The Lenovo Ideacentre desktop PC is made by Lenovo, a prolific computer manufacturer with a range that crosses from traditional tower cases to tiny form factors and all-in-one designs. These last machines are probably the most interesting, both from a design perspective and from their potential usefulness to a home user. While chunkier than the iMac, a model like the A540 uses this extra space to house decent speakers and a three-in-one card reader.
The Ideacentre range covers a broad spectrum of devices that earn a place in our guide to the best home computers, with screen sizes ranging from 2.15-inch HD screens, all the way through to 27-inch 4K monsters. You can get Intel or AMD processors, varying form factors and setups. There are even touchscreen variants available too, so you don't even need to add a separate touch screen monitor.
Some IdeaCentre models, such as the M820z and M920z, are aimed at business use, and lag behind slightly in their choice of components, leaving the home user with a choice of the ‘A’ models - A340 and A540.
Of these, we like the A540 both for its speedy internals and quasi-steampunk design, but neither of the A340 models is exactly slow either. The AMD powered model is particularly interesting, as such chips are a rarity in the all-in-one space. That it comes in slightly cheaper than the equivalent Intel model just increases its appeal, but the fact it’s built on an older architecture may put buyers off.
Lenovo IdeaCentre review: Design
- Design aesthetic varies between models
- A540 looks the best
Most All-In-One PCs today conform to the shape introduced by the iMac G5 after the slight misstep of the G4 model. They’re a thicker than usual monitor, with the extra space taken up with the processing components that make a PC work.
Cramming all that silicon into a confined volume does have a few drawbacks, however, as not only do you need to use space-efficient parts, but the amount of cooling you can supply is limited too, meaning the performance of your CPU and graphics processor may be limited by the available thermal budget.
Happily, modern chip design, which uses ever-smaller silicon pathways and gates to create processors, comes to the rescue: a chip made on a smaller lithography process tends to be more power-efficient than one made on an older, larger process. As chips get smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient, then the performance of all-in-one PCs, which don’t have the airflow or large fans of tower models, can only increase. Lenovo’s consumer all-in-ones are (almost) bang up to date, with ninth-generation Intel Core CPUs
The external designs are notable too. While the A340 looks like a monitor on a stand made of tubular metal, the A540 separates its processing innards from the monitor in a rectangular box that sits directly on the desk. From here, a single brass-colored arm rises on the right, through a single curve apparently inspired by a cypress tree, and joins the 24-inch multi-touch screen at the back. It is great to look at, beating many other all-in-ones on the market where aesthetics are concerned. The black box at the bottom of the arm may not be the most attractive thing, but it’s largely out of your eyeline.
There are no front-facing USB ports to plug things into, and moving the guts of the machine into the box means the monitor part of the PC can be thinner than in other all-in-ones. The bezels here are particularly thin compared to an Apple iMac, so much so that the webcam and Windows Hello compliant IR camera rise from the top in their own rectangular block that can be pushed shut to block the view when you feel like some privacy.
The downside to all this is that the machine’s ports are tucked away on the back and side of the monitor. They’re a bit of a disappointing bunch too, with Ethernet, two HDMIs and a single USB 3.1 joined by a pair of USB 2.0 ports at the back, and more USB 3.1 ports and an SD card reader at the side. No USB-C or Thunderbolt here.
Lenovo IdeaCentre review: Performance
- Up to a ninth-generation i7 Intel CPU
- 512GB or 1TB storage drive
Inside the IdeaCentre PCs you’ll find a range of processors. Most of them are very good - up to a ninth-generation i7 Intel CPU and its integrated UHD 630 graphics processor in the A540 model. This, coupled with the 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD (there’s a 1TB hard drive too, for long-term document storage, but it’s only a 5,400RPM model so don’t expect blazing performance) lead to a snappy Windows 10 experience. WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5 round out the package, providing very good wireless connectivity.
Others in the range don’t fare so well, however. The A340 Intel edition features an eighth-generation quad-core i3 CPU and 8GB of RAM (avoid the 4GB RAM model despite the cost saving - this also only comes with 128GB of internal storage, which isn’t enough), while the A340 AMD edition is saddled with a dual-core A9 APU from the Excavator core days - one of the last chips to use that architecture before the launch of Zen and the revival in AMD’s fortunes that came with it. An i3 is a serviceable chip that will get you through general office tasks and a bit of photo editing, but there’s no way we can recommend the AMD edition despite it being almost $100 cheaper at the time of writing.
There is also a version of the A540 that sports a ninth-generation Intel i5 CPU and a weird 12GB of RAM. This one should be avoided too, as it omits the SSD present in most other models. Booting into Windows 10 from a 5,400RPM hard drive is not a satisfying experience in 2020 and, like the AMD chip above, the cost saving isn’t worth the drop in performance and rise in frustration.
Lenovo IdeaCentre review: Value
The IdeaCentre range includes some excellent value. For most entries, it’s best to ignore the cheapest model and pick the middle ground, only moving up to the most expensive model if there’s a particular need. The IdeaCentre PCs can be opened up, and the RAM and SSD removed and replaced - there are videos showing how on the Lenovo website - but as with all electronics it’s a fiddly process that you should only carry out if you’re feeling confident.
Compared to other all-in-one PCs, the IdeaCentre represents a sweet spot of top-quality components, plenty of RAM, fast storage, refined designs, and reasonable prices, so it’s easy to recommend.
Should you buy a Lenovo IdeaCentre?
Anyone in the market for an all-in-one PC should look hard at the IdeaCentre range. With its ninth-generation Intel processors and adoption of PCIe flash storage, these all-in-ones leave others behind. The design of the cases may be purely functional in the lower reaches of the range, but step up to the 24-inch A540 and you have something that looks good, works fast, and will look as good in a recreation area of the house as it does in a home office.