T he all-in-one desktop PC scene has been dominated by Apple so comprehensively, and for so long, that the rest of the industry must wonder if it’s worth bothering to produce their own. There remain a steady trickle of other manufacturers producing machines, though, and Lenovo’s 24in ThinkCentre X1 is the most interesting to have rolled into the PC&TA Labs in quite some time.
Approached from the front, you’d think there wasn’t much in the way to worry Apple. In typical Lenovo fashion, the ThinkCentre X1 is finished in black, and the wireless keyboard and mouse supplied with the machine are equally plain in appearance. There’s the signature red highlight or two – the dot above the “i” on the ThinkCentre logo in the bottom-left corner of the front bezel, and a red scrollwheel on the wireless mouse – but that’s as far as visual flair goes.
Or so it seems. Have a look around the chassis, and it’s a different story. From front to back, the X1 measures an improbable 11.8mm at its thinnest point; and instead of aping the flat Apple foot, Lenovo offers a refreshingly different approach to the design of the stand.
The ThinkCentre X1 is supported by a 13mm steel bar protruding from a heavy circular base, and it’s positioned such that the screen appears to float above the desk. It’s far more elegant than the lumpen Asus Zen AiO.
It’s also a practical design. Instead of positioning all the ports and slots at the back, a pair of USB ports, one SD card slot and the system’s 3.5mm headphone jack live on the left side of the X1, so you don’t have to reach around the side or stand up and peer over the top to plug in peripherals.
However, it’s the finishing touches that make the iMacs so good, and this is where the X1 falls behind. Those wireless peripherals, while usable, are uninspiring when it comes to the overall design and feel. To be brutal, they feel cheap and nasty; the matte black plastic from which they’re made is a far cry from the slick peripherals Apple supplies with its iMacs.
That stand, thin though it is, wobbles dramatically if you so much as nudge the screen, and Lenovo misses a trick by not specifying a touchscreen. Although its smooth and flush anti-glare screen looks as if you should be able to prod and poke it, the only result you’ll get if you touch it is a mess of greasy fingerprint marks.
The Full HD resolution simply isn’t sufficient to compete with the market leaders. Stretched across 23.8in, the X1’s IPS panel is able to deliver a pixel density of only 93ppi, which means the pixel structure is plainly visible from normal working distances. Even the older non-Retina iMac has a sharper display.
Its colour performance isn’t exactly sparkling, either. Although sRGB coverage of 95.1% ensures it doesn’t look flat, colour accuracy is far from convincing, with an average Delta E (the colour accuracy rating) of 3.07, and a maximum deviation of 6.02. The screen’s colour temperature is way off base, too, at 8,188K.
Office duties only
Given the description on Lenovo’s website of the X1 as “thin as a laptop, as powerful as a desktop PC”, my hopes were high. Not surprisingly, it isn’t quite as impressive as Lenovo makes it sound. The internals come straight from Intel’s mobile range, with even the most powerful model featuring only the dual-core, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U. A score of 54 in our benchmarks means it looks underpowered when compared with the Asus Zen AiO, which powered to 110 thanks to a full desktop chip.
Still, the ThinkCentre is quicker than the Broadwell-based 4K iMac 21.7in, whose 1.6GHz Core i5-5250U scored 42, and the X1 feels snappy and responsive in general use – something that’s no doubt helped along by our review unit’s 256GB Samsung SSD. It isn’t the quickest flash drive on the planet, but it’s a darn sight better than a mechanical hard disk. And if you can’t spring for the SSD, it’s good to see that even the cheapest ThinkCentre X1 comes equipped with a hybrid drive as standard, so responsiveness shouldn’t suffer too badly if you trade down.
The Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 is a curious mixture of the good, the great and the downright frustrating. I like the design, but the keyboard and mouse are a letdown; it’s responsive, but all-out performance is limited compared with Asus’s super-fast Zen AiO; and the screen, while offering impressive glare reduction, isn’t good enough for colour-critical work.
But that doesn’t make this all-in-one PC a write-off. Despite all the business-friendly features – the inclusion of Windows 10 Pro, easy manageability courtesy of vPro versions of Intel’s Core processors, a Trusted Platform Module for extra-secure encryption – Lenovo has kept the price reasonable. It’s highly configurable, too, if you want to shave money off by choosing a lesser hard disk, for example.
Is that enough to earn it a recommendation? Not quite. But it puts the ThinkCentre X1 into a different league than both the Asus Zen AiO and its more beautiful, but less functional, iMac rivals.