Lenovo IdeaCentre A720

Most computers, no matter how pretty, are normally quite dull to review. There really is no major differentiator, besides the name on the front of the device. Yes, you can say Apple versus Windows but truth be told once you have read one review of a Mac or of a high-end PC, the reviews of the other models are painfully similar. They are either faster and more expensive, or slower and cheaper.

This brings me onto the Lenovo A720 IdeaCentre, it is different, truly different. It begins the emergence of a new era of PCs and that, well that is exciting!

Design

The A720 falls under the general category of All-In-One desktop PCs. Meaning that all the technical components are in one neat package, akin to a notebook concept. This reduces the mish-mush of cords on your desk, as there is just one – the power cord. The processor and other technical bits sit in the base that rests on your desk out of which rises the screen.
The base is solid aluminium (very Apple-like) and so is the bezel which holds up the massive 27-inch
shiny glass touchscreen. Lenovo are also very proud of the fact that it features a screw-less design, a small touch but it aids in making the A720 the best looking All-In-One PC on the market today.

When the screen is sitting fully upright it is not obvious that the A720 is a touchscreen PC, it simply looks like an uber expensive monitor. That said the A720 has three angles that I found the most useful. First the regular upright PC monitor, this is when I use it to do actual work – like writing this review, I control it the traditional way with the supplied mouse and keyboard. Second, I pull the screen towards me and rest it on the desk, concealing the box. This made touch the primary user interface and making the whole experience much more immersive. Third, I flatten the screen making it parallel to the desk, I pretty much only used this to play the preinstalled piano app but it was very cool nonetheless.

Aesthetics

Lenovo could have blown it by making the A720 with shoddy materials but thank goodness they didn’t. The whole feel of the A720 is high quality, from the feel of moving the screen around (Lenovo are very proud of their bezels) to the touch controls on the bottom right of the screen. This is not a cheep-o PC but you pay for what you get.

That said the touchscreen is not very slippery, so when dragging my finger along the screen it did not flow perfectly smoothly. I am chalking this down to two things; one, this being the first generation of true touchscreen PCs and two, we have become very used to the smoothness of the touchscreens on our iPhones. So I believe this will improve, but right now it bugs me.

The second form of control, the wireless keyboard and mouse. Simply put the aluminium keyboard is brilliant, great feedback, well-spaced keys and general feel of quality. The mouse on the other hand feels as if it came straight from a lucky packet. Another irk is the set is wireless and not Bluetooth, that means that one of the four USB ports is taken up from the get-go. Poor form on such a high-end device but it certainly is not a deal breaker.

Overall, I love the design and feel of the A720, it is a testament to the fact that a Windows PC can be beautiful and that sexy technology is not confined to our friends at Apple.

How Does It Feel?

The fact that the A720 is a full touchscreen is what sets it apart, personally I don’t believe for long. Touch is the direction of all future PCs and we have Apple to that for that but I do not believe the fruit company will be the trend setters in the computer space for much longer.

I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview before I did anything else on the A720, I did this primarily because Windows 8 is designed to be used with a touch interface while the pre-installed Windows 7 is not. Windows 8 on a massive touchscreen is phenomenal, it is just so cool! Swishing and swiping and pinch-to-zoom’ing it is massively impressive. Even after the wow factor wore off having a touch screen just felt right, I settled into using the touch interface very quickly and it became just another way to interact with the PC.

Windows 8 on the A720 is a beautiful combination and since the A720 falls into the update bracket for Windows 8 (if you purchase a Windows 7 PC between now 31st January 2013, you get a free upgrade to Windows 8) which is why if you do decide to drop the close to R20,000 on this stellar piece of kit I recommend you do two things; 1. Uninstall all the gimmicky Lenovo consumer software, like ‘Lenovo Camera Fun Zone’ 2. Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview and install it, this is because Windows 7 with a touchscreen is terrible idea. Once Windows 8 oficially launches you can upgrade to the launch version for free.

Conclusion

The IdeaCentre is gamechanger, it is beautifully built, it has plenty of power and after a short adjustment having a touchscreen is just brilliant. More importantly, it is the first of a new generation of PCs with touchscreens and a much more immersive and visually natural interface. Well done Lenovo, well done indeed.

Brendon Ambrose – Managing Editor | About Me – Scared of: Clowns, spiders and Hilary Clinton; Dream Wing Man: Jacob Zuma; Started Writing Tech: 2005 for Gadget.co.za; Favorite cereal: Frosties; Find me on: Twitter & Facebook
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