Lenovo has done little but impress this last year. Solid MiniPCs, tablets, and laptops have come out of camp Lenovo. Most have been well-crafted with solid performance. Now Lenovo is stepping a bit outside their comfort zone with the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27 tabletop PC. This is the end result lovechild of the union between a traditional All-in-One PC and a mobile tablet computing solution. What you’re left with after that odd-couple matrimony is a 27inch Windows 8 tablet that moonlights as a AIO desktop.
But in truth, who plans on lugging around 19lbs of unwieldy computer hardware? The mobile aspects are there but more for novelty and the ease of traveling from, say, an office for business use to a living room or family game room for the cooler social features. When laid flat the IdeaCentre Horizon becomes a table top game board or media center with some impressive functionality. Yet some are hit and miss, which is to be expected when you’re trying to straddle so many use scenarios. But first…
The layout of the unit is subdued yet elegant with a fairly humble form factor. The edges are rounded and intelligently laced with hard rubber to prevent scuffing up the edges. It helps keep the unit stationary too, even on more frictionless surfaces. There is a single physical Power button on the lower left side of the this unique “tabletop” computer. The other remaining buttons are touch based. There are four that line the bottom right. These are used to change volume up and down, select display input source and rotate the screen 1080 degrees. The last one is neat and works well when several users are surrounding the system when its laid flat and still in its traditional computing state–juxtaposed to the Aura enhanced gaming state.
The right-hand side is lined with several input options. Get a two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, Audio jack, and MMC/SD card slot. Around the back is a collapsible arm. It folds back but doesn’t lock into place. Instead the weight of the unit when laid flat holds the arm in place as it fits into the well shaped to fit the arm. The mechanic shows us even Lenovo sees desktop AIO use as the predominant use scenario. Since the arm is left extended, it makes porting the Horizon around like a tablet the stuff of near-Herculean fantasy.
Finally the Horizon comes with a wireless keyboard and companion arch-shaped mouse. They connect to the unit via USB dongle. Unfortunately this means half your USB ports are in use virtually all the time. Good thing the keyboard and mouse work flawlessly. Still You may want to investigate a Bluetooth solution just to free up 1-of-2 USB ports.
The Horizon from Lenovo can be had in a few different configurations. The unit sent to us is powered by an Intel Core i5-337U processor clocked at 1.8ghz and running Window 8 64-bit. The display and graphics are governed by Nvidia’s GT620M graphics chip. The unit shipped with 8gb or ram and is priced at $1500. Yea! That’s pricey.
Other hardware features include 1TB 5400rpm HDD, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Integrated 720p HD webcam, the HDMI port mentioned above, 8-cell lithium-polymer battery capable of 2hrs of wireless use and 27in LED 10-point touch display. Again, these are low-range components for such a pricey unit.
Looking through the window, so-to-speak, I will give it to Lenovo for their choice of displays. This 27in LED display is pleasantly bright with great color reproduction in games and movies. But I have to note, the resolution is only 1080p. The new standard for 27inchers is 2560 x 1440 (1440p). Lenovo has not received the memo. The bar has been raise with the new upper echelon being 4K resolutions. A good 1440p 27in monitor can be had for $500.
There’s very little bloatware on this one. Though the typical Windows 8 fluff is still present with a few Lenovo additions tossed in. You get things like Accuweather, YouCam, Lenovo kid-friendly apps, Kindle, Rara.com. Touch on Windows 8 is always welcome and the 10-point touch display on the Horizon is mostly accurate and responsive. There were a few issues where I had to either restart or go in and out of the Aura state to solve this.
The show stopper here is the Aura software. When the unit is laid flat, if goes automatically into the Aura state. Alternatively, you can access it while the Horizon is propped upright via the titled icon in standards Windows 8 live tiles view. There are more apps like Air Hockey, Monopoly, Roulette, Draw Racing, Texas Hold ‘Em and more found with the Aura interface. Here you have a very stylized and clean dial or puck type interface that allows you to listen to music, watch videos, view photos and play some of the custom games. The interface is pretty slick and can be moved around the screen for maximizing visibility. Keeping with the innovation, Lenovo includes a few physical gaming props to immerse you in the digital board game excitement. You get a pair of dice and paddles for Air Hokey. To return to the Windows 8 traditional state the user must tilt the PC back up and click yes when asked. Or you can press and hold “X” down until the prompt appears.
The Horizon also comes with a copy BlueStacks that lets Android apps run on a Win 8 machine. This is also more novelty that eleganty functionality. There are odd sync issue and enlongate load times, undoubtedly due to the processing time needed for emulation and/or the super slow 5400rpm HDD. Regardless Bluestacks works on the Horizon. But I don’t appreciate the look of Android apps shown at 1080p stretched across a 27in display.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon is a fun machine plagued by several niggling issues that just don’t justify the price point. Ignoring the cost, the Horizon functions well as a midrange AIO with a few cool novelties users can bring to the family and social events. The is no denying how fun digital tabletop monopoly can be, along with some of the other Aura functions. The display is a nice window to enjoy work and play. But touch can be finicky at times, where a single tap can be registered in multiple place simultaneously. A restart helps but I could not tell why this kept cropping up. The HDD is noticeably sluggish and unacceptable. The dearth of USB ports makes an external storage solution more of a chore than it should be. I understand the need to go big on a slower yet deep capacity drive. But it hurts the performance. The kickstand is not an issue for AIO use but I do wish you could lock it in place for better portability.
With all that said, it’s hard to recommend this over other AIO solutions unless you plan to take full advantage of it’s mobile and social features. It’s definitely unique and offers some portability but only for less than a couple hours on that battery life. The IdeaCentre Horizon is available in cheaper configurations, for sure. If you can find one for less than $1000 then by all means, it’s worth it.
Multiple modes and use scenarios. Digital table top monopoly is a lot of fun. Aura in general is a great innovation. Very social and family friendly. Ideal for a living, room bedroom or boardroom. Casual gaming friendly. Wireless functionality for portability. Physical game props are a fun addition.
Slow HDD, Only 2 USB ports. One of which is needed for USB Wireless keyboard and mouse. Touch response can be finicky at times. Solid State Hybrid Drive or a SSD cache drive would benefit the unit tremendously. Max resolution is only 1080p.