Review: IdeaCentre A720, An Elegant Touchscreen PC

Our score: 4/5
Reviewed: November 30, 2012 10:25 AM
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Published: November 30, 2012 10:25 AM
By Alexandre Botella
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 is an all-in-one PC with a 27" Full HD touchscreen, a powerful processor and a full range of connectivity. But will that be enough to outshine its all-in-one competitors, namely the Asus ET2700INTS, HP Omni 27 and, of course, the 27" iMac?

Hardware


Lenovo has reason to be proud of the design. It successfully merges a metallic grey body with a screen with glossy black contours. The finishing is simply impeccable and it looks fantastic on a desk... as long as you don't smudge up the glossy part with your fingers.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - keyboard & mouse

The IdeaCentre A720 comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard runs on AAA batteries and the keys are soft and quiet. Replete with numeric keypad and shortcuts galore, it's a well-rounded device. The only potential drawback is that they put the Fn (Function) key to the left of the Control key instead of to the right where it normally is. That will take some adjustment if you use shortcuts often.

The mouse runs on one AA battery. It definitely looks better than the mouse that comes with the Asus ET2700INTS, but it's still entry-level with just two buttons and a scroll wheel. If you're going to do anything other than basic tasks (word processing, web browsing...), you might want to take a look at our mouse reviews, where you'll find all sorts models with more features than this one.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - back ports

All the ports on the IdeaCentre A720 are on the base: four USB ports (2 x 2.0 and 2 x 3.0), an SD card reader, an RJ45 (Ethernet) port, a headphone jack, a microphone jack, an HDMI in and an HDMI out.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - side ports

The HDMI input allows the A720 to display the image sent to it from a gaming console, such as the PS3 or Xbox 360, and the HDMI output allows you to send the computer's image to a TV and watch movies stored on your computer on your TV.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - slots

This is especially practical considering that the A720 has a built-in Blu-ray player. All you need is an HDMI cable that's long enough to reach from your computer to your TV, and you're set. You can also get an optional built-in TV tuner with an infrared remote control.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - horizontal

Like many all-in-ones, the IdeaCentre A720 has a multipoint touchscreen. It recognises up to ten fingers at a time. However: in practice the screen responds correctly only 90% of the time, often simply not registering that you've touched the screen, at which point you have to wait about ten seconds for the machine to respond.

Lenovo had the great idea of using a stand that lets you tilt the screen all the way down until it lays horizontally with the table (shown above); that way your arms don't get as tired when using the touchscreen. But to really get the most out of this position you would either need a low-lying desk or a tall chair, or both.

This big question in all this is really how useful a touchscreen is on a computer. Barring a handful of apps and games that have been specifically designed for touchscreens, the old keyboard/mouse duo still appears to be the most practical approach to most activities. That may change with Windows 8 and touch-functionality, but for the long-term impact only time will tell...

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - heat
Heat readings on the IdeaCentre A720 with the components under stress.
Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

The A720 isn't entirely silent when on and running (40 dB(A)). With the components stressed under processor-intensive software and benchmarks, the sound jumps to 45 dB(A)). In other words, you will notice it in an otherwise silent room. But it handles heat much better, never exceeding 33° C (91° F).

Display


Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - Delta E

The touchscreen could have more accurate colours (it has a Delta E of 6.1, compared to the 27" iMac's 2.1, where under 3 is ideal), but the contrast is an astounding 1,795:1. The native resolution is "only" Full HD 1920 x 1080 (compared to the iMac's 2560 x 1440), but the panel provides excellent viewing angles, which is a key element when you want to flip a screen from vertical to horizontal position and back.

Audio


The sound quality on the IdeaCentre A720 is easily a step down from the screen quality. The headphone output is accurate, but the volume falls within average... for what you get on a smartphone!

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 - audio
Frequency response curve: speakers
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = too heavily altered

And the speakers were just as much of a disappointment. The sound is denatured and saturates quickly.

Our Review Model:

The model we were sent for review features an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GT 630M video card and a 1 TB hard drive (5400 RPM). Whereas the comments above refer to all versions of the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720, the observations below apply to the configuration we tested only, as each model has different specifications. Individual components may also vary depending on the country/region you live in (see inset).

Processor Power


Unlike Asus with the ET2700INTS, here Lenovo decided to fit its all-in-one with laptop components, which is surely what's behind the low temperatures we picked up. And somehow it doesn't stop the A720 from having tons of computing power, enough to quickly execute the most complex tasks.

The A720's only weakness when it comes to processing is that lacking a solid-state drive it takes the computer nearly a minute to start up (and ten seconds to shut down).

Gaming


The Nvidia GT 630M is the kind of graphics card you usually find on computers with screens that have 1366 x 768 resolution. With a Full HD screen, however, the number of games you can play in native resolution falls dramatically. Games such as Torchlight II, Diablo III and FIFA 13 can be played with high detail, but to play more demanding games, such as Mass Effect 3, you'll need to significantly lower the image quality to avoid choppy gameplay. You'll also have to lower the resolution for games like Crysis II and Metro 2033.

When it comes to decoding HD movies, we had no problems whatsoever (makes sense, you might say, for a computer with a built-in Blu-ray player...).

Energy Use


Lenovo's decision to use laptop components has done more than keep the A720's temperatures down: it also appears to have reduced the amount of power it consumes. We measured just 50 W when just running the desktop and 65 W while playing HD video. That's less than the Asus ET2700INTS, which has desktop components. When turned off the A720 uses the same amount as the 27" iMac: 0.1 W.

4/5 Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 DigitalVersus 2012-11-30 11:25:00

Pros

  • Processing power
  • HDMI in & out
  • Low energy use
  • Elegant design
  • Contrast (1795:1)
  • Blu-ray player
  • Low heat

Cons

  • Imperfect touchscreen response...
  • Colours could be more accurate (Delta E = 6.1)
  • Glossy screen
  • Sound quality

Conclusion

The IdeaCentre A720 falls in the same price range as the Asus ET2700INTS and has a great design, good computing power, well-thought-out connectivity and low energy consumption, and the Full HD screen with astounding contrast makes for a perfect combo with the Blu-ray player. Unfortunately, it falls short of five stars for poor sound quality and a touchscreen that isn't always 100% responsive.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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