Lenovo made a handful of new system announcements this morning that mark a change of tactic for the Chinese-owned manufacturer. Both its IdeaCentre B500 all-in-one and its IdeaCentre K300 desktop feature gaming-oriented components, representing a departure for the typically business-focused PC maker.
The sharp-angled IdeaCentre B500 is the most unique of the two desktops announced today. Starting at $649, the B500 comes with a 23-inch, 1,920x1080 display, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a motion-control remote. Options include an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU, as well as a Geforce GTS 250M graphics chip (aka a rebranded Geforce 9800GTX). We know of no other all-in-one with such a capable 3D chip, and while it won't handle Windows 7's new DirectX 11 graphics features, it should let you play most older and current titles at reasonable image quality and frame rates.
Other options for the B500 include typical fare for higher-end all-in-ones, like a Blu-ray drive, a TV tuner, up to 4GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of storage. But based on both the design and the other options, Lenovo is clearly gunning for PC gamers.
We're surprised it's taken this long for someone to whip up a gaming-oriented all-in-one, and we're glad Lenovo finally took the chance. We're less enthusiastic about the IdeaCentre K300. Pricing for this model starts at $499, but the top-end goes to $1,999. For that price you'd expect at least a Core i5 CPU, but Lenovo looks to have opted for last year's parts bin, going only as high as Core 2 Quad.
We don't want to write this system off completely, especially not having seen one in person. The $499 price tag will likely lure in those charmed by the gaming-style case, and with the right pricing for the various options you might find a way to cobble together a decent configuration for a good price. Options include AMD's last generation's Radeon HD 4000-series graphics cards, up to 8GB of RAM, Blu-ray, and two hard drives in RAID 0, among others.
If you dial the K300 up to the $1,999 top-end, though, you'll be disappointed by the lack of Core i7 or even Core i5 CPUs. We've seen systems for $1,300 or so with Core i7, so the idea of paying $700 more for an older Core 2 Quad chip doesn't sit well. Lenovo also doesn't mention SLI or CrossFire X multigraphics card support, a feature common to better midrange gaming PCs. Offering the dual-chip Radeon HD 4870 X2 card is a reasonable alternative, and it should provide a solid gaming experience. The problem is that it's not the DirectX 11-compatible Radeon HD 5000-series, which AMD launched a few weeks ago to roundly positive reviews. With no Core i5 or Core i7, and last generation's (still-fast) 3D cards, PC gamers willing to spend $1,500 to $2,000 on a new system won't be able to take the K300 seriously.