The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 ($1,449.99 list) is a very good touch-screen PC. The best way to describe it is a 27-inch tablet PC with an ergonomic stand. You won’t ever consider this 25-pound system a portable, but if you’re specifically looking for a family-friendly touch-screen system that lets you enjoy casual games, photos, videos, and music, the IdeaCentre A720 desktop PCs. That said, it lags behind the competition in terms of features and performance. It’s not a bad system per se; it just needs more than design and a great touch screen to win over its competition.
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The A720 is one of the most design-forward all-in-one PCs brought to market, and that includes systems like the Apple iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) ($1,999 list, 4 stars) , which has been built around the same basic design philosophy since 2004. Unlike the current iMac versions, which has all its components built behind the screen, the A720 has its components and motherboard built into the base. In the past, it had been considered clunky to put the system’s motherboard into the base, since that would result in a system that requires chunky arms to hold the screen or a very short overhang like the one on the Samsung Series 7 (DP700A38-01) ($999.99 list, 4 stars) . The A720 has a double-hinged arm holding its slim screen, resulting in a system that looks svelte from most angles.
The system’s 27-inch screen is full 1080p HD (1,920-by-1,080 resolution), so it can display 1080p HD Web videos and Blu-ray movies in native resolution. That is, you see all the pixels you paid for, not scaled up as they might be on non-1080p displays. The screen tilts from a few degrees off vertical down to 90 degrees (laying flat). That said, it’s somewhat disappointing that the A720 doesn’t have a higher resolution screen. Systems like the iMac and the Dell XPS One 27 ($1,999 list, 4.5 stars) up the ante by providing a 2,560-by-1,440 resolution screen at 27-inches. It’s not quite a deal-breaker, but you may want to consider the latter two if you are a multimedia content creator, like a photographer.
The screen is a 10-point capacitive touch screen. What this means is that you can do full 10-finger touch typing on the onscreen keyboard, and touch-screen games like the included Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja play like you’d expect them to on your tablet or smartphone. It was an interesting experience playing Angry Birds on the touch screen. There’s a little bit of extra friction dragging on your finger since you have to move your finger a further distance compared with that you would do on a tablet screen, but it’s easy to get used to the extra effort. One thing missing from using Windows 7 with a touch screen is that you don’t have the sense of inertia while scrolling, but that is easily corrected with browser plug ins.
Though the hinge that holds the screen has enough friction to keep the screen from moving during Angry Bird sessions, and it even holds still when you’re playing a touch-based action game like the ones included in Lenovo’s Idea Touch interface. The screen is steadier than the wobbly Samsung Series 7 screen, and much closer to the rock-steady tilt screen mechanism on the HP TouchSmart 620-1080 3D ($1,899 direct, 4 stars) . There was still a bit of movement when you touch the A720′s screen, but the motion is dampened quickly after you pull your fingers away from the screen. The steady screen of the HP TouchSmart 6xx series is still the design to beat for extended use touch screens, but the A720 is almost as stable in day-to-day use.
In addition to the touch screen, the A720 comes with a 720p webcam, which can be used to control a few games by visual tracking. In practice, this works kind of like the Microsoft Kinect on the Xbox 360 platform. However, the game selection that works with the motion control is somewhat limted. The Kinect is a much more mature platform at this time.
The system comes with a quad-core Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 6GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics. They are quite rightly in the middle of the pack in terms of components, which is fitting for a midrange all-in-one PC such as this. The system comes with a Blu-ray reader (BD-ROM) so you can play HD movies on the 27-inch screen. It’s essentially a home theater on a desk, especially since the system has a decent pair of speakers in its base.
The base holds the system’s keyboard out of the way when you’re watching a movie or TV using the system’s built-in HDTV tuner. We were able to watch daytime coverage of the London Olympics, and it looked crisp and clear via our local NBC station. The lower bezel of the screen has a row of backlit touch-sensitive controls, which control functions like volume, screen input, and screen presets for text, the Internet, and movies. One nit for the system is the need for a USB IR dongle for the remote control. An IR receiver should be built into the system’s chassis, so you don’t have to “waste” one of the system’s two USB 2.0 ports.
The A720 has a very good set of I/O ports for connecting other devices. It comes with two USB 2.0 ports (filled by the keyboard/mouse dongle), two USB 3.0 ports, audio, jack for the TV tuner antenna, Ethernet, Kensington lock port, and an SD card reader. There are both HDMI-in and HDMI-out ports conveniently located on the left side of the base. This way you can hook up an extra monitor to the HDMI-out port for additional screen space, or you can hook up a HD source like a cable box to the HDMI-in port. You can also use the HDMI-in port to extend the life of the system’s monitor. You should be able to use the 27-inch monitor even after the internal components are obsolete, just hook up your future PC to the A720′s HDMI-in port for an instant upgrade.
The system’s notebook-class, 2.5-inch 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive is adequate for media consumption duties, particularly now that many people look to online streaming for entertainment. If you’re a video collector, you may want to pick up a larger USB 3.0 drive for your downloads. The hard drive comes with quite a few Lenovo programs and utilities pre-installed. The usual Lenovo Rescue and Recovery tool is here, along with Lenovo Vantage Tools and Idea Touch, both of which help you organize programs and documents in a touch-friendly interface. ArcSoft PhotoStudio Paint is pre-loaded, as are touch games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and an oddly named Pong-clone (Wong). There are also a bunch of other utilities and programs pre-installed, like Office 2010 Starter, Google Chrome, PowerDVD, and a 60-day trial version of McAfee Anti-Virus Plus.
The IdeaCentre A720 was a “merely okay” performer at our benchmark tests, meaning that it is mainly aimed at the media consumer rather than the media creators out there. The combination of the Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 6GB of memory, 5,400 rpm hard drive, and relatively low-end Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics results in adequate scores and times. The system completes our Handbrake video encoder test in 1 minute 46 seconds and our Photoshop CS5 test in just over four minutes (4:03). These scores lag the Editors’ Choice Asus ET2701INKI-B046C ($1,399 list, 4 stars) by a significant margin (1:07 Handbrake, 2:51 CS5). The A720 also placed behind other recent 27-inch systems like the Dell XPS One 27 and both recently reviewed versions of the HP Omni 27. That said, the A720 is perfectly fast enough for 1080p HD playback, whether your source is online videos, Blu-ray, or over the air HDTV signals. The A720 was an unremarkable performer at the 3D games: its score of 55 frames per second (fps) at Crysis and 30 fps at Lost Planet 2 (both at medium quality) put it in the “somewhat playable” category.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 hits all the right media consumption buttons. It has a huge screen, it’s fast enough and shouldn’t feel slow too soon, plus it has an innovative screen hinge that makes it a superbly usable touch PC. However, systems like the current Editors’ Choice for midrange all-in-ones, the Asus ET2701INKI0B046C trump the A720 in just about all stats except the utility of the A720′s touch screen. The Asus ET2701has a lower price, much faster processor, better multimedia performance, more memory, more storage, and better 3D performance. If you need a touch screen now, the A720 should float a bit higher on your list, but until Windows 8 appears pre-loaded on desktops, touch screens aren’t (yet) a must-have component.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Compare the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 with several other desktops side by side.
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Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2408445,00.asp?kc=PCRSS02129TX1K0000530