre is available for 69,990 baht. (Hardware House is advertising it at 51,990 baht.) Visit www.lenovo.com/th/en/index.html or www.hwhinter.com. Email richardm@bangkokpost.co.th with any gadget thoughts or ideas.

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