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Lenovo Ideacentre B305 4031-1HU 21.5-Inch Desktop (Black) by Daniel P. Dern
Review by Daniel P. Dern
Lenovo Direct Personal Computers  ISBN/ITEM#: B003N2OZ4Y
Date: 15 March 2011 List Price $899.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: What you get / Side-shot showing optical drive / A labelled look at the front / Show Official Info /

Lenovo's IdeaCentre B305 All-in-One desktop PC shows that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. There's nothing individually notable about a very good 21-inch LCD display, or a powerful small-form-factor Windows PC.

I suspect you could get more for your money -- probably a bigger display -- by looking at a standard desktop and separate display, or spend less for the same power and same-sized display. That's your call. But if total system size also matters, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B305 -- and I presume, any of the newer models -- is a good choice.

Lenovo's IdeaCentre B305 All-in-One desktop PC shows that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. There's nothing individually notable about a very good 21-inch LCD display, or a powerful small-form-factor Windows PC.

But put them together, like Lenovo has done here, and it becomes an enticingly simple, elegant, computer that doesn't take up a lot of space, and packs all the power and features you need for work or non-work activities. For computers, "all-in-one" means "computer and display in one device, packaging-wise. The Lenovo IdeaCentre B305 looks like an inch-thick display, with sundry ports, buttons and slots festooning the sides (not visible from the front).

The only semi-clunky aspect is the power supply, which is a 2x3x7-inch black brick. I'm sure there's a good reason why Lenovo didn't build it into the machine proper. (Cooling and ventilation considerations would be my guess.) Also, while light enough to be picked up and moved around -- about twenty-five pounds, the IdeaCentre B305 fails one of the classic definitions of "portable" -- there's no handle or lift/carry grooves. This isn't a big deal, you're not likely to move this around a lot; I was moving it between the desk in my home office and the dining room a few times, so the omission was noticeable. But once you find the right place to put one, you're unlikely to relocate it.

The display: Lenovo touts the B305's 21.5-inch widescreen as "cinema-quality," and I'd agree with that; movie trailers and other videos look bright and stunning. The built-in audio is similarly great: JBL speakers and Dolby surround sound deliver sound good enough to listen to all day long.

The IdeaCentre B305 measures 16.0" high by 20.7" wide by 4.37" deep. Inside there's an AMD four-core 2.2Ghz Athlon II X4 600e CPU, 4GB DDR3 RAM, a half-terabyte hard drive, and ATI Radeon HD 5450 Graphics with 512MB VRAM, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Plus 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Fast Ethernet, DVD±RW DL optical drive, 5-in-1 media reader, six USB slots, two 3-watt speakers, and built-in microphone and 0.3megapixel webcam.

And oh yeah, the display is a touchscreen, just reach out and poke at it. My brief tests suggest that you're better off using a keyboard and mouse; I found the touchscreen even more finicky than my iPhone's, e.g., trying to tap the tiny "x" to kill a browser window, or tap an icon on the main task bar, worked right maybe one time in three or four.

I've been using this machine on and off for several months, as a primary work machine, and for the usual multimedia browsing, and it hasn't let me down yet. I did encounter one odd hardware glitch: the USB keyboard that came with the machine doesn't work. But my USB keyboards works fine with it, directly, and also through my desktop KVM switch.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre B305 has more than enough power for my everyday office needs (few new computers these days, other than some netbooks, don't). Ditto for personal/entertainment. At 21.5 inches, it won't replace a bedroom TV... but it's more than adequate for desktop (or kitchen) watching.

The IdeaCentre B305 originally MSRP'd at around $1,110; I'm seeing reseller prices around $900. (Lenovo's no longer selling this model directly, the new IdeaCentre B 510 models on the Lenovo site use Intel CPUs, and have a 23-inch display, among other differences, and the higher-end new model goes up to 8BM RAM and 2TB storage.)

There's no doubt that this is a fully-capable computer with a great display and good sound. The only question is the price versus the size. I suspect you could get more for your money -- probably a bigger display -- by looking at a standard desktop and separate display, or spend less for the same power and same-sized display. That's your call. But if total system size also matters, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B305 -- and I presume, any of the newer models -- is a good choice.

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