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Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520 Review

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Lenovo recently sent us a new all-in-one PC to check out. Specifically, they shipped out the IdeaCentre AIO 520 with upgraded specifications. Obviously, the only way to test a PC is to use it in your daily lifestyle, and since we just had CES, I decided to use the computer over my own HP laptop. In a nutshell, the experience was nice, although I wish it were a bit better.

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So here’s what’s good. The IdeaCentre AIO 520 is a pretty well-rounded PC. Our model shipped with a 27-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) display that emits decent color and gets bright enough to see in well-lit environments. It’s also a touchscreen which has helped with ease of use, although there’s no pen input. The display is also covered in a glass that feels like plastic. It sounds kind of hollow, but it hasn’t scratched like plastic would so I’m assuming it’s glass. I’ll let you know if Lenovo confirms my speculation.

Below the large display is an array of speakers which actually sound pretty good. They’re not mind-blowingly good, but they’re decent enough so that with the right audio tuning with the included Dolby app, they sound better than average speakers. They also get extremely loud, or at least loud enough to fill our entire office with music.

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Above the screen, you’ll find a ton of vents for the fans inside the machine alongside the webcam and IR camera. The way this feature works is pretty interesting: instead of always looking at you, your webcam can be erected out of your computer whenever you want simply by ejecting it like you would a boombox’s CD player back in the day. When you’re finished with the cameras, it can be pushed back into the machine itself. This provides a more secure way of using your webcam since you won’t have to risk anyone spying on you without you knowing.

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In terms of the cameras’ quality, the webcam is good enough for a quick Skype call, while the IR camera emits infrared light for compatibility with Windows Hello log-ins. I haven’t had any problems getting Hello working and neither have I stumbled upon a time when the feature wouldn’t work at all. Therefore, you’ll be pleased with what’s packed inside this sliding rectangle.

To the left of the display is nothing more than a single USB-A port, while the right houses a CD/DVD drive which is useful if, y’know, you still use physical discs to interact with media. On the back, there’s a USB-C port, three more USB-A ports, an SD card reader, an Ethernet jack, and a headphone jack directly below the machine. I never ran into an IO shortages while using this PC and I tend to have a bunch of things plugged in at various times so you shouldn’t have any problems.

As for specs, our AIO 520 comes with a 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Intel HD Graphics 630, 16GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and Windows 10 Home. Using the machine throughout CES, I never experienced any major slow-downs or interruptions during my workflow nor did I run out of RAM thanks to having like 30 Google Chrome tabs open at the same time. There’s also sufficient graphics inside that should provide light games with enough power for a decent experience, although I wouldn’t go playing Call of Duty on this PC.

One thing I found rather peculiar during my usage was just how hot the AIO 520 ran. I really don’t know why, but literally, at any given moment, the fans would kick in even if I only had two Chrome tabs open. And they’re not quite, either, No doubt if you don’t have headphones in, you’ll notice the fans are on and they may annoy you. However, if you’re coming from an older PC, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. But for a PC in 2018, I really wish Lenovo could’ve designed this PC with better airflow or just the ability to run a bit cooler.

I do have a theory as to why this machine runs so hot, however. It uses an optical drive, not a solid-state drive. This means the hard drive spins to read and write data and can’t just stay still like an SSD. Therefore, more heat emits from the PC and the fans likely have to kick in more often. I’m 80% sure this is the reason the fans are always on since I don’t do anything too heavy on my computers like Photoshopping or video editing. Again, I’m not sure if this is the cause for concern, but it’s the most plausible hypothesis I can think of.

With that aside, the rest of the AIO 520 is great. There’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi for faster connections and far-field microphones sit atop the machine for using Microsoft’ s Cortana voice assistant from across the room. The overall build of the PC isn’t bad either. You’re getting a metal body that’s pretty hefty and sits atop a stand that screams quality. The design is nothing too different from what you get with other all-in-one PCs on the market, but it’s sleek and nice to look at anyway.

The AIO 520 also comes with a pretty decent wireless keyboard and mouse set. While it’s not my favorite, the keyboard is comfortable to type on for long periods and comes with a keypad to the right which is always a plus. The mouse is also decently comfortable but, admittedly, feels like a cheap model. But what more can you expect since they both are included in the box?

All in all, I’ve enjoyed my experience with the IdeaCentre AIO 520. While it’s not the most powerful PC on the market, it still offers enough performance to tear through workloads like covering CES. Sure, it runs really hot and the display could be a bit better, but at the end of the day, for the $1,350 you’ll have to spend to get your hands on the PC, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 8/10

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