I often think of all-in-one computers along the same lines as the idealized modern family aspiration: a series of compromises. Like much of what passes for middle class splendor there’s the potential of sacrificing some of what you like, just to appease everyone in the household.
Lenovo’s A740 IdeaCentre All-in-One Desktop is a good example of what to expect as you graze the isles of a department superstore, adapting to your significant other’s unyielding ‘can nots’, and all the while learning to accept that you’ll most likely have to trade in your fashionable BMW for a “Soccer Mom Approved” Toyota SUV.
You may not understand it now if you’re single or deep in the feeling of unbridled love, but the A740 is what you’d call a marriage of sorts, one that could lead to weekends with the kids and a dog playing in the backyard – you’re committed and there’s no turning back. But there’s a certain sereneness to it all.
In reality, the Lenovo A740 doesn’t belong in a bachelor pad, or anywhere that doesn’t have crayon drawings on a fridge. This is a computer to show the world how responsible you are with your buying choices, yet still crave Middle America sophistication. The appearance is convincing enough with a sizable 27-inch diagonal FHD (1920×1080) display that sports multitouch technology, which means it’s also a Windows 8.1 (64-bit) machine, meant to look nice in the background as you ease into your dinner date with the Joneses who thrive on small talk. Prepare yourself for their backhanded compliments and proclamations of more-expensive-than-yours chardonnay wine.
The “Ultraslim” design is pleasantly inoffensive and houses four built-in microphones and an adequate 1080p 2-megapixel camera on top, and a Near Field Communicator (NFC) on the bottom, with an all gloss panel that guarantees the kids and their friends will go to town on the screen with streaks and fingerprints. Thanks to a sturdy base and an equally thick stand this all-in-one is tough enough to pivot the screen forward and upright at 5° or totally flat in tablet-like fashion at 90°. You might be able to use it similar to a touchscreen tablet but with a weight of 19.6 lbs it’s not moving from the desk in your computer room.
The base is where the real connectivity is which sports three USB 3.0 ports, memory card reader, and a HDMI input nestled on the left side. Around back is another 3.0 USB port (for four total), Ethernet (10/100), headphone jack, and the AC power. Just enough options to not leave you wanting.
The A740 can also double as a TV if you opt for the integrated tuner as well. Our tester didn’t include this feature but we did try the HDMI port and found that you can’t actively switch between sources – better learn to tolerate constantly plugging in that Xbox if you plan on using this as a second monitor. Fortunately, the embedded JBL speakers (two 5 watt) with Dobly Digital Plus technology sounds better and less distorted than most other built-in offerings recently heard.
And because the people that are most likely to buy this computer live comfortably in the suburbs and treat buying decisions like hand-picking a pricey minivan on the lot with loads of ‘extras’, Lenovo has covered its bases with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a silver keyboard, and an overly stylish and rubbery textured mouse that both run off an included 2.4GHz USB dongle. The A740 lacks an optical disc drive but gives owners an external USB DVD-RW attachment, a nice addition for those who still rely on discs that will undoubtedly find itself crammed with half-eaten PB&J sandwiches and soon neglected; similar to that rear-seat entertainment system you begrudgingly caved in on during dealership negotiations because the kids threw a roaring tantrum in the lobby.
You get horsepower, but not necessarily – or intentionally – an obscene amount of it. The A740 is powered by a mobile version of the Intel Core i7-4558U processor, 8GB of DDR3L (PC3-12800) memory, and an average NVIDIA GeForce 2GB GT840A GPU. To complete the checklist, a Terabyte hard drive along with an 8GB SSHD for quick startups (also known as a Solid State Hybrid Drive but you don’t have to concern yourself with that) should be more than enough for casual to moderate photo collections and torrent binges from teenagers.
As far as performance goes, the mobile bits of the A740 are intended to punch above its weight compared to proper All-in-Ones with desktop origins. This is not a serious gaming alternative, but the combined efforts of this 2.80GHz Core i7 and the GeForce GT840A is fair with high settings and the maximum resolution on Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite at an average of 23.7 frames per second for the first title and 17.5 fps for the latter. Obviously, turning down the enhancements gave us comparatively smoother results of 32.9 fps especially if your gaming is more reasonable with Hawken and Call of Duty 3.
But this works perfectly fine as a everyday desktop as the above figures don’t clash with most families daily activities. It handles multiple apps, open browser tabs, and video chats from Skype or other preferred messengers with ease. I won’t lie, you can slow it down if you really push things, but for a computer with laptop chops the experience is still more than good enough to keep from buckling under pressure.
Touchscreen functionality is a high point that precisely tracks movements the moment your finger touches the display. The feeling is much more natural for the A740 as gestures and multi-touch shortcuts works better on bigger monitors, quite frankly the touch experience is preferred if you’ve adopted the Microsoft Surface Pro or other Windows tablets. Not so great is the bundled mouse, with an arched shape the pointer is awkward to hold and there’s considerable input lag when alternating between the screen; it also doesn’t help this abnormally disjointed response exists by default.
When you drive down the cul-de-sac and your middle-class clan jump for joy, you’ll know you’ve done well with the Lenovo A740 IdeaCentre All-in-One Desktop. The look is clean, the specs are relatively ample, and the touchscreen is responsive, but you will pay a premium of $1999 just for the pleasure, unless you wisely buy it online for much less. Fortunately, it should be a good companion for that mortgage you’re also working on.