Lenovo's new all-in-one desktop, the IdeaCentre A720 ($1,560), is both forward-looking and retro. It's got a 27-inch touchscreen you can fold so that it's flat on a table or desk. And it includes a selection of touch-based games that potentially could offer families hours of fun.
What makes it retro? Some of the games remind me of touch-based updates of old-fashioned video games like Pong. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The hardware. The IdeaCentre uses the latest Core i7 processor from Intel. It's got 8GB of memory, as well as 2GB of video memory. There's also a 1TB hard drive, so you'll be able to store plenty of photos to show on the large screen.
The IdeaCentre also has a built-in Blu-ray player for viewing videos on the 1,920x1,080 display, which is relatively slim considering its size. Lenovo says it built in 10-point multitouch technology, which could come in handy for playing certain games, for example.
The software. Touchscreens will be a lot more useful once Microsoft launches Windows 8 this fall, since that operating system will be based on touch technology. Meanwhile, Lenovo has its own touch interface laid over Windows 7, and you can easily flip back and forth between the two.
The games are what give this all-in-one a different flavor than others. We tried several, and Curling was a favorite. It's a pinball/shuffleboard combo where you aim a disc, push it with your finger, and try to score big while pushing your opponent's discs out of the way. Angry Birds also worked well and was fun to play on such a large screen. Wong is a new take on that early video-game favorite, Pong. Air Hockey was fun, but fell a bit short because our fingers didn't easily slide over the surface of the display.
Bottom line. Lenovo makes a good start at putting tablet-like games on a big screen, but that sticky surface could be annoying. And you can find less-costly all-in-one desktops with smaller displays. But if you want to combine the entertainment value of the very large display for movie or TV viewing (a TV tuner is optional), the touch capabilities for playing fun family-oriented games, and the large workspace for manipulating spreadsheets or opening multiple documents, the IdeaCentre is worth considering.
We'll bring you full Ratings of the IdeaCentre A720 soon.