- Review Date: 04/13/11
- Bottom line:
With lots of new technology with very few drawbacks, the Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-11691AU has all the right components and features to keep a family happy for the next 5 to 7 years.
Second generation Intel Core i-processor. No bloatware. HDMI port. Easily upgradable tool-less interior.
Only 90-day subscription McAffee Security Center. Power supply limits graphics card upgrades.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-11691AU ($599.99 list at Best Buy), an entry-level/mid-range general-purpose desktop, has the power to do some light multimedia work, including editing photos, transcoding the occasional video, and posting multimedia onto your blog site. Older desktops in the sub-$750 range used older processors and technology, but not the K330: The desktop has an Intel second-generation Core i3-2100 processor, with integrated graphics that are capable of smoothly displaying HD video as well as light to medium 3D work (or play). It has all the right components to keep a family happy for the usual 5 to 7 years that they hold on to a PC, and it's not likely to "feel slow" until the tail end of its life. If you need to replace that six-year-old PC with something new, put the K330-11691AU at the top of your shopping list. It's all that and a bag of chips.
Design and Features
The K330-11691AU is a fairly standard-looking tower, with a styled front panel. It has a brushed metal veneer on the front panel, with glossy black plastic covering the optical drives and media card reader. After unscrewing the thumbscrew that secures the grey metal side panel, you can get to the internal expansion space: There's room for one optical drive, one hard drive, a single PCIe x16 graphics card slot, and 3 PCIex1 expansion slots. Once you're inside, blue highlights show you where you can install upgrades: A blue button releases the PCIe card retainer, for example. You'd have to unscrew the retainer in some other desktops. The hard drive is particularly easy to upgrade, since the desktop comes ready with a blue tool-less sled you can just drop the new hard drive into. There aren't any free memory DIMM slots, but 8GB is more than enough for most casual users' needs these days. The desktop has a 280W power supply, which won't let you install anything more powerful than an entry-level 3D graphics card, but buyers looking at $600 desktop usually don't worry about high-end 3D games. Outside, the desktop has the aforementioned media card reader, six USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 mouse/keyboard, and an HDMI port in addition to the usual Ethernet and audio ports—a well connected system.
The K330-11691AU's 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive has plenty for an average home user or family. You can always hook external drive(s) up to the USB ports or add another internal drive if you need more storage. The K330-11691AU doesn't have USB 3.0, FireWire, or eSATA for fast external hard drives, but I really don't expect those technologies at this price.
The desktop is thankfully free of bloatware and trialware. It comes with Lenovo's easy to use rescue and recovery software in case you need to return the system to its out of box state. The K330-11691AU also comes with the Best Buy app, so you can shop Best Buy's online store and purchase software. There's a 90-day subscription to McAfee's Security Center. I'd like to see subscription lengths of a year or more included with all new systems.
There's nothing like the march of technology: The K330-11691AU's benchmark scores were near or at the top of the class, thanks to its newer send-generation Intel Core processor (aka, Sandy Bridge). The Core i3-2100 processor has two cores with Hyperthreading, so it performs like a true quad-core processor with only two real cores. It can complete our Handbrake video encoder test in a sprightly 2 minutes 12 seconds, and the Photoshop CS5 test in 3:49. These are both noticeably better than our last Editors' Choice for entry/midrange systems, the Dell Inspiron i580-8139NBC ($499.98 list, 4 stars) (2:23 Handbrake, 4:15 CS5). The Dell i580-8139NBC also has Intel integrated graphics, but it's an older version. It's plain from the 3DMark Vantage and the Crysis tests that the K330-11691AU has a better internal chip: the Dell i580-8139NBC got 3,975 points on 3DMark Vantage and the K330-11691AU 5,621 points. Similarly, at Crysis (at Medium quality), the Dell got 6 fps and the Lenovo doubled that to 12 fps. Granted, 12 fps is unplayable and little more than a slow motion video, but it shows that the K330-11691AU has more 3D horsepower overall.
The combination of higher performance, larger hard drive (1TB vs. 500GB), and much more RAM (8GB vs. 4GB) allows the Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-11691AU leapfrog the Dell Inspiron i580-8139NBC as our Editors' Choice for entry/mid-range desktops. Yes, the K330-11691AU is $100 more expensive, but that $100 buys you a desktop that will last longer before you get to that point when it "seems slow." There are other contenders like the HP Pavilion p6719c ($499.99, 3.5 stars). The HP p6719c is competitive with the Dell i580-8139NBC and K330-11691AU on the benchmark tests, but the HP p6719c is burdened by bloatware and has only 4GB of memory. The Dell i580-8139NBC is still a good choice if you're limited to around $500, but if you have a little more scratch, the K330-11691AU has the features that will keep it usable for a longer period of time.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-11691AU