Exciting design; meh performance
Lenovo has introduced the most exciting all-in-one computer design since HP reinvigorated the market with its TouchSmart series in 2008. The IdeaCentre A720 is a pizza-box design, much like the original TouchSmart; but modern ingredients enabled Lenovo to produce a thin-crust form factor that HP could never have dreamed of.
The drawback to the easel design that nearly every other all-in-one manufacturer uses today is that it provides very little freedom of movement for the display. That’s not a problem when you’re sitting in front of the computer, but touchscreens practically beg to be used from both sitting and standing positions. Stand in front of a computer that’s at desktop height, and you’ll want to tilt the display very far back. The hidden hinges on the A720’s 27-inch touchscreen allow the display to fold back 90 degrees: absolutely flat.
Lenovo’s IdeaCentre A720 is one gorgeous piece of industrial design.
This form factor enables Lenovo to house the motherboard and other major components inside the chassis, as opposed to the display. This reduces the A720’s cooling requirements, because the motherboard, CPU, memory, and other heat-sensitive parts aren’t next to a hot panel. The Lenovo was considerably more quiet than other 27-inch all-in-ones we’ve tested, and its 10-touchpoint display should make it a better fit for Windows 8 than the nontouch displays on those machines (we’re referring to the Asus ET2701 INKI-B046C, Dell XPS One 27, and HP Omni 1015t we reviewed in October 2012).
The A720 has an HDMI input—a feature we now consider de rigueur for an all-in-one—and you can control the volume of whatever device is connected to that port using touch-sensitive controls on the display bezel (but not with the keyboard or the provided IR remote). You can use that HDMI input and the volume controls even if the PC side of the system is completely powered off. The machine also has an HDMI output, so you can drive a second display.
Unfortunately, the A720’s tiny front-firing speakers sound positively horrid; they’re exceedingly bright and the amp that drives them can’t boost a connected HDMI device’s audio signal enough to fill the smallest room (volume is less of an issue with other audio sources, but they don’t sound any better).
The A720’s VA (Vertical Alignment) display looks gorgeous with video, websites, and games, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the 2560×1440-pixel PLS panel on the Dell XPS One 27. Then again, the Dell costs $300 more than the Lenovo. So let’s compare Lenovo’s A720 to Asus’s ET2701 INKI-B046C: That machine costs $200 less and is equipped with a faster CPU and GPU. The Asus packs a 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S desktop CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M, while the Lenovo is outfitted with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM mobile CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M. The Asus, on the other hand, can’t match the A720’s awesomely articulated touchscreen. Which machine is the better value? The answer depends on how bad you want a 27-inch touchscreen.