Tech

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 5i (27-Inch) Evaluation: Numerous Good looks, No longer Sufficient Brawn

When you think of avant-garde desktop design, the name Lenovo doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But no matter what you think about the rest of the IdeaCentre AIO 5i, you have to agree that its industrial design makes it one of the most unusual and eye-catching all-in-one computers on the market.

Let’s start by looking at that design. A large squared-off base houses some of the guts of the machine, but mainly it serves as a paperweight to support the big, 27-inch 4K touchscreen (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) above it. The mechanism for supporting this screen is entirely unexpected: A polished copper bar juts out of the side of the base, then turns diagonally upward to attach to the back of the screen unit. This connection is hinged, allowing you to tilt the screen forward or back. The design is really something to behold, and it immediately makes for a conversation piece when it’s first encountered, although the oversize Lenovo sticker on the front of the base detracts a bit from the magic.

The 27-inch, 4K touchscreen is suspended above the base by a side-mounted stabilizing arm.

Photograph: Lenovo

While the IdeaCentre screen looks nice—and the brightness is through the roof—where it fails is in its support for touch. While the screen is responsive enough, that upscale connecting arm doesn’t provide nearly enough stabilization. Graze the display with a fingertip and the whole thing begins to shake and shimmy, to the point where I largely had to abandon using touch controls at all for fear of getting seasick. A reasonably capable keyboard and mouse, both wireless, are included for your other input needs, but I was further disappointed that support for these devices isn’t built in to the computer itself; you have to park the included dongle in one of the system’s USB ports for them to work at all.

That’s a bit of a bummer, but the IdeaCentre 5i does at least have plenty of old-school USB ports to play with. The total lineup (including ports on both the rear and the left side of the device) features just one USB-C port, four USB-A ports (two 3.1, two 2.0), an SD card reader, HDMI out and in (so you can hook up A/V equipment or gaming devices), and Ethernet. The system is decidedly short on USB-C connectors, but otherwise the collection is decent.

The good news is that the system does have a few thoughtful extras built into it, including a pop-up 2-megapixel webcam and a wireless phone-charging pad on the base. As with the HP Envy 32, I found positioning my phone on the base to require patience and careful alignment in order for it to charge successfully, but it’s nonetheless a convenient addition.

Take a look at that arm.

Photograph: Lenovo

Performance is where the machine really stutters. The specs look solid enough: 3.6-GHz Core i5 (10th generation) processor, 8 GB RAM, and dual storage devices (a 256-GB SSD and a 1-TB traditional hard drive). However, the system’s general application performance was lackluster, and its graphics-oriented scores were even worse—though since the system lacks a discrete graphics processor, that wasn’t hugely surprising. Looking through my benchmarks database, I found I got better performance numbers from low-end laptops released two years ago than the IdeaCentre was able to muster today.

On the plus side, the JBL speakers sound good, which is encouraging if you’re planning to have the system double as an entertainment center, and, at $1,000 as configured, the price is right. If the look of the system appeals to you, consider the $1,150 model that bumps the RAM up to 16 gigabytes, though this comes at the expense of some of the storage space. Either way, you’ll need to make those decisions up front: Like most AIOs, the system is not officially upgradable after purchase.

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