Remember the Microsoft Surface interactive table top? Just as early as mid-2012, this conversational piece commanded a price of more than US$11,000. That's quite a hefty sum, but it was one of the first commercially available solutions with a huge 40-inch interactive screen that was targeted at the service and hospitality industries (and as such, it's more robust than a personal system).
At the ongoing CES 2013 trade show, Lenovo announced the Horizon Table PC that is surely one of the geek highlights of the show. Now you can experience most of what the Microsoft Surface table top could do on the US$1,699 Horizon Table PC in your home. The system has typical specs of a 27-inch AIO PC with a 10-point multi-touch full HD display. While it doesn't sound anything more than any modern AIO PC, it's the concept, application, experience and marketing of the product that has made it unique. We had some hands-on time with the product during the show for an initial assessment.
The huge 27-inch 'table' PC has a built-in stand that allows users to interact with it as a typical AIO machine. To convert it into a table PC, we found the process straightforward by using both your hands and applying a twisting downward motion on both sides of the screen. The actual motion was fluid and the affirmative resistance provided during the conversion process gives you a sense and feel of the stand being durable and one that you can rely upon. If you need further flexibility such as height adjustment or mounting it upright vertically at 90-degrees like a huge monitor, Lenovo has an optional movable stand that accomplishes these extra requirements.
Now, once you've gotten the system down to its table form factor, you can now interact with apps and games that are best used on a flat surface such as viewing photos and videos around in a group, drawing and other creativity tasks and most importantly, gaming!
With every Horizon Table PC, Lenovo bundles a pair of accessories such as a joystick, striker and an e-dice to interact with the touch screen and enable more interesting social gaming with friends and family members. Support for these accessories is app-dependant and Lenovo intends to highlight these aspects within Lenovo's own App Shop (powered by Intel AppUp). Currently it has over 5,000 multi-user entertainment apps, but no numbers were provided yet on those that support Lenovo's new accessories.
The next highlight is the bundled Lenovo Aura multi-user, multi-touch user interface that is automatically invoked once the Horizon PC is laid flat. This is the interface that brings up close similarities to how users interacted with the original Microsoft Surface table top. The Aura is basically a multimedia UI to seamlessly share and view content across the screen and the way it works is simply fluid. We guess this certainly uses the system's Intel Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) processor and the discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 620 GPU.
Unlike traditional AIO PCs, the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC actually has a built-in battery that's specced to last for two hours. With this added feature, you can actually move this PC around anytime, anywhere around your home. For example, if you've children having fun on this Table PC in the living room but are making a din and disturbing you or your dad from listening to the news on the TV, you can simply unplug the machine and move it into another room or space without spoiling their mood (and re-plug the power if it's going to be an extended duration of use).
All said and done, the Horizon Table PC does carry a premium, but it is somewhat reasonable once you consider all its functional aspects. However, Lenovo isn't alone in the Table PC segment as there are several other AIO machines that can do most of what Lenovo's machine can tackle, but they are however marketed as a typical PC. This is probably Lenovo's biggest advantage and it can reach out to a new audience group if it's marketed correctly.
Now we wonder if Ikea will be coming up next with a Table PC integrated within its kitchen furniture for the modern home chef...