Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27 Review

“Hello Tony! Would like to review our new 27″ AIO PC, the IdeaCentre Horizon?” What I heard, after looking at some images of this unit, was “Hello Tony! Would you like to review the BIGGEST WIN8 TABLET ON THE PLANET?”
Obviously I’m wrong, especially since I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time with this PC, but a lot of marketing is put towards the concept that this is an AIO touchscreen PC that for all intents and purposes, functions like a giant tablet. In that, there is even a promotional image of a guy using this in his lap, which I can assure you is not a comfortable way of going about it.
No, the best way of looking at the IdeaCentre Horizon is to simply treat it as a desktop PC, which, coincidentally, is exactly what the Lenovo rep told me later on. This isn’t some casual, family friendly, mass consumer AIO that’s going to struggle even making a spreadsheet; this is actually an impressive, full powered PC with a list of specs that surprised me:
– Intel Core i7-3537U processor, 2.0GHz, 4MB cache
– Windows 8 64-bit
– 27″ 1980×1020 HD Anti-glare 10-point touch monitor
– Nvidia GeForce GT620M 2GB + Intel HD 4000
– 8GB RAM (8GB max)
– 1TB hard drive
– 720p HD integrated webcam
– Built-in stereo speakers with Dolby Home Theater V4
– Wireless and Bluetooth
– 2.4GHz wireless keyboard and mouse
See? Not a shabby machine at all. No, it won’t run Crysis 3 on max settings (or even medium settings, for that matter), but by and large, it’ll handle pretty much everything you throw at it…within reason, of course. As a performance computer, there’s a lot to be desired, especially since that’s not what this machine was marketed as. However, as a daily use family computer, this presents much more power than you’ll probably need, and gives you a bevy of cool features that should keep the family nice and happy.
First off, I really did not like the included wireless keyboard and mouse, so I immediately replaced it with my own set. Quality-wise there was nothing wrong with them; I just didn’t like how laptop-esque the keyboard was, and the square mouse was uncomfortable, almost like an old Macintosh mouse.
As soon as you turn the computer on, you are greeted by Windows 8. Because the Horizon is basically one giant touchscreen, I had no use for my mouse. I’ve mentioned in other reviews before; if it’s one thing Win8 does really well, it’s present itself as a wonderful touchscreen OS. That rings true in this situation. I don’t like smudges, so I used a stylus, but navigation around Windows was about as smooth as one could hope. The only real issue I ran into was when I was working in the Desktop. Fingers (and even a stylus) tend to be a bit too bulky for desktop icons, so having a mouse handy does have its benefits.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past going over Win8, but I’m going to gloss over that here. It’s been out for a while now; you either like it or don’t. Nothing I say is going to change that, so all you need to know is that this is a Win8 machine from top to bottom. If you’re still crying about the lack of a Start Button, then nothing this machine has to offer is going to make your life any better.
With that being said, I enjoyed my time witth the Horizon. No, I probably won’t use it for my main work machine since I need beefier specs than what’s available, but if I needed a family computer for the kids and the wife to use for everything else in our lives, this would be the one to get. It even doubles as a board game machine (more on that later).
The unique thing about the Horizon is that it essentially houses two computers in one, with two different purposes. When propped up with the stand as a normal monitor, the Horizon functions as any other Win8 PC. Nothing new here. However, push the monitor down so that it’s laying flat, and the Horizon immediately morphs into a table PC with a completely new OS, called Aura.
Aura is an extremely simplified OS that’s specifically made to be used as a top-down table PC, and for multiple users at once. The purpose here is to get the family together and gathered around the Horizon. When gathered around Aura, users can access content together, launch pre-loaded apps or download from the online app store. Multiple family members and friends can now surround the Horizon where they can all enjoy photos, video, music, and games all at once.
The main Aura interface is controlled by a central dial, which appears as soon as the computer is laid flat. The dial works similar to a large, central, virtual combination lock dial, where you simply use two fingers to twist and spin the dial to select from a variety of apps. You can select from Games, Education, Music, Video, Photos, and the App Store. My favorite feature is the inclusion of a bunch of board games, all to be played on the screen with family gathered around. There is even a set of virtual dice included.
The best way to show off Aura is with the specifically packaged games, and two immediately stuck out as the best ones to use: Air Hockey, and Monopoly. Air Hockey is simple enough; just fire up the game and use the included paddles as you would on a real air hockey table. It’s fairly accurate, and a ton of fun…if you’re a fan of air hockey.
Monopoly is probably the best way to show off the best features of Aura. Not only can 4 people play, but it also makes use of the e-Dice, which really isn’t a necessity, but it’s cool to use. With the e-Dice charged and the dongle plugged in, the dice will immediately sync with Monopoly. Anytime you roll the dice, the correct number will be reflected on the on-screen dice, which by the way, can also be “rolled” via an on-screen finger flick.
I played around with the other games (such as Texas Hold ‘Em, Raiding Company, DrawRace 2, etc.) but other than a means to use the other accessories (like the joystick), they didn’t really hold my interest. Monopoly and Air Hockey were the only ones that I played with any regularity.
Speaking of games, I also downloaded Steam and popped a few games on there. I tested out Castle Crashers, Skyrim, and Tomb Raider. Skyrim and Tomb Raider had some trouble running on anything other than low/medium settings, but Castle Crashers ran smoothly with no issues, as expected. Clearly the Horizon was never meant to be a dedicated gaming powerhouse, but the fact that I was able to even play these games, regardless of the settings, was a nice bonus.
Once you’re done with all that Aura has to offer, simply stand the monitor back up again, and you will be prompted to exit Aura and return to Windows. It should be noted that you can enter and exit Aura at anytime, regardless of the screen orientation. In fact, you can even turn off the setting to have Aura launch automatically when the screen is laid flat.
I would have to say the biggest downside to the Horizon lies in the fact that it gives the illusion of being portable. It even comes with a black carrying case out of the box. The unit weighs 17+ lbs, however, and is about as portable as transporting a TV around. Also, the battery life is really poor, as I was not even able to get through a single game of Monopoly without having to plug it back in. It barely was able to last 2 hours, but given the amount of power that it draws from having the giant screen and also some heftier components (like a dedicated graphics processor in addition to an integrated Intel one), that’s to be expected. Let’s just say this is not the sort of thing you want to take with you when traveling.
As a performance machine, the IdeaCentre Horizon doesn’t stack up. After all, that’s not what it is made for. However, as a main family computer, you’ll find everything you need. From a full Win8 with all the trimmings to Aura and a bunch of games and apps for the young ones, the Horizon should earn a nice spot in any home looking for a new, central, PC.

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