When Lenovo came out with the A600 all-in-one desktop last year, it was ranked as one of the most attractive all-in-one models on the market. With a cutting-edge, futuristic design, it easily stood out from the sea of all-in-ones that aim to cut into the iMac's share. With the B500's orange and silver metal, it's clear that Lenovo wants to do it again. Can lightning strike the same place twice? Read on and find out.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 starts at $899; the model configured for this review, including Blu-ray, motion sensing remote control and TV tuner, carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $1,399.
Build and Design
Clearly, Lenovo looked at the direction they went with their exceptionally-stylish IdeaCentre A600 and thought, "nah, not far enough". The great thing about this choice is that it utterly works. The IdeaCentre B500 is hands-down one of the most memorable all-in-ones out there - a mix of high fashion and raw industrial design. Black screws stick out from the matte grey finish, an orange metal mesh peeks out from underneath a glossy black diamond-quilt panel. Everywhere the eye falls, there's something interesting to look at. Lenovo's product designers really deserve a pat on the back for this one.
The front of the machine is clearly dominated by the 23-inch, 1080p display. Thankfully, it's covered in a matte finish rather than glossy; there's enough glossy trim on the B500 already. Around the border of the display is the glossy black plastic seen on several of Lenovo's other products. To keep the all-in-one from being too square, Lenovo cut off all of the corners. It's a risky design, but it works. A webcam and built-in microphone sit at the top of the IdeaCentre while speakers can be found at the bottom on either side.
At the bottom left and right sit two bulbous legs which, with the foldable stand in back, provide points for the tripodal setup. Polished chrome-like plastic sits to either site, framing black grills with the same orange background found elsewhere on the computer. A capacitive button can be seen on the lower-right; rather than a power button, which is found on the right of the machine, this capacitive button serves to turn the display on and off while leaving the rest of the machine on. It's a fantastic addition; most all-in-ones can't turn off the display while keeping the computer turned on.
The left and the right are dominated by ports or the optical drive, respectively. Looking from the side, the B500 is constructed such that the display, in black, sits above the rest of the machine, in silvery grey. It looks like the two could just slide together, but everything is fixed in place.
By and large, the machine feels solidly built. Most of the desktop is constructed of high quality plastics; despite this, it doesn't creak or bend. The folding stand in back sits tightly into the machine, and it just takes a quick pull to snap it into place in order to keep the machine upright.
Inputs and Expansion
All-in-one desktops typically lack in the in the expandability department, and Lenovo's IdeaCentre B500 isn't too different. Still, the company did what they could. On the left of the machine are two USB 2.0 ports (there aren't any USB3.0 ports to be found on here), one SD card slot, microphone in and headphone jacks. The right holds the Blu-ray optical drive and power button.
On the rear of the B500 are four more USB2.0 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. Pretty standard stuff. There's also a coaxial cable in port for the built-in TV tuner as well as an AV in port so that users can take advantage of the 23-inch display. Oddly, there's also a PS/2 port for corded keyboard - it's unusual since it's on both a consumer desktop as well as an all-in-one. Still, it's probably a matter of Lenovo having a bunch of motherboards with PS/2 ports available, so they might as well add one.
The display on Lenovo's IdeaCentre B500 is pretty standard. In this case, that means TN+. TN panels are by far the most common type of display used in computers, whether it's a notebook, all-in-one desktop or even standalone monitor. This is because they're typically much cheaper than other options, but there's a reason. TN panels have worse color fidelity and reproduction and worse viewing angles. They often have faster refresh rates, however, and in recent years, the horizontal viewing angles, at least, have gotten a lot better.
Viewed from straight on, the B500 offered more-than-acceptable performance. At moderate horizontal angles, the screen still performed very well, with only minor color shifts. Even at extreme horizontal angles, the screen was still viewable - color shifting was definitely there, with a slight yellow cast, but it wasn't enough to obstruct the display's contents. There weren't any inversions.
Vertical viewing angles are a different story, with even moderate changes in height causing significant color shifts. Inverted colors were present at both moderate and extreme angles. While this might seem like a problem, it's really not. The B500 offers a flexible stand so that the angle can be changed, and unlike with a notebook, users aren't likely to sit at a point which forces them to view the screen from untraditional angles.
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