There are a lot of touch-capable all-in-one desktops, and we’ve seen just about every one. Aside from the HP TouchSmart, they haven’t been worth mentioning. With Lenovo’s new effort, that’s all changed. In a word, the 27-inch IdeaCentre A720 is…impressive.
Companies interested in making a multitouch-capable desktop have a number of options at their disposal. Many, such as Dell and HP, have chosen to go with an optical touch capability. On the upside, it can be triggered by anything, such as a finger, stylus, or even a grapefruit. The sensitivity is not so great, however, and the response typically lags noticeably behind the physical action.
Lenovo chose instead to go with a staggering 27-inch capacitive panel on top of the A720. Staggering because most capacitive touch panels are rarely larger than ten inches; the technology is expensive, and can grow prohibitively so as the panel size increases. Thanks to their partnerships in China, however, Lenovo was able to secure the capacitive panels at an affordable price.
The response on the screen is impeccable. Actions trigger immediately, and the cursors follow your fingers around the screen without any perceptible lag or delays. Being able to use all ten fingers at the same time is a heady feeling, and even Lenovo’s staff took a couple of minutes to fingerpaint on the screen with a childlike delight.
Lenovo has worked hard on the software to provide customers with a substantive multitouch experience. Most of these touchscreen all-in-ones have some form of custom manufacturer software, but again, apart from the HP TouchSmart, it generally hasn’t been very good. Lenovo still has some UX bugs to work out, but the software generally works very well, which was a pleasant surprise. The A720 comes preloaded with several touch and multitouch games, such as Bugs, seen in the video above (and it must be surprisingly fun, because the Lenovo employees wouldn’t stop talking about it), the famous Angry Birds and more.
One of the biggest problems users face in interacting with touchscreens on the notebook or desktop has to do with arm fatigue – we’re just not used to holding our arms perpendicular to a surface for the lengths of times that computer activities generally take. Lenovo thought of that, too, and developed an ingenious stand to take care of it. Anyone who’s bought an all-in-one is used to the idea of a display and stand combination that can be tilted between a range of generally -5 to 30 degrees or so. The IdeaCentre A720 goes substantially beyond such everyday combinations and reclines completetely flat. You can gently but firmly push against the display, and it folds beneath itself so that the monitor is resting parallel to the table.
The accompanying keyboard and mouse are standard Lenovo fare. Wireless and lag-free, but only plastic and not the metal they pretend to be. Lenovo should just craft the same keyboard and mouse, but in a funky black plastic – take ownership of the fact that these are plastic-clad peripherals, instead of being metal like the rest of the A720; they end up looking a little bit tacky.
Frankly, this changes the game when it comes to the all-in-one market. If Lenovo can craft the proper software experience, then the A720 could end up as a wildly desirable product. Imagine setting the IdeaCentre up in your living room, and when the family wants to play a board game, you just press the monitor flat. One such popular title is in the works.
Depending on who you ask, Lenovo is either the world’s 2nd or 3rd largest computer manufacturer. The IdeaCenter A720 marks them as one of the most innovative, too.
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 Specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional
- Graphics: Configurable up to NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M with 2GB of graphics memory
- Memory: 2-8GB of DDR SDRAM @ 1600MHz
- Hard drive: 500-1000GB @ 5400RPM or 1 x 64GB SSD
- Optical drive: DVD+/-RW or Blu-ray ROM
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
- 2xUSB 2.0, 2xUSB 3.0, 6-in-1 card reader, headphone and mic jacks, HDMI-out, optional TV tuner
- Weight: 11.6kg
- Dimensions: 658 x 224.8 x 490.5 mm (WxDxH)
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 is supposed to hit sometime within the first half of 2012, with a surprisingly low price of $1,299.