December 2, 2013
- Sleek design with foldable stand
- Accurate & responsive touch screen
- Touch-friendly games, apps and Aura interface
- Built-in battery
- Display isn't 1080p HD
- Performance is only average
- One USB port is taken by mouse/keyboard wireless adapter
The IdeaCentre Flex 20 is another innovative desktop PC/tablet hybrid from Lenovo. It looks just like a standard all-in-one desktop PC, but fold up the stand and unplug the power cord, and you've got a 20-inch tablet.
The design of the IdeaCentre Flex 20 is very similar to the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon we reviewed this past summer. It's mostly aimed at the home entertainment market thanks to its pre-loaded games and related software. Lenovo bills it as a "portable all-in-one" because it's a traditional all-in-one desktop PC make into a portable, tablet-like device.
Lenovo gives you a 19.5-inch glossy multitouch display with the Flex 20. It has a resolution of 1600 x 900-pixels, which is just shy of 1080p full HD. Having a full HD display would have made this system just a little better, but it also would have caused the price to increase too. The front looks very sharp with an edge-to-edge glass front and a solid black bezel. There is a Windows-button under the screen just like a traditional tablet device to give you easy access to the Start screen in Windows 8.
It measures 20.5 x 0.8 x 12.2-inches (wdh) and weighs just shy of 8-pounds, so it's on the heavier side but not impossible to move around the house. To set it up, just unfold the stand and adjust to the desired viewing angle. While the stand is very minimal, it's surprisingly sturdy and feels like it can withstand the usual home-associated wear and tear.
When you want to lay the Flex 20 flat, just press down on the top of the screen and the hinge will lay the system. When you do so, the computer automatically launches the Aura tablet interface (more on this later).
The overall quality of the display is very good. Colors were very crisp and vibrant, but thanks to the glossy screen, any ambient lighting does reflect on the screen. As we said before we wish it was 1080p full high-definition resolution. The display is multitouch enabled with support for 10 simultaneous touch points. We found the screen to be both responsive and accurate. We tested it out in the built-in Bing maps application and our pinch zooming worked flawlessly as well as moving around the map.
Included Peripherals & Connectivity
Lenovo includes a standard set of peripherals with the IdeaCentre Flex 20. You get a wireless mouse and keyboard combo set. The keyboard is the usual slim style that Lenovo includes with their all-in-ones. We find the keys to be a little stiff and some of the buttons either too small or awkwardly placed. One quirk of note: the keyboard has a shortcut key for ejecting a disc (there is no optical drive on this PC). The included wireless mouse is simple but does the job.
For ports and connectivity, you get two USB 3.0 ports on the Flex's left side along with a the headphone and power jack. The top has the power, volume and an orientation lock switch. It would have been nice to get one additional USB port, perhaps on the right side, considering one of the two available ports is immediately taken by the keyboard/mouse antenna. Wireless connectivity includes both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Tablet Mode & Lenovo Aura
When you put the system into table mode (where it lays flat on a table), the Lenovo Aura interface launches. To start, it has a large ring in the middle where it fans out when you select application categories like games, education, music, etc. With the Aura interface, you really get to benefit from the large 10-point multi-touch display. Some of the better games include Lenovo Air Hockey, DrawRace 2 and Texas Hold'Em.
Specifications & Performance
Our review unit was an entry level system as it had an Intel Core i3-4010U (1.7GHz) CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics. There are more expensive Intel i5 and i7 models available which will get you better performance out of both compared to the i3 model. Our system also came loaded with Windows 8 and not the latest Windows 8.1 (although it can be upgraded through the Windows Store as a free download.
Overall performance was good with only a few times the system was a tad sluggish when opening many Internet tabs or running several programs at once. It had no trouble running any of the built-in applications or anything we downloaded from the Windows Store. A PCMark 8 benchmark returned a result of 2275, which is about a 1000 points behind the category average. The integrated Intel graphics system means you're limited to running basic games and watching HD videos. Don't expect to be doing any hardcore 3D gaming with this system. Boot-up times were good at about 15 seconds. We did experience one time where we turned on the system and it seemed completely unresponsive to any touch, mouse or keyboard input, but a quick power cycle fixed the issue.
It's definitely unusual to be discussing battery life when reviewing an all-in-one PC, but thanks to Lenovo's innovation, we are. According to Lenovo, the Flex 20 can run for 3 hours on it's built-in battery. In our testing, we were able to play an HD video on a constant loop for just over 2 hours when the system went to sleep because of critically low power. It's not bad considering it's more of an all-in-one PC than a tablet.