Just as Lenovo inches up on Apple’s heels in the all-in-one market comes the release of their new small form factor consumer desktop, the H320. Focused on providing a solid feature set without blowing out the budget, Lenovo’s H320 offers a lot of tech in a little package. Check out the full review after the break
What’s in the box:
The Lenovo H320 space-saving desktop starts at a reasonable $599 price point; this review unit was configured slightly higher and carries a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $699.
Build and design
Lenovo has been pumping desktop designs in a manner akin to cooking spaghetti these last few years: throw everything into a pot, stir it around for a bit, then pull something out and toss it at a wall to see what sticks. The Essential series is one such innovation to come from the Chinese computer giant’s design resurgence; they’re focused on more affordable feature-centric, rather than design-centric, computers.
That’s not to say that the H320 is poorly designed; far from it, in fact. This little desktop was born with efficiency in mind, and it lives up to those expectations by taking up the least amount of room possible on your work surface.
Lenovo has definitely taken a page out of other manufacturers’ books; the H320 looks almost - but not quite identical - to offerings from other companies like HP and Gateway (Acer). While that’s not completely their fault since at a certain point, all of these slim tower desktops start to look the same, they could have tried a new approach. Apple and Dell, for example, both have very small desktops that offer greater-than-nettop performance.
As with most of these slim desktops, the optical drive is mounted vertically on the front of the machine, hidden behind a glossy black plastic door. The whole front is covered with this glossy black plastic, offering a seamless - if easily scratchable - look.
Both of the sides are largely featureless, save for a few strategically-placed vents. It would be nice if Lenovo had included some sort of support stand on at least one side for those users who would prefer to lay the desktop horizontally rather than vertically.
Inputs and expansion
The front of the H320 features the vertically oriented optical drive, as mentioned previously. As a nice bonus, Lenovo managed to squeeze in a Blu-ray read / DVD-writable drive. There are two USB 2.0 ports on the bottom, as well as the usual pair of analog audio jacks for line-in and headphone-out signals. A multi-card memory card reader sits next to the unit’s power button on top, rounding the complement of front-facing ports.
As always, the rear of the machine is where the real action is. On the H320, Lenovo included just four more USB 2.0 ports; it’s a shame there aren’t more. There’s also three analog audio jacks for line-in, line-out and microphone-in audio sources.
Gigabit Ethernet takes care of all of the networking, and two PS/2 peripheral ports sit at the top. The H320 comes with a USB wired mouse and, perplexingly, a PS/2 wired keyboard. It’s long past time for PS/2 ports to be entirely phased out in a consumer desktop (they have their place in a business-focused unit) and it would be nice to see Lenovo just leave them out in favor of USB for the next interation.
By default the Lenovo Essential H320 comes with a VGA and an HDMI video port. What’s great is that these are native to the motherboard; even if users buy a basic model with Intel’s Graphics HD Media Accelerator HM55 integrated GPU, they’ll be able to hook up to an external display (like an HDTV) with a purely digital connection.
For those who upgrade to a discrete GPU like the NVIDIA GeForce 310 in this review unit, there’s an extra one each VGA and HDMI video ports on the card. The only downside is that the video ports on the card and the video ports on the motherboard can’t be used simultaneously, which is actually a common problem on desktops such as this one.
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